Bethann Hardison Passes the Baton at the CFDA Awards

Published June 4, 2014

Sunday evening, one night before the CFDA Awards, the glitterati migrated to far West Chelsea to celebrate Bethann Hardison, the legendary ’70s model-turned-model manger and activist, for her trailblazing efforts championing diversity on and off the runway. 

Hardison, wearing a midi-length, knife-pleated, gold lamé skirt and feathered necklace from Lanvin, was on hand to instruct the well-turned-out group to “turn up”—or, simply put, dance. Hardison purposefully wore ballet flats for the occasion.
 
While Iman opted for heels and a graphic, disco-ready jumpsuit by Diane von Furstenberg, Hardison’s “adopted daughter,” Naomi Campbell, held court and twirled around in a ladylike floral A-line dress and covetable Ricardo Tisci + Nike Air Force One high-top sneakers. “I only have unconditional love for my ma!,” Campbell said. “She has had a major impact on my career and my life. She has worked tirelessly to champion balance and diversity in the industry and has guided me in the face of adversity. Without Bethann, I wouldn’t be where I am today.”
 
In one corner, fresh-faced model-on-the-rise Jasmine Tookes danced to Ms. Ross’s “I’m Coming Out,” and shared, “I booked Italian Vogue because of this remarkable woman,” referring to Hardison. “In addition to all that she’s done professionally, she also has the power to get people to actually dance at a party!”
 
Sherry Bronfman, the Shaft actress and mother of Ben, Vanessa, and Hannah, was met with a flurry of flashbulbs as she posed with Hardison and Joan Smalls. A joyous Smalls, clad in a luxe t-shirt dress and strappy sandals, moved her happy feet to Earth, Wind and Fire’s “September.” She stated, “It’s so beautiful to celebrate Bethann’s vision of elevating the profile of models of color.”

A day later, at Lincoln Center’s Alice Tully Hall, J.Crew’s Jenna Lyons noted how “integral Bethann’s work has been for the industry.” Lyons continued, “I’m happy that she’s here for all the younger girls, so that people like this one…” she paused to exchange an enthusiastic embrace with supermodel, humanitarian, Lemlem founder, and frequent J. Crew collaborator Liya Kebede, “can thrive.”
 
During the ceremony, Hardison took to the stage in a dove-gray crêpe de Chine embroidered evening caftan by Prabal Gurung, worn with flowing trousers of the same material. Her CFDA Founder’s Award acceptance speech was palpable: “I hand the baton to you,” she charged the audience. “Take responsibility. Think that it’s not so odd to cast an Asian girl, a Latin girl, a dark girl. Please, any model, please, let her model.”