Fashion activist and model Bethann Hardison was born in Brooklyn, New York. After graduating from George W. Wingate High School, Hardison attended the New York University Art School and the Fashion Institute of Technology. During the 1960s, Hardison worked in the garment district of New York City as saleswoman. In 1967, she was discovered by African American designer Willi Smith and began working for Smith as a fitting model, soon crossing over to the runway and print industries.
Hardison and other members of the Black Girls Coalition work to help clear the path for other African Americans interested in the fashion industry, both behind the scenes as well as in front of the cameras. The group also tackles more weighty issues such as homelessness. “I’d like to think I’m here to make a difference,” Hardison asserted in Vibe. “I never expected to make big money at what I do. But in terms of respect and longevity, I can make a difference for a Tyson, a Veronica Webb, a Roshumba, or the next young person who comes along.” Yet Hardison did once divulge dreams of another world far removed from the glamorous, high-stakes fashion scene. “I’d like to own a bar in Anguilla,” she once confessed in Mirabella. “And then maybe I’d sell collectibles, things picked up from my travels.”