The Versailles models of 1973 were honored last night at the Huffington Post Game Changers Awards last night. Why is this important and who are the Versailles models, you ask?
The 11 African-Americans models were part of the legendary Grand Divertissement à Versailles fashion show held in 1973 at the Palace of Versailles to raise money for its restoration. It featured 5 American designers (Halston, Oscar de la Renta, Bill Blass, Anne Klein, and African-American designer Stephen Burrows) and 5 French designers including Yves Saint Laurent, Christian Dior’s head designer Marc Bohan, Hubert de Givenchy, Emanuel Ungaro and Pierre Cardin.
Back then, it was rare to see Black women modeling on the catwalk but the American designers decided to take advantage of the international spotlight and make a statement about diversity. They hired 11 Black models to walk their shows, while the French used not a single one.
Those 11 include Pat Cleveland, Bethann Hardison, Billie Blair, Jennifer Brice, Alva Chinn, Norma Jean Darden, Charlene Dash, Barbara Jackson, China Machado, Ramona Saunders, and Amina Warsuma.
Even though diversity on the runway has improved over the years, just how much has it improved? There are still cries over the lack of diversity in the fashion industry. Chime in Madames!
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