Invisible Beauty

Invisible Beauty is a proposed documentary that tells the story of black fashion models and their relationship to the fashion industry. This documentary will be upbeat and fast-paced, showing the glamour associated with the fashion industry and all that it attracts. It will include both celebrities and image-makers.

Between the 1940s and 2000, the black fashion models image has revealed itself, yet only from time to time has it actually made an impact. Is the lack of black fashion models on runways and editorial pages of leading fashion magazines due to racism, ignorance or economics?

Some of the most beautiful and exotic women in the world will tell their life experiences in the world of fashion, starting with Dorethea Towles, who went to Paris and in the 1950s and worked in the cabine for Christian Dior, Schiaparelli and Balmain. It will go on to include Helen Williams (a top model in the early 1960s), Beverly Johnson, Grace Jones, Pat Cleveland, Naomi Sims, Iman, Veronica Webb, Naomi Campbell, Tyra Banks, male model Tyson Beckford and many others each providing insights and a better understanding of what the public sees in magazines and on television. These glamorous and not so glamorous stories will bring us to Alek Wek, Oluchi, and Liya, the current black faces accepted by the fashion design world today.

The story cannot be told without going to Africa to trace the origins of the African model to understand this new mystique. Born in Uganda and raised in the Los Angeles, Kiara has been one of the industryís most successful black models since the late eighties and will be the narrative spine of this film. With her rich dark chocolate complexion and her naturally tight curled hair (instead of straightened and blown dry), Kiara is thought of as the smallest working girl in the industry. Kiara is gratified by her Vogue magazine cover and other achievements, but there is much that she will comment on about what really goes on behind the fashion door and the making of a top model. You will see that process: the discovery, the grooming, the crafting and marketing of an image, the rejection and the determination, the first job that puts them on the map and the maintenance. Most of all, itís about being at the right place at the right time.

For example, Naomi Campbell and Tyra Banks came along within a couple of years of each other. Naomi was the first to hit with fashion makers but, although Tyra was successful, she was never the editorial darling like Naomi. In terms of industry politics, these two Black models were pitted against each other. Ultimately, Tyra chose the commercial route of print/television advertising and catalogs and left Naomi to remain the ìchosenî fashion image.

This film will also capture those who make the decisions about that ìnext imageî, the celebrated fashion photographers who shoot for the leading fashion magazines around the world, the designers from the fashion capitals (Milan, London, Paris, New York) and of course, the pop culture celebrities (Calvin Klein, Ralph Lauren, Isaac Mizrahi, Andre Leon Talley, Steven Meisel, Sean ìPuffyî Combs, Linda Evangelista, Christy Turlington, Issey Miyake, Betsy Johnson) attracted to fashion and models.

The use of Black fashion models gained momentum in the 1970s. During the mid 1980s booming economy, there were more black models working and being put on the pages and even on the covers of fashion magazines, as well as fashion catalogs and print advertising. Bethann Hardison and Iman created The Black Girls Coalition in 1988, initially to recognize the success of the many working black models. But in 1992 it became necessary to confront the industry at a well-covered press conference with the fact that, although there was a large ethnic purchasing power, there were few ethnic (Black, Latin, Asian) images representing products in advertising. Since then, things have greatly improved within commercial advertising, but in fashion, black models are barely visibleÖagain.

Today, as fashion designers present their collections, the question still remains: Why aren't there more black models being used? Models influence international standards of beauty and therefore this lack of black presence affects general racial consciousness and the self-esteem of young girls, especially black girls. We hope to bring a closer view to an economically successful industry that shapes how we view beauty, style, what ís hot and what ís not.