Not many moments in time change the course of history and evolution of an industry at the same time. And even fewer of these moments can be attributed without exception to a group of black fashion models. In this essay I discuss my award-winning documentary Versailles ’73: American Runway Revolution, which revisits the famed fashion battle at Versailles and examines the dynamics of race, economics, beauty, history, and the epic results of that legendary night in 1973 at the Chateau de Versailles. When five American designers enjoy victory against their French counterparts, the Americans triumph in large part is because of the black models that sashayed the runway, moving like dancers with the instincts of soldiers. That combination mesmerized and blew away the French. Those models included Pat Cleveland, Bethann Hardisan, Billie Blair, Alva Chin, Charlene Dash, Norman Jean Darden, Ramouna Saunders, Jennifer Brice, Barbara Jackson, and China Machado. The rest is well-heeled history.

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