During the fourth quarter of 2021, Victoria’s Secret launched its first original podcast series titled, VS Voices. As an extension of the brand’s recent revamp, the podcast is a platform for women to share their stories, advance important discussions and to amplify all women’s voices. The podcast is hosted by Amanda de Cadenet, who is a jack of all trades and award-winning host, and some of the previous podcast guests have included Naomi Osaka, Adut Akech and Paloma Elsesser. VS Voices most recently welcomed fashion trailblazer, Bethann Hardison, also known as “The Oracle”, to share her story and how she’s still going strong at the age of 79.
Within the new VS Voices episode, Hardison shares the many lessons learned from her ongoing career that has spanned several decades. From working as a correctional officer to running her own modeling agency to now consulting behind the scenes and being a mentor to fashion icons and emerging designers, the episode reveals that the common theme in Hardison’s journey and many roles has been that her sole mission has been to help people.
In celebration of Hardison’s VS Voices episode, we spoke with her to explore her wisdom and gather some additional gems about navigating the fashion industry.
ESSENCE: As an industry veteran, how have you witnessed fashion change for the better? How would you describe the evolution of Victoria’s Secret?
Hardison: I think everyone is being more conscious of sustainability when it comes to the fashion industry. When it comes to the modeling industry, there’s been a big change. Trying to make sure the girl and boy of color gets back on the runway and stays on the runway has been a journey, but it became a very positive journey and has a great outlook, so that’s working well. In regard to Victoria’s Secret’s evolution, I’m very impressed because it’s very interesting for a company to know how to flip a switch and as much as I loved what they used to do, I love the fact that they’ve grown to support women’s rights and empowerment. Because whatever you thought VS was, now they are going to tell you who else they are.
ESSENCE: What is the key to sustaining longevity in the fashion industry as a model?
Hardison: I don’t encourage modeling and never have – even though I had my own modeling agency for 13 years and was very successful. If you’re enjoying the ride, ride it, but I wouldn’t tell anybody to count on it. It’s only a matter of the blink of an eye when the curtain goes down and when it rises, you won’t be there – that’s just the way it is. The thing you can really control is the thing that no one can take from you.
ESSENCE: What do you love about what the younger generation of fashion professionals are bringing to the industry? What do you think they could be more conscious about?
Hardison: What they are getting the opportunity to do is to bring their craft to the table. It’s wonderful to see after so many years that people can learn and develop the craft of their choice because there weren’t always this many choices. The thing they have to maintain is learning the business. Learning it so well that you don’t go out the door backwards. The fashion industry is a business that requires financial strength and stability. The more you understand that everything shiny is not gold and the more you don’t get tripped on being something that someone asked you to be and being what you can afford is very important.
Listen to Hardison’s story on the new VS Voices episode here.