When advertising executive Deborah Riley Draper first learned about the 11 Black models who helped bring worldwide attention to five American designers through an ABC news segment and NPR, she felt a pull to bring their story to the big screen. Her documentary, Versailles '73: An American Revolution, looks at a time when African-American models Pat Cleveland, Bethann Hardison, Billie Blair, Jennifer Brice, Alva Chinn, Norma Jean Darden, Charlene Dash, Barbara Jackson, China Machado, Ramona Saunders and Amina Warsuma strutted down the catwalk for Halston, Bill Blass, Anne Klein, Oscar de la Renta and African-American designer Stephen Burrows. In doing so, the now-icons ushered in a new ideal for beauty and style.
"I wanted to do something different — something positive. I wanted to tell a story about Black women that wasn't like The Real Housewives Of Atlanta," Draper tells HuffPost Black Voices. "The story is about more than just clothes. It's about economics, race and politics as well. And the fashion aspect simply encompasses all of those things."
Draper enlisted the help of Caralene Robinson, who works in marketing, and her husband Michael Draper, who works for the government, to be her co-executive producers. This will be Draper's first full-length film, though she has created commercials and 30-minute spots for television. Her film will feature archived items and documents from the show.
Versailles '73: An American Revolution is expected to be completed by early March.
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(Photo: Mike Coppola/WireImage)