Soak Test

Historic Model and Cultural Beacon Bethann Hardison on Quitting and Endurance

A woman sitting on a couch.
Bethann Hardison in her home. Photography by Les Guzman.

What does endurance mean in your career?

I never conclude nor think I have a career—I prefer to say my life. Mine is jack of all trades, master of none. I tend to be this; I tend to be that. I tend to do this; I tend to do that. The endurance that I have is my ability to sustain. It’s with good health, good mind, and a great deal of compassion that it seems to have worked out.

Was there ever a time that you thought about quitting?

Oh, absolutely, and I did. I never wanted to have a model agency; I got talked into doing it. I thought I could convince them to let me do it for three years. They said no, Bethann, invest in it a little bit. I quit that [after] 13 years.

How did that feel?

Liberating. I did it because I meant to do it for the journey, but it’s not all I was meant to do.

Working on the documentary and memoir, how does it feel to look back on your work?

I paid such light attention to things as I did them. Everything is such a journey. I look back now and realize that I have accomplished a great deal. My objective has been to change people’s minds and to educate them. When you see what you’re doing affecting other industries too, it gives you great pride.