The Selma director has announced her next project will be HBO Films’ The Battle of Versailles, a recreation of a 1973 fashion show that was the first to feature black models and marked American design’s entry into the international world of fashion. DuVernay previously turned down an offer to direct Marvel’s Black Panther, disappointing fans hoping for more diversity in the comic book-movie universe. But if you want to see more diversity in Hollywood, this is a much better choice than a superhero movie.
The Battles of Versailles Fashion Show was organized to raise money to restore Louis XIV’s famous palace, pitting France’s top designers (Yves Saint Laurent, Hubert de Givenchy, Pierre Cardin, Emanuel Ungaro, and Marc Bohan of Christian Dior) against five unknown, upstart Americans (Oscar de la Renta, Bill Blass, Anne Klein, Stephen Burrows, and Halston). The guests at the A-list event included Andy Warhol, Princess Grace of Monaco, Elizabeth Taylor, and Josephine Baker. The American designers brought 36 models with them—an unprecedented ten of whom were black. Forty-three years later, black models are still rarely seen or heard on the runway; at New York Fashion Week in 2014, only 10 percent of models were black.