Written by | Ray Cornelius

History came to life Wednesday night as stars from the fashion documentary Versailles ’73 attended a special screening of the film in Atlanta, GA. The VIP event was in conjunction with MODA’s current fall fashion design exhibition Inspiring Beauty: 50 Years of Ebony Fashion Fair.  Legendary runway models Pat Cleveland and Ramona Saunders were in attendance along with iconic fashion designer Stephen Burrows, EBONY Fashion Fair commentator Audrey Smaltz and Versailles ’73  filmmaker Deborah Riley Draper.

Panelists 2Ramona Saunders-Audrey Smaltz-Stephen Burrows-Pat Cleveland-Deborah R.Draper-Gail O’Neill

The evening began with a champagne reception at MODA where participants had an opportunity to view the Inspiring Beauty  exhibition. As previously reported, the show includes many of the iconic fashions worn during the EBONY Fashion Fair and features designs by Bill Blass, Givenchy, B Michael, Yves Saint Laurent, Todd Oldham, Christian Dior, Valentino, Stephen Burrows and more.

Pat with the Wilbourne SistersPat Cleveland with ATL Fashion Rock Stars, The Wilbourn Sisters

Following the toast, participants crossed the street to the Woodruff Art Center’s Hill Auditorium where they watched Versailles ’73.  The film, which debuted in 2012, recounts the tale of a moment that changed the course of fashion history, shattered the status quo and ushered in a paradigm shift. On November 28, 1973 at the Chateau de Versailles, American fashion houses stormed France in an epic battle pitting the French haute couture establishment -Yves Saint Laurent, Christian Dior, Hubert de Givenchy, Pierre Cardin and Emmanuel Ungaro – against American designers Anne Klein, Bill Blass, Stephen Burrows, Oscar de la Renta and Halston.

Ramona with MichaelIn front of an audience of royalty, millionaire luminaries and icons including Andy Warhol, Princess Grace of Monaco, Christina Onassis and Josephine Baker, the Americans catapulted ready-to-wear to global stardom. Their secret weapon was fresh, innovative designs and the tour de force, a collective of stunning black models who sashayed down the runway and into the hearts of the high-profile audience.

The film was followed by a lively panel discussion featuring the Saunders, Cleveland, Burrows, Smaltz, Draper and was hosted by former model and journalist Gail O’Neill. During the Q&A, Smaltz talked candidly about working with EBONY Fashion Fair creator, Mrs. Eunice Johnson. Smaltz was the show’s commentator for seven years and often traveled with Mrs. Johnson to Europe to purchase many of the fashions. She also talked about the lack of diversity on the runways and claims that most of today’s fashion designers prefer models with “no personality.” Saunders (featured above with Michael Jackson) and Cleveland swapped stories about their Versailles ’73  experience and revealed that they were both working on autobiographies. Burrows chatted about wanting to be an art teacher before he became a designer and said that the core of fashion is all about “functionality and simplicity.”

Check out more photos below from the screening and the exhibit:

Michele Boyd and Maya A Lady Named Pearl

Interior Designer Michel Boyd with Beauty Maven Maja Sly/A Lady Named Pearl, former EBONY Model

and now for the FASHION…

Inspired Beauty

Patrick Kelly

Shot one


Shot Two

grace jones

Shot Four


bob mackie

Come on baby


Diana ross dress

Shot Three

 Photo Credits: RayCornelius.com and Forever-Michael.livejournal.com