As president of IMG Models & Fashion, Ivan Bart is helping to revolutionize the fashion industry by treating the models he represents as people instead of assets and ensuring that they are reflective of the broader public.
“We want the most inclusive, diverse roster,” Bart tells Out, explaining it’s a “huge bonus to us to see their potential and to elevate the kinds of work that they do.”
And the proof is in the casting. For the first-ever Out100 Virtual Honoree Inductee ceremony, videos poured in from models thanking Bart for his efforts. Chanel Iman, Xiao Wen, Amanda Murphy, and more all expressed their gratitude for both Bart’s enlightened business practices as well as his commitment to empowering social change through fashion.
"Thank you for paving the way,” Ashely Graham says her clip. “Thank you for being a leader. Thank you for believing in so many different types of people.”
“I greatly appreciate you using your platform to create social change through fashion imagery and just living a life of authenticity,” Niyo Malik adds.
This philosophy of living authentically and treating others with dignity and respect is not limited to talent. He tells all his models to follow his own example and “make sure you get the name of everybody” on a shoot and to not “forget to thank everyone before you leave.” The result is personal, human interactions that develop into the longterm relationships that sustain creative careers.
It’s obvious Bart’s concern for others is genuine, as evidenced when he speaks of Carolyn Murphy.
“She was in her early 20s” when he first signed her, and the relationship has only deepened as it has matured over time. “We have different conversations than we did 20 years ago.”
Bart says his “big aha moment” for using fashion to create change was the conscious decision to start signing nonbinary talent. “That has been a huge shift for us, and an exciting one.”
In addition to advancing change in front of the camera, Bart sees change behind it as well. When he started in the business back in 1986, he says “most of the top photographers were straight white men…and it is different today because there are a lot more women and there are a lot more gay men.”
As much as Bart is looking to the future, he also remains very aware of the past. “1969 was very much like 2020,” Bart says, noting the similarities in the “feelings and emotions” of the current times and those of the Stonewall era, and how historically marginalized people in both periods finally tired of oppression and made a stand.
“All those feelings are going on until finally ‘enough is enough,’” he says. The response that night was to fight back, and that marked the beginning of the modern struggle for LGBTQ+ rights and acceptance. As Bart sees it, Stonewall was the LGBTQ+ Battle of Lexington and Concord, except the colonial rebels were replaced by drag queens and a bunch of fed-up queers.
“It’s like our Independence Day,” he says. “It’s the closest I can come to it. It was the start of it.”
A version of this piece was originally published in this year's Out100 issue, out on newstands 12/1. The issue has four cover stars: Janelle Monáe, Wilson Cruz, Joe Mantello, and Janaya Khan. To get your own copy directly, support queer media and subscribe — or download yours for Amazon, Kindle, Nook, or Apple News +. The first-ever Out100 Symposium, titled "How Do We Come Back From This" was hosted by Janaya Khan. Watch the first-ever Out100 Virtual Honoree Induction Ceremony on the Out100 Live landing page.
Photo courtesy of Ivan Bart.