Mahogany (1975) - starring Diana Ross, Anthony Perkins & Billy Dee Williams. 

I enjoyed Diana Ross's performance in the movie, but I truly do not understand why she would want to play this role. Let me explain.

Diana Ross plays Tracy Chambers. She wants to be a fashion designer. Badly. She spends her days working at a department store and her nights taking fashion classes. She's working VERY HARD to accomplish her dreams. She's passionate about fashion. That's great! Good for her.
Go Tracy.
Then men start to fuck things up for her. 

First there's this one - famous fashion photographer Sean (played by Anthony Perkins). He's shooting a campaign for the department store that Tracy works at and thinks she'd be a much better model than the ones the store provided him with. He tells Tracy she should come to Rome with him and he'll make her a star. She doesn't particularly want to be a model, but she thinks it could help her break into the fashion industry and start her on her way to becoming a designer..... so she considers the option. Good, right?

Not so much, because from the get-go it's pretty blatant that Sean is a sketchball and he also exploits her (deciding to shoot the fashion campaign in front of some abandoned slum-ish buildings near where Tracy lives; using poor and homeless people from her neighborhood as human props during the shoot).
Sidenote - she's so busy gallivanting about with Sean that she loses her job at the department store.
Meanwhile, around the same time that Sean steps into her life - so does Brian Walker (Billy Dee Williams). They become a couple.

Brian is trying to help his neighborhood (which is also Tracy's) and change the world. Marvelous! That's commendable! But he is so, so incredibly full of himself and infuriatingly self-righteous. He acts as though Tracy is a frivolous nimrod because she wants to be a fashion designer. He wants her to just stop that silly bullshit and work for him! The worst part - she basically does!
Sean goes back to Europe and Tracy doesn't go with him, opting instead to stick around Chicago to help Brian with his campaign. She continues to go to her classes, but Brian definitely isn't happy about it and he's especially pissed when she dares - DARES - to miss a dinner or two in order to go meet with clothing companies she'd like to get a job designing for. 

He is an asshole. At this point in the movie (the beginning), I thought that the movie ALSO considered him to be an asshole. So I was fine with it. 

Little did I know that that was not the case. 
Thankfully, she eventually gets sick of him constantly demeaning everything that's important to her, so she decides to go off to be with Sean in Rome. I still believe that Sean is trouble, but at this point I think that anything is better than hanging out being Brian's smiling dinner date, so I'm pleased about her choice.
Here I am!
Mere moments after entering Sean's apartment it becomes apparent that she should run away as fast as she can. He has a shrine to his last model muse. He tells her that he turns his creations into "inanimate objects". His last one was known as "Crystal", Tracy will be known as "Mahogany."
Unfortunately, his relationship with Crystal didn't end well (as you can see). Huge warning sign.
At the first meeting she attends, Tracy doesn't enjoy listening to the men talking about her as though she were a piece of meat, but she carries on and soon the movie makes it seem like she is insanely successful as a model.

I won't say that she is extremely successful (later on the plot makes it seem like she may not have been), but there's a very long montage that suggests she is as huge as Cindy Crawford or Naomi Campbell or Linda Evangelista were in their heyday. 
They're both getting along great at this point.
Meanwhile - back in Chicago - Brian sees her in a fashion magazine. In my head (once again - at this point I'm convinced that the movie sees Brian as being "wrong" / the "bad guy" in their relationship) I presume that he's thinking - "Wow. She really is successful. I was so wrong to rain on her parade and be a total dick to her regarding her interest in fashion."
She's magazine ad successful. Billboard successful.
Magazine COVER successful.
But as her success grows, she decides that maybe the time has come to start pursuing that designer dream again. She tries to wear one of her own creations in an ad - Brian mocks her and rips the beaded neckpiece off.
There's a fashion show / auction and she strolls down the runway in one of her own designs.
Sean embarasses her in front of everyone by bidding an insultingly low price for it. She cries on the runway. A wealthy Italian man feels bad for her and bids / purchases the dress for a very high amount. She disses Sean. He is not pleased that his creation is disrespecting him.

At this point I'm confused, because if she were truly as successful as the last portion of the movie made it seem like she was, people would immediately have started bidding on her dress. It wasn't made to look hideous in any way (although very geisha-like and cultural appropriation-y). You can't tell me that people in the audience wouldn't want to bid on a dress designed by a FASHION SUPERSTAR even if it WAS ugly. This is when - in my mind - accuracy goes out the window: if she is truly a fashion superstar like they imply, she would have people fawning all over her and tons of contacts willing to help her start a line. 
Anyway. This dude shows up. I think - "He's come to congratulate her! He's come to apologize to her!" NOTHING OF THE SORT. He continues to belittle her and asks her to quit and come back to Chicago to help him run his campaign. ARE YOU KIDDING ME, MAN?

Yes, Sean starts going off his gourd and threatens him with a gun from his enormous collection, but still! She's breaking away from Sean anyway. She needs to just get rid of both of you. 
And - after Sean terrifyingly puts her life in danger in order to get a shot - she does. She moves in with the wealthy Italian guy to escape Sean and he agrees to finance her first official collection.
She exhibits some diva-esque behavior (for the FIRST TIME, basically) in the midst collection creation stress, but it is pretty mild. It in no way compares to the array of shitty Brian or Sean behavior we have seen so far in the movie. She yells at a few of her seamstresses (and the Italian man chides her for it). It's not appealing or particularly becoming (she used to be best friends with a seamstress, she should know better), but it's also not damnable or odious.

I want to state again - that this is the first time (in my opinion) that she does anything remotely "unlikable" during the course of the film.

Not that it's bad to be unlikable in a movie - people that won't watch a film with an "unlikable" heroine are people that I just cannot fathom - but I wanted to point that out.
Her collection is enthusiastically received but she's just not happy. In my mind this is because she realizes that she was a bit of a shit to the people helping her make it but - once again - I am incorrect and that is not the case.
Back at the Italian villa, the rich guy implies that now that the runway show is over, she needs to climb into bed with him in order to repay her debt. She decides to leave. Her collection was so successful I figure she'll still be sticking around Europe to pursue her dreams (now that it's obvious she has real talent). Maybe she won't stay in Rome, but she'll try Paris or somewhere else. After all - with so many ads and billboards, she must have some money, right? 

Another question - if she were really such a superstar.... she wouldn't be a millionaire, but she'd at least have enough money to finance a collection without the help of a sleazy guy for help?
She doesn't continue to pursue her dream though. She goes back to Chicago and throws her ambitions in the dumpster, instead deciding to be Brian's little first lady.
I can't even deal.
In the end, the movie was on Brian's side all along. In the mind of the movie, the titular character was a fashion-obsessed idiot who needed to learn that that was a bunch of silly shit and that she should come to her senses and stand by her man. WHATTTTTTTTT. Thus - why would Diana Ross make this movie? Why would someone in the arts want to play a role in a movie that basically says - "The arts are stupid. Anyone interested in pursuing them must be pretty insipid. Be in politics." There's no way that Brian would have supported Tracy if she had wanted to be a singer instead of a designer.

The worst part - I keep track of all the movies I've watched on Letterboxd, and after I finished this one I went over there to mark it off.  While I was doing that I found the following review (from a guy, naturally) - 
"Mahogany starts by contrasting Billy Dee Williams's political fervor with Diana Ross's vapid interest in fashion. After insinuating Williams's path is more valid, it's bizarre the rest of the film follows Ross as she becomes a model and designer. She sort of gets her comeuppance, but it's unpleasant being saddled with such a shrill narcissist."
Are you KIDDING ME? "Shrill narcissist"? Nothing is more narcissistic than Brian expecting his short-term girlfriend to abandon all of her own dreams to help him pursue his. I can't even. Sexism at its finest.

I wish I had chosen to watch Lady Sings the Blues instead.

See all the previous movie posts here.