Fashion Influential #68: Beverly Johnson

Beverly Johnson attends a celebration of the Sundance Channel's "Iconoclasts" series at Kiss & Fly on October 7, 2008 in New York City. (Photo by Will Ragozzino/Getty Images North America)

BEVERLY JOHNSON
Born:
October 13, 1952 in Buffalo, NY
Worked for:
Glamour, Vogue, Elle, Cosmopolitan, Essence
Hero to:
Tyra Banks, Kimora Lee
Beginnings.
Beverly Johnson was a pre-law student at Northeastern University when she finally listened to her friends' urgings and journeyed to New York to become a model. She and her mother wandered up and down Madison Avenue in the summer of 1971, unable to find gigs, until she walked into the Glamour magazine office and was hired on the spot.

Career Highs.
When Beverly appeared on the cover of Glamour, the magazine's circulation doubled, setting a record. She caught the attention of modeling empresario Eileen Ford, who recognized Johnson's winning combination of looks and class and signed her immediately. Johnson worked all the time, on the runways and in TV commercials, landing the cover of American Vogue in 1974 and again the following year. When a New York Times Magazine reporter asked her how it felt to be the biggest black model in the business, she corrected him: "The biggest model, period."
I see the inspiration of black women being lifted up all over when they look at me and that's a super feeling.
                                                                       - Beverly Johnson
Beverly Johnson Picture Gallery
Career Lows.
After Beverly Johnson's catwalk reign came to an end, she branched out into music and film, but never managed to make the same stir she had in the fashion world. She has had small roles in The Meteor Man, How to Be a Player, Sabrina the Teenage Witch, and everyone's favorite Showtime softcore porn series, Red Shoe Diaries. She also admitted to an eating disorder in the 1980s.

Beverly Johnson's American Vogue cover.
Legacy.
Beverly Johnson opened the door for women of color in the modeling industry. Before her Glamour and Vogue covers, black models were infrequently seen in editorials or on runways. Johnson, who is part Blackfoot Indian, showed the fashion elite that non-white models could indeed be mainstream. She broke down the door for Iman, Naomi Campbell, and even Tyra Banks. No wonder Tyra has a shrine to her in her bathroom.                                  - Alicia


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