Supermodel Beverly Johnson has recalled shocking incidences of racism throughout her career, including a pool once getting drained because she’d been in it.
Opening up about her own brushes with racism in an interview with People, the 67-year-old, who made history as the first Black woman on the cover of U.S. Vogue in 1974, says she first encountered abuse at the age of 12 or 13, when bottles were thrown at her while out riding in “a white neighbourhood”.
Then, as she began her career, she had to find an alternative agency as top agent Eileen Ford told her she’d never land the Vogue cover.
Deciding to sign with Wilhelmina instead, she recalled: “What you have to realise is that I was the only Black girl on every shoot. Once in the 1970s, we were at a five-star hotel. I got into the pool. And all of a sudden, the editor came out and made everybody get out. They drained the pool. Twenty years later, one of the models told me it was because of me. But I had blocked it out. In order to survive, I would make myself not react. Like Teflon.”
During her reign as one of fashion’s top models, Beverly, who recently announced her engagement to Brian Maillian, was also the first Black woman to appear on the cover of the French edition of Elle.
Despite her success, she always wound up doing her own hair and make-up.
“Back then, there were no Black make-up artists or Black hairstylists,” she sighed. “The people they hired had no idea what to do with my hair. So I’d go to the bathroom and wet my hair or slick it back with Vaseline and put it in a chignon. Same with make-up — I’d do my own.”
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