Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Model Moment: Beverly Johnson

It was photographer Francesco Scavullo who immortalized model Beverly Johnson with a history-making Vogue cover in August 1974. It was Johnson’s first for the magazine—and, more to the point, the first time a black woman had ever taken that prized position.

Cosmopolitan March 1981
Photographed by Irving Penn, 1973
Johnson was born and raised in a middle class household in Buffalo, New York. After graduating high school in 1969, she left Buffalo to enroll at Northeastern University in Boston, planning to become a lawyer. With the encouragement of friends she set out for Manhattan to pursue a career in fashion. Soon after a insider got her an interview at Glamour to meet with editors and by the end of the day she had her first assignment. Still, despite having booked a glamorous ten-page spread, Johnson was rejected by every modeling agency she approached. So she opted for plan B: working as a salesgirl by day at a Manhattan store called Jax and taking classes at Brooklyn College at night.

Glamour called back, and Vogue, too. Soon, Beverly Johnson was appearing in fashion portfolios shot by Patrick Demarchelier and Irving Penn. These pages caught the attention of Eileen Ford of Ford Modeling Agency. Johnson quickly became nothing less than a defining face of the seventies, appearing on the front of more than 500 magazines, including Glamour, Cosmopolitan, and French Elle, in addition to Vogue. As one of the highest-paid models in the world, she transcended racial barriers with her work on the runway for Halston, Yves Saint Laurent,Ralph Lauren, Calvin Klein, and Valentino. For more on Beverly Johnson check out http://www.vogue.com/voguepedia/Beverly_Johnson

U. S. Vogue, February 1975
circa 1970's

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