I was in high school when Beverly Johnson became the first African-American model to grace the cover of Vogue in 1974—and I can tell you, it was a big deal. Even at that young age, I pored over popular fashion magazines each month and I remember being mesmerized by her classic beauty. I still am. There was never anything girlish about her. She was all woman in the best sense of that early “women’s lib” era—with a knowing gaze that oozed confidence.
Her new memoir, aptly titled The Face That Changed It All ($18; amazon.com), is at the top of my reading list. Apparently, the self-assured image she projected belied the stressful reality of being a model in that drug-fueled time—but that’s what makes a model great: the ability to create an idealized image, a dream.
Johnson opened the door for so many future African-American models including, Naomi Campbell, Tyra Banks, Veronica Webb, Alek Wek, Chanel Iman … but it’s still not wide-open, forty years later. How can that be?