Beverly Johnson Spoke on Her New Rule to Help End Systemic Racism in the Fashion Industry
"A closed mouth never gets fed."
Beverly Johnson opened up about her groundbreaking career in the fashion world — and the rule she recently created to continue paving the way for Black people in the industry.
In an interview on :BLACKPRINT #NoFilter, an Instagram live series launched by the Meredith Corporation’s Black Employee Resource Group, the supermodel told People’s Paula Ngon when she felt like she “made it.”
“The Vogue cover is a defining moment in my life, and I think it’s a defining moment in any model’s life,” Johnson said of being the first Black person on the magazine in 1974. “I’ve said this often: it's our gold medal; it’s our Oscar to be on that American Vogue cover.”
She went on to share that recent iconic covers — including Viola Davis’ Vanity Fair cover by photographer Dario Calmese and Beyoncé’s Vogue cover by Tyler Mitchell — are reminders of Black people’s influence in media and her own breakthrough moment.
“In 1974, Vogue magazine tripled its circulation,” Johnson said. “The people who owned Condé Nast were saying that the readership tripled because women were working. I think it was because you had a whole brand-new readership that was interested in buying the magazine because of Black women being in the pages and on the covers.”
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When it comes to pushing for change, the supermodel told Ngon, “A closed mouth never gets fed.”
To take a stand against systemic racism in the fashion industry, she proposed the “Beverly Johnson Rule” this June — with the help of her fiancé, financier Brian Maillian.
The Wall Street executive told Johnson about Dan Rooney, former NFL owner of the Pittsburgh Steelers, and his rule that at least one Black coach should be interviewed for coaching positions.
Fast-forward about 20 years, there are now Black coaches, quarterbacks, and people in the front office, she said. And her rule adopts a similar approach: “At least two Black professionals have to be meaningfully interviewed for positions in the board of directors — because that's where all of the policy and the strategy are made — and then down in the C-executive suites and all the way down to photographers, makeup artists, and the hairdressers,” she explains. “It's a mandate, but it's up to you as an industry or company whether you want to adopt that rule.”
For more, catch the :BLACKPRINT #NoFilter live interviews every Wednesday on Instagram at 5 p.m. ET.