Model Appreciation: Beverly Johnson; Face of Change


Beverly Johnson is an American model, actress, and businesswoman. She made history when she rose to fame as the first black model to appear on the cover of American Vogue in August 1974. A year later, she became the first black woman to appear on the cover of the French edition of Elle.

The New York Times named Johnson one of the 20th century’s most influential people in fashion. Given the success of her 1990s wig line, she has been a leading influencer in hair care, especially among women of color.


Born into a middle-class family on October 13, 1952 in Buffalo, New York, Johnson was a champion swimmer in her youth and aspired to be a lawyer. She was studying political science at Northeastern University when she tried modeling. She quickly landed an assignment with Glamour and began working steadily. She went on to appear on more than 500 magazine covers, including her groundbreaking Vogue cover in August 1974. Her appearance on the cover changed the beauty ideal in US fashion, and by 1975, every major American fashion designer had begun using African-American models.Unknown

In addition to modeling, Johnson has also written a book, Beverly Johnson’s Guide to a Life of Health and Beauty, and embarked on an acting career. She has also had roles in the films Ashanti (1979), The Meteor Man (1993), Def Jam’s How to Be a Player (1997), and Crossroads (2002). She has appeared in guest spots on several television series, including Law & OrderLois & Clark: The New Adventures of SupermanThe Parent ‘Hood and the Super Bowl episode of 3rd Rock from the Sun (1998). She served for two seasons as a celebrity judge on the TV Land series She’s Got the Look, a reality series, where women over 35 compete for a modeling contract and magazine spread. At the start of the series in 2008, Johnson shared that she and other models had suffered from anorexia and bulimia during her career. She had a brief singing career, releasing one album in 1979 on Buddah Records.



Johnson has been a longtime hair and beauty influencer. Beginning with the Beverly Johnson Eyewear Signature Collection inSears Optical (1991-2002) to her Beverly Johnson Wig and Hair Extension Signature Collection (1996-2011), she was among the first supermodels to cross into the business of fashion. Partnered with Amekor, she launched the Beverly Johnson Hair Collection, a line of wigs and hair products for the African-American market. In 2010, she introduced a line of restorative and styling haircare products to Target. She currently runs Beverly Johnson Enterprises, a company that produces hair extensions.


images-4Johnson married real-estate agent Billy Potter in 1971. They divorced in 1974. In 1977, she married music producer/publisher Danny Sims. Sims and Johnson separated in 1979 and later divorced. Their daughter Anansa Sims was born on December 27, 1978.




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