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Vintage News | How Beverly Johnson Broke Fashion’s Glass Ceiling

Posted by Curate
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Photographed by Francesco Scavullo, Vogue, August 1974.

 

 

Though countless shows are dubbed “major,” and nearly every model is lauded as the next big thing, true game-changing fashion moments are few and far between. Shifts significant enough to challenge the status quo don’t come around often, but in 1974, when Beverly Johnson appeared on the cover of Vogue, it was a landmark moment. It had taken more than eight decades, but finally a person of color was fronting the world’s foremost fashion magazine. The portrait, by Francesco Scavullo, didn’t shy away from Johnson’s blackness or depict her as an “other.” Instead, it presented a vision of elegant beauty that was relatable and real and totally of her era.

While Johnson’s cover instantly elevated her from working model to superstar, the road getting there wasn’t easy. Initially rejected by legendary agent Eileen Ford, Johnson was later accepted by Ford Models. When her managers suggested that major magazine covers weren’t going to happen due to her race, Johnson didn’t become disheartened—she got new managers, moving to former model Wilhelmina Cooper’s eponymous agency and carving out a niche for herself. Other covers came, but for Johnson there was only one that actually mattered, later telling CNN, “Every model’s dream [is] to be on the cover of Vogue. You have arrived when you made the cover of Vogue. And then when I found out I was the first person of color on the cover and what that meant, I was like, Wow, this is really a big deal.” And it really was.

After her groundbreaking cover, Johnson used her celebrity to champion civil rights causes and open doors for other black models. In the years since, she’s become an actress, entrepreneur, and author, but Johnson can still pose with the best of them. Though she would later go on to grace Vogue’s cover three more times, Johnson’s historic first earned her a place in history and gave modeling one of its biggest stars. 

Click here to see the rest of this article on vogue.com >

 

 

Photographed by Francesco Scavullo, Vogue, August 1974.

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