When Alessia Cara sang ‘Cover Girls Eat Nothing’ she was definitely unto something. Revealing the ugly practices of the modeling industry, Beverly Johnson shared her early career experience.
In the dazzling world of high fashion, where glamour meets the runway, Johnson emerged as a trailblazer. She shattered the barriers as the first black woman to grace the cover of Vogue in 1974. However, behind the lens and the iconic covers, Johnson’s journey was anything but glamorous.
Beverly Johnson Turned To Cocaine To Kill Her Appetite
Former supermodel and the first Black woman on the cover of Vogue, Beverly Johnson opened up about the toxicity of the modeling industry. In a recent interview marking the 50th anniversary of her groundbreaking achievement, the 71-year-old actress and supermodel exposed the grim reality of her early modeling years. She talked about the perilous struggle with body image and the extremes she had to go through to meet industry standards.
Johnson admitted to resorting to cocaine to stay slim, perpetuating a toxic cycle fueled by unrealistic beauty standards. The pressure to achieve a “chiseled to the bone” look for photo shoots led her down a dangerous path.
“We were led to believe that cocaine was not addictive. We didn’t know cocaine was addictive. Everyone used drugs back in the day, but that particular drug for models was used because we did not eat,” Johnson candidly shared.
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The Dark Side Of The Modeling Industry
The actress’ revelation shines a spotlight on the dark underbelly of the fashion industry during that era. Beverly reflected on her own extreme diet, recounting, “I remember eating two eggs and a bowl of brown rice a week. I would be shaking in a cab, and I would say pull over because I have to get a bag of M&Ms.”
These unhealthy measures to achieving that perfect body were not only encouraged but celebrated within the industry. Models were applauded for achieving skeletal appearances.
“We did not eat, and every time you came to work they would say, ‘Yes! Chisel to the bone, girl. Yes,’ like congratulating you. Nobody really told you the truth,” Johnson revealed.
Johnson further shared that she was pulled out of that toxic sea by her mother, quite literary. She pulled the young model out of a bathtub and had her stand in front of a three-way mirror. That is when she got the stark reminder of the price some paid for success. “It was the first time I saw my bones looking back at me,” she said. “It was a major wake-up call for me.”
The actress and model lost more than just weight to the dangerous drug. In 1983 she suffered an overdose which resulted in risking the custody of her daughter later. She then took the help of a rehab and has been sober ever since.
Despite the adversity, Johnson emerged as a resilient force. Overcoming addiction and dedicating her voice to equality and representation in the fashion industry. In the years coming she served as a judge for fashion shows such as ‘RuPaul’s Drag U’, ‘America’s Next Top Model‘, and ‘She’s Got the Look‘. Johnson is also the star of her one-woman Off-Broadway show, ‘Beverly Johnson in Vogue’, a live autobiography.
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