Beverly Johnson is recounting the toxic realities she faced during her early years as a model.
The 71-year-old actress and supermodel, who gained prominence in 1974 as the first Black woman to grace the cover of Vogue, acknowledges that reaching that career pinnacle was a formidable journey. In a recent interview commemorating the 50th anniversary of that milestone, Johnson disclosed resorting to cocaine to maintain a slim figure, prompted by industry influencers advising her to attain a “chiseled to the bone” look for photo shoots.
“We were led to believe that cocaine was not addictive,” Johnson informed Page Six. “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.”
Regarding her diet during that period, Johnson commented, “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.”
The combination of the diet and drug use evolved into an unhealthy routine that garnered encouragement from those around the model. Reflecting on that time, she mentioned, “I would just stop and get the shakes. 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 clarified that she only grasped the gravity of the situation when her mother intervened, pulling her out of a bathtub and making her stand in front of a three-way mirror.
“It was the first time I saw my bones looking back at me,” she remarked. “It was a major wake-up call for me.”
Having previously addressed the perilous accessibility to drugs during the early stages of her career, Johnson, in 1983, came close to experiencing an overdose. Subsequently, she became entangled in a custody dispute over her daughter. This compelled her to seek rehabilitation, and she has remained sober since.
Apart from her roles as a judge on fashion shows such as RuPaul’s Drag U, America’s Next Top Model, and She’s Got the Look, Johnson ventured into the realm of reality television with her own series, 2012’s Beverly’s Full House. Additionally, she made guest appearances on various TV series during the 1980s and ’90s. Notably, she has been a vocal advocate for equality and representation within the fashion industry.
Presently, Johnson takes the lead in an Off-Broadway one-woman production titled “Beverly Johnson in Vogue.” In this live autobiography, she shares narratives from her modeling and acting journey, her participation in the #MeToo movement, and various other aspects of her life.
Source: Entertainment Weekly