In 1974, Beverely Johnson became the first Black woman on the cover of Vogue magazine but the supermodel had to deal with endless racism in the fashion industry to break that barrier.
She recently opened up about a disturbing incident at a photoshoot when she was a model on the rise.
In an exclusive for PEOPLE, the 67-year-old wrote in a powerful essay that during a photoshoot in the 1970s, before her iconic Vogue cover, a pool was drained because of her race.
Johnson explained, like usual, she was “the only Black girl” on set for a shoot at a five-star hotel, “I got into the pool. And all of a sudden, the editor came out and made everybody get out. They drained the pool.”
She continued, “Twenty years later, one of the models told me it was because of me. But I had blocked it out. In order to survive, I would make myself not react. Like Teflon.”
Johnson went on to explain the many struggles of modeling at the time like never having a Black hairstylist or makeup artist on set and refusing to model for liquor or cigarette ads, which many Black models were regulated to at the time.
Johnson closed her powerful piece with, “Change is possible, and I’m trying to make a difference in my own way. I feel I am standing on the shoulders of my ancestors. The #MeToo movement was Herculean — if we could only do that with race. Because that needle, it really moved.”
Read the full piece, here.
Photo Credit: Axelle/Bauer-Griffin / Contributor