African-American Model Beverly Johnson On Her Historic 'Vogue' Cover Johnson reflects on becoming the first black cover model of American Vogue in 1974. September marks another first in the magazine's 126-year history: the cover photographer will be African-American.
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African-American Model Beverly Johnson On Her Historic 'Vogue' Cover

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African-American Model Beverly Johnson On Her Historic 'Vogue' Cover

African-American Model Beverly Johnson On Her Historic 'Vogue' Cover

African-American Model Beverly Johnson On Her Historic 'Vogue' Cover

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  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/635907942/635907943" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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Johnson reflects on becoming the first black cover model of American Vogue in 1974. September marks another first in the magazine's 126-year history: the cover photographer will be African-American.

NOEL KING, HOST:

Beyonce will grace the cover of Vogue magazine's September issue. And for the first time in its 126-year history, the cover photographer will be African-American. The cover of Vogue is a big deal. How big? Here's legendary supermodel Beverly Johnson.

BEVERLY JOHNSON: This is our Oscar. This is our gold medal. This is everything in the industry.

KING: NPR's Justin Richmond recently spent some time with Johnson. She was the first black woman to appear on the cover of American Vogue.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: OK, on three - one, two, three.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #2: Gorgeous.

JOHNSON: Thank you.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #2: Beautiful, beautiful.

JUSTIN RICHMOND, BYLINE: Beverly Johnson still loves having her picture taken. Even in the age of Instagram, she says it never gets old.

JOHNSON: Oh, here I am.

RICHMOND: At an exhibit at the Getty Museum in LA called "The Icons Of Style," Johnson spots a portrait of her younger self hanging on the wall. It's a close-up - just her face and a little bit of a blue turtleneck sweater, the August 1974 issue of Vogue.

JOHNSON: Oh, Francesco.

RICHMOND: Francesco Scavullo was the photographer.

JOHNSON: Scavullo presented her as he would any other fresh-faced American beauty. Wow, it never gets old. And they got the whole magazine.

RICHMOND: Johnson was determined to get the cover. She was represented by Eileen Ford, an agent who dominated the modeling industry. Ford told her flat-out it'll never happen.

JOHNSON: If she said you're not going to be on the cover, you're not going to be on the cover.

RICHMOND: No black woman had ever been on the cover, but Johnson wasn't going to settle. She got a new agent, Wilhelmina Cooper, who fought to get that Scavullo photo into the hands of the right editors. And one morning, Cooper called.

JOHNSON: She said, you're on the cover. And I was like, oh, the cover of what? She said the cover of Vogue magazine. I remember my heart was racing just like it is now.

RICHMOND: Johnson ran to a newsstand to get a copy.

JOHNSON: That night when I went to sleep, every hour I would turn on the light and look at the cover to make sure it really happened.

RICHMOND: She says landing the cover of Vogue magazine was not only the defining moment of her career but her life. Justin Richmond, NPR News.

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