When Beverly Johnson made her triumphant return to the New York Fashion Week catwalk Sunday, it was like the 69-year-old supermodel had never left.
“You know when you first arrive in New York and you’re looking up at the buildings and everything just looks so magical and exciting?” Johnson tells Page Six Style. “That’s how I feel this this week.”
The Buffalo-born beauty — who made history as the first black woman to appear on the cover of Vogue in August 1974 — walked for both Sergio Hudson and Bibhu Mohapatra, joking that she was “flying around New York like it was 1970.”
Still, she admitted to needing to brush up on her strutting skills beforehand. So despite “never, ever [having] taken a lesson before,” she turned to “America’s Next Top Model” coach Miss J for a catwalking crash course.
“It’s not just walking … it’s theater, it’s dance, it’s movement,” she explains. “It’s not easy.”
Especially when you’re chosen to close the whole show, as Johnson did for Mohapatra on Tuesday.
“It took everything I could not to just smile and blow kisses,” she says of the headline-making moment, during which the crowd erupted into cheers.
The glamorous grandma of four still looks every bit as gorgeous as she did back in the day, and tells us that taking care of her body and health is an important part of her life, even when she’s not working the runways.
“I never stopped making that a priority,” she says. “Basically, that’s the formula for my youthful appearance, or whatever people say.”
Having starred on the cover of more than 500 magazines over the course of her career, Johnson has opened doors for many young women of color in the industry. And five decades after getting her start, she says it’s “wonderful” to see how fashion has changed for the better.
“It most certainly was not that way when I was modeling, and usually I was the only black person or person of color on the set,” she says. “So it’s really wonderful to see this diverse, inclusive community being showcased.”
The “next frontier,” the posing pro adds, will be about seeing more people of color “in the economics of the fashion industry.”
In a 2020 op-ed for the Washington Post, she proposed the “Beverly Johnson Rule” for high-level hiring, which “would require at least two black professionals to be meaningfully interviewed for influential positions.”
As Johnson tells us, “It’s a trillion-dollar industry, and our participation in that part of it is very slight.”
Still, strides like the ones she witnessed during NYFW this season are worth celebrating.
“[Mohapatra] had cast all-black models from different places in the world for Black History Month, and also to honor me,” Johnson says. “No one has ever done anything like that for me.”