Fashion icons Beverly Johnson and Pat Cleveland made great inroads as black supermodels during the ’70s. Before Naomi Campbell and Tyra Banks achieved everyday name recognition, Cleveland was a star of the most lauded fashion runways. Johnson made history as the first black woman to grace the cover of American Vogue.
These two bronzed beauties recently reunited at the New York City premiere of the new HBO documentary series About Face: Supermodels Then and Now, in which older supermodels of all colors share the trials and tribulations of their business. One major issue many of the famous faces — including ’80s legend Carol Alt — shared through their stories was the pressure to diet and become extremely thin.
“You don’t eat. Really. Seriously. You starve,” Beverly Johnson told Access Hollywood about maintaining her figure at the height of her reign. “That was part of the occupational hazard of modeling and so it’s really sad to see, like, regular people doing the same thing to remain thin and particularly, the young girls.”
Director and photographer Timothy Greenfield-Sanders features Johnson among 16 women who were the leading mannequins of their time. In addition to the perils of disordered eating, former cover girls such as Kim Alexis muse on the fact that celebrities — not models — sell today’s magazines. Another major theme of the series is coping with age and the fleeting nature of fame based on your personal appearance.
Despite these pitfalls, Johnson told the New York Post that she does miss one thing about modeling. “The money,” she said. “It’s almost worth trying to lose 30 pounds to go back and get some more of it. But I can’t stop eating.”
Yet, Johnson doesn’t need the money too badly. She is doing great post-modeling, with a reality TV series on OWN, Beverly’s Full House. The 59-year-old stunner also has a personally-branded and manufactured line of hair extensions, plus hair care and beauty products.
About Face will debut on July 30 at 9 pm on HBO.
Follow Alexis Garrett Stodghill on Twitter at @lexisb.