Young Beverly Johnson, First Black 'Vogue' Cover Model, Then And Now

Left: Portrait of American fashion model and actress Beverly Johnson, with braided hair, as she poses beside a mirror, New York, 1970s. (Photo by Anthony Barboza/Getty Images). Right: Johnson's barrier-breaking 1974 Vogue cover. Source:

In 1974, future supermodel Beverly Johnson became Vogue's first black cover model -- something she'd been explicitly told would never happen. If Johnson's cover feat seems late, it was -- media desegregation and "firsts" had been happening for decades. Hattie McDaniel became the first black actress to win an Oscar for Gone With The Wind in 1940, and Ethel Waters became the first black actress to star in a sitcom in 1950 as the title character in Beulah. Fashion, though, remained stubbornly homogeneous. Today, Johnson is considered the catalyst that led to an explosion of black fashion models in the years and decades that followed, as both an inspiring example and a mentor. "Without Beverly Johnson," wrote Huffington Post's fashion editor, "there would be no Iman, Naomi Campbell or Tyra Banks."