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Supermodel Beverly Johnson Acknowledges Using Cocaine to Maintain Weight

by Venus Sanders

Reflecting on the 50th anniversary of her groundbreaking American Vogue cover, supermodel Beverly Johnson is candidly sharing her journey to success and the challenges she faced in the fashion industry.

Image Credit: Gems | Getty Images

As the first Black model to grace the cover of the esteemed fashion magazine, Johnson recalls the extreme measures she took to conform to industry standards, particularly the pressure to maintain an exceptionally thin appearance.

In a recent interview with Page Six, Johnson revealed the pervasive influence of cocaine during her modeling days. At the time, there was a misconception that cocaine wasn't addictive, and it became a prevalent substance among models struggling with dietary restrictions. The fashion culture of that era promoted a skewed perception of beauty, equating thinness with success.

Johnson reminisced about the unhealthy eating habits, stating she would consume as little as "two eggs and a bowl of brown rice a week." She vividly described the physical toll, recounting instances when she would shake uncontrollably in a cab, prompting her to urgently seek sustenance, even if it meant grabbing a bag of M&Ms.

Acknowledging the severity of her situation, Johnson credits her mother for intervening and facilitating a turning point in her life. Her mother confronted her with the reality of her physical state, coaxing her out of a destructive cycle by placing her in front of a three-way mirror. It was in this stark reflection that Johnson confronted the gravity of her condition, seeing her bones as a wake-up call.

Since that pivotal moment, Johnson has maintained her sobriety, marking a remarkable transformation in her life. Now 71 years old, she has expanded her career beyond modeling to include acting, with notable roles in films like "Crossroads" and "Loaded Weapon 1."

Embracing her multifaceted journey, Johnson is currently spearheading a one-woman off-Broadway show titled "Beverly Johnson: In Vogue." This production serves as a celebration of her illustrious career, offering an engaging narrative that delves into the highs and lows.

Image Credit: Kris Connor | Getty Images

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In an interview with Vogue magazine, Johnson emphasized the authenticity of her show, rejecting sensationalism and opting for a truthful portrayal of her life. She acknowledged the inevitability of scars, mistakes, and the learning process, presenting them as integral parts of her narrative. Addressing her age, she humorously noted her daughter's comment that the story might be "a little bit too true" and her siblings' playful query, "Can’t you keep anything to yourself?"

Through "Beverly Johnson: In Vogue," Johnson seeks to convey an American story—one of unexpected opportunities and the potential for unintentional life transformations. Her narrative encompasses the essence of stumbling upon success, a journey she never anticipated at the age of 18 when she was scouted while aspiring to become a lawyer.

Despite the challenges and the industry's distorted standards, Johnson's resilience shines through. She is not only grateful for being alive but also emphasizes the importance of learning from significant mistakes, recognizing that time, as she states, is within one's imagination, and there's enough of it for everything.


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