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If anyone can speak to changes in the fashion industry, it’s Vogue’s first-ever black cover model, Beverly Johnson.
Johnson, who presented the Positive Social Influence Award to the Model Alliance at the 2021 CFDA Awards on Wednesday night, exclusively told Page Six she’s finally seeing progress in the business.
“[The event] felt like more than fashion. … I’m using my voice and not just what I’m wearing,” she told us.
In her speech, Johnson, 69, acknowledged her history-making 1974 Vogue cover but added that in later years, “Fewer know me as a survivor of Bill Cosby, who drugged me in his home during my audition for ‘The Cosby Show.’
“It was by the grace of God and the fact that I screamed and cursed at the top of my lungs that I wasn’t raped,” she continued.
“My modeling agency recommended me for the audition. I found out later during the trial that my agent was specifically assigned with setting up innocent models for that predator.”
Cosby, 84, previously sued Johnson for defamation after she first told her story, but he dropped the lawsuit in 2016.
Johnson, who received a standing ovation on Wednesday, admitted to us she was nervous about giving the speech given the “bubble” of the fashion industry.
“My mouth was dry. … It’s a tough crowd,” she said. “I was just so happy that what we were saying resonated. It was a highlight to see that they got it.”
Johnson presented the award with fellow model Carré Otis, who also shared her experience of abuse in the industry.
“We talked about predators within this industry, racial injustice within this industry, and let’s face it, [the fashion world] lived in a bubble and the whole outside world really didn’t penetrate our bubble, and it feels like that bubble has finally been burst,” Johnson said.
Even Anna Wintour — who in 2020 acknowledged a culture of exclusion at Vogue and whom Johnson’s former publicist James Hester described as once being “icy” toward the model — is starting to come around.
“She was so charming and welcoming,” Johnson said. “Everything just felt different last night. Everything just resonated last night in ways I’ve never seen in our industry.”
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