Renowned supermodels such as Tyra Banks and Beverly Johnson and Tyra Banks have come forward to share their experiences of transforming the fashion industry’s runway.

Tyra Banks and Beverly Johnson: Black Supermodels

In the September 2023 edition of Vogue magazine, the cover showcases today’s fashion industry models. It features a diverse lineup of Black models like Anok Yai and Precious Lee, alongside prominent figures such as Bella Hadid and Lourdes Leon. However, it was less than half a century ago, during the 1970s, that the first Black model ever graced the cover of Vogue.

Reflecting on the significance of this milestone, Johnson, who became the inaugural Black woman to appear on Vogue’s cover in 1974, expressed, “I am fully aware of the profound impact that Vogue cover had.” Her reflections were part of a collection of stories presented by The Cut on Tuesday as part of their fall fashion issue. Johnson’s appearance on the Vogue cover showcased her wearing a turquoise turtleneck with a tucked-in scarf.

Tyra Banks and Beverly Johnson: Black Supermodels

In August 1974, Beverly Johnson made history by becoming the first Black woman to grace the cover of Vogue magazine. This groundbreaking achievement marked a significant moment for Black models and the fashion industry as a whole.

Reflecting on that memorable day in a column she wrote for Vogue in 2009, Johnson revealed that she was paid $100 for her cover shoot, which was the standard rate for editorial work at the time. However, being a new model in New York City, she had no idea of the profound impact her appearance would have on Black models and the industry.

Following her groundbreaking cover, Johnson continued to excel in her career, featuring on numerous magazine covers and securing roles in television and film. In a powerful op-ed for the Washington Post last June, she bravely shared her experiences of facing pay disparities throughout her modeling journey. She disclosed that she was consistently paid less than her white counterparts and was even faced with criticism when she insisted on having Black makeup artists and photographers for her shoots.

Beverly Johnson’s trailblazing success and her willingness to speak out against inequality have left an indelible mark on the world of fashion and paved the way for greater diversity and representation.

Tyra Banks and Beverly Johnson: Black Supermodels

Tyra Banks, Beverly Johnson, and Sandi Bass all reflect on their contributions to transforming the role of supermodels.

In the United States, bookings for Black models often faced prejudice and racism.

Veronica Webb, who later became the first Black model to secure a major cosmetics deal with Revlon, shared her experiences of photographers being loyal to her but unable to book her due to the exclusion of Black people in advertisements.

 

Due to this discrimination, Banks and Sandi Bass achieved most of their success overseas.

Banks expressed her feelings of being like the Josephine Baker of fashion, as her own country didn’t appreciate her beauty and talent as France did. She acknowledged the crucial role of France in her career, as they embraced her on numerous runways and offered her the opportunity to grace her first magazine cover within a month of arriving there. She believes that without France’s acceptance, she wouldn’t have achieved her current status.

Tyra Banks and Beverly Johnson: Black Supermodels

Banks, who began her modeling career at the age of 15 and quickly became a superstar, broke barriers as the first Black woman to grace the cover of GQ in 1996. Just a year later, she made history once again as the first Black woman to appear on the cover of the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit issue.

Tyra Banks and Beverly Johnson: Black Supermodels

 

Tyra Banks and other Black supermodels weigh in on their experience breaking the color barrier in the fashion industry.

FRAZER HARRISON, GETTY IMAGES

Bass received feedback that she was too thin to walk on American runways, so she decided to showcase her talents in France during the 1970s. Givenchy, a renowned French luxury brand, extended an invitation to her to become one of their house models.

Reflecting on her experience, Bass mentioned that the designers in France and Italy admired certain qualities in Black American girls. They appreciated our carefree and vibrant spirit, which was new and captivating to them.

Even today, black women continue to break new ground in the world of magazines and modeling. Megan Thee Stallion and Leyna Bloom made history as the first rapper and transgender woman respectively to grace the cover of the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit edition in July. Additionally, Nadine Ijewere achieved a significant milestone by becoming the first black female photographer to capture a photo for the cover of Vogue.

Johnson, when discussing her journey, emphasized the weight of being a trailblazer. The responsibility of being the first is always at the forefront of her mind, influencing her approach to anything she undertakes.

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