I sat down with trailblazing supermodel Beverly Johnson as she published her long awaited memoir, in the fall of 2015. It’s a great book — and we had a great conversation! My feature was first published by EUR.com.
Beverly Johnson was the first African American woman to grace the cover of Vogue magazine, the third time is absolutely the charm. Having written two prior books, Johnson has just published the “warts and all” memoir we’ve all been waiting for with The Face That Changed It All. It is an amazingly honest, inspirational tome that gives readers more than a passing glance inside of the life of an icon.
“I’d been messing around with the idea for awhile,” Johnson told me by phone of writing her new book. “I did my first beauty book in the 80s, and another one in the 90s. I was asked to do another book in the [early] 2000s, but that eventually fell off the table. I was then asked to write my memoirs, and I said ‘Whoa! Wait a minute!’ To me, it seemed so daunting and overwhelming. It took me about five years to finally realize that I wanted to say some things.”
You may be stunned by Johnson’s veracity throughout The Face That Changed It All, from stories of her two marriages, to her marathon first visit to the legendary Studio 54, to her substance addictions. I asked Johnson for the inspiration for her candor.
“To be perfectly honest, my mother has Alzheimer’s, and I don’t know if I would have written the book if she did not have that condition,” Johnson confided. “There’s a lot about my life that she didn’t know, and I know that that knowledge, that I’ve gone through so much, would really hurt her. So I don’t know if I would have put my whole life out there like that.”
“I’ve always been kind of upset that as African Americans, we don’t always pass stories down,” Johnson continued. “I always tried to remember those stories that my grandparents shared when they slipped and told something. I just cherished those moments and tried to remember them, because they didn’t often tell us about the hardships of their lives. My mother didn’t tell us stories about her childhood, either. I really wanted to not be like that. I think stories are good, and they’re history. I finally decided that I needed to tell MY story.”
In addition to shocking details on her personal life, The Face That Changed It All is full of stories about celebrities whose lives have intersected with Johnson’s. You’ll want to read about her and Mike Tyson — Johnson may have been the original “cougar” — and you NEED to read about her relationship with tennis icon Arthur Ashe. And you DEFINITELY don’t want to skip the chapter on her and Bill Cosby. It’s a chapter that was almost excised from the book by Johnson’s publisher.
“I’d bared my soul [in the book] after keeping the secret for all of these years, and the publisher told me that it was a legal liability for them and that they were going to omit that chapter,” Johnson recalled. “When the whole Cosby thing erupted, they called me and decided to put that chapter back into the book.”
Pick up a copy of The Face That Changed It All. Johnson’s truly did, and her memoir is a book that you won’t be able to put down.