Beverly Johnson: From Model to Mogul

When Beverly Johnson speaks, you listen. And if you happen to have a pen and paper nearby, you take notes.

Last week, the iconic supermodel visited Chicago as the keynote speaker for The BOSS Network’s annual “Ladies That Lead” event. After sharing her success story, Johnson opened up the floor for women of all ages and walks of life to ask her questions — with many of them taking mental (and literal) notes.

“It’s so wonderful to be in a room of like minds,” Johnson shared during a visit to JET. “It’s beautiful how we’re able to support one another and ask for help. There’s power in numbers. It’s a nice reminder to people that we stand behind one another and support each other.”

The self-described “modelpreneur” also reflected on her historic career as the first Black model to grace the cover of Vogue, discussed her successful line of hair extensions and much more.

On the 40th Anniversary of Her Vogue Cover:

“It was a defining moment in my career. Every model dreams of being on Vogue. It’s where you go to be a top model. It was a great accomplishment. To be the first model of color on the cover of Vogue was a great responsibility for a 21-year-old. It really started my self-discovery journey to learning more about racism, slavery and where I came from.”

On How She Defines Success:

“My definition of success has definitely changed throughout the years. When I was younger, I was on a treadmill. It was important for me to get to the next step and when I got there, I wanted to go to the next level and I wasn’t able to stop and smell the roses … I was a business woman and I was building my own brand without realizing it at the time. So, it’s all been a journey. That has been so gratifying and exhilarating. But I still have the energy and passion of a 20-year-old. My energy is relentless. My new challenge as a businesswoman is empowering and life-affirming.”

On Being an Entrepreneur:

“In an interview with Newsweek in 1975, I talked about building a brand. Today, people are a brand. So I would advise an entrepreneur or any professional for that matter to think about themselves and their brand before you go on social media and do crazy stuff.”

On Maintaining a Work-Life Balance

“In my 20s and 30s, it was all about work. Today, I’m smarter and able to blend business with my family life, my three grandchildren and my partner in business and life. Somehow it just works. It came with maturity.”

On Her Upcoming Memoir:

“It’s a very interesting process. It took me a long time to choose a writer and publisher. It mostly covers the ’70s and ’80s … those were crazy times in our nation and the fashion world. But it’s a page-turner. It tells my story. I’m just being transparent. Different people will take away different things. I’m not trying to teach life lessons, but people can definitely take away life lessons.”

On What’s Next:

“We have a mineral makeup line and handbags coming in 2015. Our media division will also have some shows. There’s already talks about the film rights to the memoir.”

To learn more about Beverly Johnson and her latest endeavors, be sure to visit and follow her on Twitter at @BeverlyJohnson1.