Beverly Johnson

In the annals of fashion history, Naomi Sims is most often cited as the first African-American supermodel. But Beverly Johnson fans beg to differ. In 1974, Johnson shot a Vogue cover with photographer Francesco Scavullo, becoming the first woman of color to grace the front of the renowned glossy. A French Elle cover followed a year later, helping to jump-start the Buffalo native's career as one of the elite catwalkers of the seventies and eighties and pave the way for the Imans, Naomis, and Tyras that followed.

Becoming the face of change didn't come without its pitfalls, though. Johnson had plenty of people telling her she couldn't do it—including her first agent, Eileen Ford (she'd later sign with Wilhelmina). But naysayers be damned, Johnson's uncomplicated good looks earned her a Revlon campaign, sittings with Irving Penn, and even a stint as a Hollywood star. The Lee Strasberg-trained actress made cameos in flicks like 1976's Deadly Hero and Britney Spears' 2002 sleeper hit Crossroads (hey, people, give it another chance).

Two books, one record, a beautiful daughter, and a goodwill ambassador honor from former President Bill Clinton later, and Johnson continues to champion the idea that there is no color to true beauty. This year marks the model's self-proclaimed "reinvention," as she launches a lifestyle brand and assumes a new time slot on Oprah Winfrey's OWN network. Beverly's Full House, which follows the trials and tribulations of the supermodel and three generations of her family—all living under one roof—airs next month. Sound like a Tyler Perry movie in the making? Johnson's got one of those lined up, too.

—Kristin Studeman
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