How Supermodel Beverly Johnson Merges Social Justice and Skincare

The trailblazing model speaks to L'OFFICIEL about the beauty lessons she's learned while fighting for Black representation in fashion.
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Fashion today wouldn’t look the same without supermodel Beverly Johnson. Since she began her career as a teen in the 1970s, she’s opened doors for Black models and made the industry a more inclusive space.

As the first African-American model to cover Vogue in 1974, Johnson became a pioneer figure. Nearly 50 years later, she continues to advocate for diverse representation in luxury fashion and beauty, using her voice to call out the industry’s racism problem. This past summer, as the Black Lives Matter movement gained global support, Johnson penned an op-ed in The Washington Post expressing how the optics of including Black models on the runway or in campaigns obscures the exclusion of people of color behind-the-scenes. “Equality is essential in the workplace and especially in the boardroom, where the real decisions and policies are made,” Johnson tells L’OFFICIEL.

After witnessing the lack of diversity within the businesses that power the industry, the model-turned-entrepreneur (she is the CEO of Beverly Johnson Enterprises, a New York Times best-selling author, and actress) launched the Beverly Johnson Rule earlier this year. The initiative is a commitment for fashion, beauty, and media companies to adopt inclusive hiring practices and proposes that at least two Black candidates are interviewed for each job opening, from entry level to C-suites. Her call for change was felt in the beauty space, with skincare label Retrouvé becoming the first to pledge to the Beverly Johnson rule. The supermodel was also tapped as Retrouvé's first-ever brand ambassador and recently launched a special holiday collection with a portion of the proceeds benefitting Project Angel Food.

From sporting natural hair to full glam looks, Johnson's approach to beauty has always been true to her identity. With over 500 magazine covers under her belt and 50 years in the industry, the model reflects on the beauty lessons she's learned throughout her career, speaking with L'OFFICIEL about looking and feeling young–and the products that can help.

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Johnson photographed in 1977.

L’O: How has your approach to beauty changed throughout your years in the fashion industry?

BJ: My approach to beauty and skincare changes like fashion changes. There have been so many great strides in the way of beauty and skincare, particularly in the past 20 years. “40 is the new 20” used to just be something nice to say, a cute expression. But now I really believe that women over the age of 40 are looking younger and younger. It’s not just the skin or just the fashion or just our bodies. It is a combination of everything, especially the women’s spirit. 

L’O: Do you know anything about beauty and skincare now that you wish you knew when you were younger?

BJ: I was very fortunate in my skincare and haircare education because it started at the very beginning of my modeling career. When I arrived in New York City at 18 years old, I was introduced to one of the best skin and hair specialists at that time. The only thing I wish I did more was to protect my skin from the sun. Many people didn’t realize that it was necessary, particularly for Black people to protect their skin. We would lie on the beach and bake in the sun on photo shoots, and when returning home, my dad would tell me, “You look like a copper penny!” My father knew that all that sun was not good for you. I didn’t believe it then, but I believe it now. I started wearing sunblock, hats and taking special care of not only my face but my body, too–my arms, legs, anything exposed to the sun.

It is essential not only for skincare and makeup brands to bring social justice into the beauty space, but for social justice to be present in all spaces.

L’O: How can skincare and makeup brands bring social justice into the beauty space?

BJ: It is essential not only for skincare and makeup brands to bring social justice into the beauty space, but for social justice to be present in all spaces. Globally, we are very aware of the injustices in the world and there are a lot of people who are socially conscious, too. I care very much about equality, so I only want to partner with brands that are socially conscious. 

L’O: What are your current skincare goals?

BJ: My current skincare goals are to keep my skincare routine simple. I really try to stay abreast on what is going on in the skincare world–what are the latest technologies and what are the most gorgeous products? And that is where Retrouvé comes in!

L’O: What are your go-to skincare products? 

BJ: Retrouvé products are my go to. I love the Luminous Cleansing Elixir, made with avocados from the founders’ permaculture ranch in Malibu. It is silky and elegant and makes my skin feel clean without feeling tight or dry. I follow the cleanser with the Skin Brilliance Priming Pads to lightly exfoliate and prime my skin for moisturization. With the cooler, drier weather, my skin has been loving Retrouvé’s ultra hydrating and nourishing Intensive Replenishing Facial Moisturizer. It feels like honey on the skin and helps to keep my complexion looking healthy and radiant.

L’O: When trying new products, what factors are important to you?

BJ: In considering new products, I try to use one product line exclusively at a time. For me, that’s the only way I can tell the difference. Once I decide that a product line is effective, I stick with that line and then I work in some retinol and maybe a brightening product for darker spots. Or I might experiment with a mask–there is a CO2 Lift Masque at Dr. Wendy E. Roberts that I find to be pretty extraordinary.

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