The first black Vogue cover model Beverly Johnson recently spoke about racism and discrimination in the fashion industry.
Talking about the first time the African-American was featured on the magazine cover in 1974, she expressed in an op-ed in the Washington Post that it was “meant to usher in a current of change in the fashion industry.” But, recently, incidents of racism in the fashion industry, including at Vogue have come under the spotlight, she noted.
Johnson went on to talk about how discrimination on the basis of race limited her to a “significantly lower compensation than white peers.” She revealed having been “reprimanded for requesting black photographers, makeup artists and hairstylists for photo shoots.”
The 67-year-old also referenced Vogue editor-in-chief Anna Wintour, who recently sent out an e-mail to her employees, apologising for not doing enough to elevate black editors, writers, photographers, designers and other creators. “I know that it is not enough to say we will do better, but we will — and please know that I value your voices and responses as we move forward,” Wintour had written.
Johnson mentioned that Vogue’s previous efforts to be more inclusive have been one-off instances that could not lead to any real change in the industry or at the magazine. She cited one such incident where singer Beyonce advocated for a black photographer Tyler Mitchell to shoot her September 2018 Vogue cover. This made him the “first black photographers to shoot a Vogue in its 125-year history”, Johnson wrote. She added, “But Mitchell’s cover was a one-off, not a spark. Since then, there have been no black photographers who have shot a Vogue cover.”
In the article, Johnson stressed that Wintour must hold her peers accountable, as a step towards addressing racism in the industry.
The supermodel further proposed that the magazine’s publisher Conde Nast should adopt the “Beverly Johnson Rule” that would require at least two black candidates to be interviewed for influential positions. “This rule would be especially relevant to boards of directors, C-suite executives, top editorial positions and other influential roles,” she added.
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