Anna Wintour reportedly snubbed supermodel Beverly Johnson at Vogue magazine’s 100th anniversary party, despite the fact that Johnson was a celebrated and groundbreaking model for the fashion magazine.
Johnson, now 67, made history in 1974 when she was the first-ever African American cover model for Vogue. The famous portrait was taken by legendary photographer Francesco Scavullo and marked the first time in eight decades that the fashion magazine featured a black cover model.
But Johnson’s former publicist, James Hester, told Page Six that despite the supermodel’s important milestone for the magazine, he had to fight to get her invited to Vogue’s 100th anniversary party in 1992. When the model was finally added to the guest list, Wintour reportedly gave her an icy reception.
“Beverly made history as the first African American model to grace the cover of Vogue and they refused to invite her,” Hester told the outlet. “It was a momentous occasion and obviously a huge moment in Beverly’s life. They kept saying, ‘We’ll get back to you.”
Hester said he ultimately got “creative” and cut a deal to get the music group C + C Music Factory, another client of his at the time, to DJ the event for free, with the promise that singer Deborah Cooper would also perform in exchange for coverage in the magazine. Hester added that after he secured the entertainment lineup, he went back to make another deal and told the magazine’s team, “Beverly Johnson would really love to be invited” and that they “finally agreed.”
But Hester alleged that when he attempted to introduce Johnson to Wintour at the gala, she was rude to the model. Hester claimed that when he asked Wintour, “Do you know Beverly Johnson?” the Vogue boss said, “Yup,” and walked away.
The publicist also said that while Johnson was included in the party coverage as part of a double-page collage, even that was a total slap in the face.
“Beverly’s picture was in there with her head cut off,” he said.” [Wintour] has been awful to the black community.”
Johnson told the outlet that what her former publicist relayed is a “nice” story about Wintour, implying that the magazine mogul did far worse things.
Despite the disappointing meeting with Wintour, Johnson was thrilled by her Vogue milestone. In an interview with NPR, Johnson said when she got the call from her agent, Wilhelmina Cooper, to tell her that she would be on the cover of Vogue, her heart started racing. Once the issue was printed, she bought a copy, and every hour that first night she turned on the light and looked at the cover to make sure it really happened. Johnson also said that landing the cover of Vogue magazine was not only the defining moment of her career but of her life.
Wintour recently released a statement to her team in which she addressed the magazine’s lack of diversity after the publication was accused of not hiring and promoting black writers, photographers, and designers. The longtime Vogue editor-in-chief promised to do better as she said she takes full responsibility for the magazine’s past mistakes.