Vogue’s First Black Cover Star Calls Out Fashion’s Failing Diversity

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Former Vogue cover model Beverly Johnson has penned an essay for The Washington Post that calls out the continued lack of diversity in the fashion industry.

Johnson made history in 1974 when she became the first Black model to grace Vogue’s infamous glossy cover. But while her debut seemed to mark a new era of diversification in fashion, she recently highlighted the shortcomings of racial equality within the industry.

Johnson expressed how Black communities “are not compensated” for their contribution to fashion since brands don’t retain Black professionals in their workforce. Rather, “The fashion industry pirates blackness for profit while excluding black people and preventing them from monetizing their talents.” It’s a song all too familiar for the Black community and even more pertinent with ongoing Black Lives Matter protests across America.

Johnson shared how “For 50 years, I have fought for inclusion and equal pay in the fashion industry”. While there are flickers of change, such as Tyler Mitchell becoming the first-ever Black vogue cover photographer in 2018, Johnson stressed that even so many years later, “the fight for inclusion is still fierce.”

Johnson then proposed ‘The Beverly Johnson Rule’ for Condé Nast. It’s a mandate promoting greater Black leadership among established publications since it would “require at least two black professionals to be meaningfully interviewed for influential positions.” She didn’t stop there, inviting “chief executives of companies in the fashion, beauty and media industries to adopt this rule.”

We can make sure Beverly’s call for change is heard by reading and sharing her words, available in full, here.