Beverly Johnson Opens Up About Modeling Diet in the 1970s: “Coke and Eggs”

Jean_Nelson via Deposit Photos

Celebrating the 50th anniversary of her historic appearance on the cover of Vogue as the first Black woman, supermodel Beverly Johnson recently unveiled a dark chapter of her past, detailing her struggle with drugs and a concerning modeling diet in the 1970s. In an exclusive interview with Page Six, Johnson reflects on her journey, shedding light on the pressures within the fashion industry that led her down a dangerous path.

During the 1970s, Johnson succumbed to societal expectations and industry pressure, aiming for an excessively thin physique for photo shoots. She revealed a shocking diet regimen that included cocaine, a bowl of rice, and two eggs per week. Fashion insiders encouraged models to appear “chiseled to the bone,” fostering an environment where drug use was normalized.

Johnson recounts the era when the prevalent belief was that cocaine was not addictive. Models, striving to meet unrealistic beauty standards, used the appetite-suppressing drug as a means to avoid eating and gaining weight. Johnson vividly recalls consuming only two eggs and a bowl of brown rice weekly, resulting in physical distress. In moments of extreme hunger, she would resort to quick fixes like stopping for a bag of M&Ms in a cab—there were certainly some unhealthy practices that were applauded within the industry back in the day.

The turning point came when Johnson’s concerned mother intervened, insisting she step out of the destructive cycle. Confronted with her own reflection in a three-way mirror, Johnson saw her bones starkly, prompting a profound realization. This wake-up call was the beginning of her journey to recovery.

Now 71 years old, Johnson has maintained sobriety for over 50 years. In her one-woman show, “Beverly Johnson In Vogue,” she candidly discusses her modeling and acting career, family, relationships, and her upbringing in Buffalo, New York. The performance serves as a homage to the influential women who paved the way for her and those who followed.

Recently, on Sirius XM’s “Sway in the Morning,” Johnson revealed a personal milestone—her secret marriage to financier Brian Maillian in Las Vegas last year. Despite the challenges she faced in her earlier years, Johnson’s resilience and commitment to sobriety have shaped her into a trailblazer and an advocate for healthier industry standards.

“Beverly Johnson In Vogue” is currently running at the 59E59 Theatre until Feb. 4, providing audiences with an intimate glimpse into the life of a supermodel who triumphed over adversity and continues to inspire with her resilience and achievements.

Hear Johnson chat about her past journey and the state of the fashion and beauty industries today on CBS Mornings in the video below.

How do you think Johnson’s story can inspire positive changes in the fashion industry, fostering healthier standards and promoting self-acceptance?