By: Philippe Matthews
In 1974, Beverly Johnson became the first African-American model to grace the cover of Vogue Magazine. During her 30-year span in the image industry, Beverly has been a barrier-breaker for all women — re-inventing herself, shedding old behaviors and developing self-love and empowerment.
Her book, True Beauty, talks about Beverly’s struggles with outside influences that triggered massive depression, anxiety, anorexia and bulimia. “When I was about 27, I went through a painful bout of anorexia. I was 5’8”, and 103 pounds. That was followed by bulimia, the painful binge and purge circuit. It was then that I truly felt myself slip out of control. My own body image and self-esteem sank to excruciating and debilitating lows.”
In 1986, Beverly committed herself to Overeaters Anonymous where she sought understanding and treatment for her disorder. “This obsession America has with weight is everywhere. I finally wanted to understand this animal, this demon. Through Overeaters Anonymous, they gave me an understanding of what this was all about, and I got something to hold onto and believe in. It became a new way of living life, taking inventory and really getting to the feelings, which is a major breakthrough, because many people don’t know why they’re eating — you feel totally alone. Overeaters Anonymous gives you a place where you can go and be with a group of people who have similar problems, and dump. Then, you take the power away from it. You realize that you’re not the Lone Ranger.
I also went to HOW (Honesty, Openness, Willingness),” she says. “It’s a very strenuous program, more so than Overeaters Anonymous. You weigh your food, and you call in your food. You have a sponsor. You can’t eat sugars, no alcohol. It just gets you from one meal to the next meal, and they’re really trying to break the pattern of bulimia, anorexia and those compulsive behaviors.”
Today, Beverly watches her food choices and embraces the art of Chinese herbalism. “I got to where I was eating and feeling OK, but there was something missing, I wanted to feel better. So, I went to this Chinese herbalist and, boy, those herbs are amazing, in how they strengthen your blood, your organs, and your brain! This is basically where medicine began, and they’re very powerful. For me, they didn’t have the same effect as vitamins did, which sometimes, if I didn’t eat enough, could be hard on my system. With the herbs you feel the results immediately. I even took an herb that helped me with my sugar craving! It’s just a process for me to bring more joy into my life.”
Beverly says her book True Beauty showed her heights and plights in the beauty business, and how she learned to balance her beauty to “where it would be a place of effortlessness,” she offered.
“I did a book in the 1980s, called Beverly Johnson’s Guide to Life of Health and Beauty, a book where I talked about being a vegetarian, maintaining a strict workout routine, eating nuts and berries — very regimented. Then, I went through a stage where I no longer wanted to deprive myself of the foods that I enjoyed (cookies and hot buttered popcorn), then I came to a point where I realized that it wasn’t the food, it wasn’t the diets, or new makeup tips and techniques, it was basically from a place within myself, my soul that needed to be worked on.”
The legendary Beverly Johnson continues to grow and dig deeper in herself, “I’ve always been a very spiritual person, I’ve been into prayer and meditation all of my life, but, once I really came face to face with myself, and getting in touch with that voice, or Higher Power, I began to make the right choices in my life, and it was effortless. For the first time in my life I feel this is how it’s supposed to be. True beauty. Mind. Spirit. Body. Face. It’s a complex interplay of all these things. True beauty is the result of a harmony of many elements, inside and out. It’s soul esteem, and building that intuitive voice that has all the answers.”