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Beverly Johnson: In Vogue

Beverly Johnson. Photos by Richard Termine.

Beverly Johnson is whip-smart, funny, and forthright. She also happens to be a world-famous barrier-breaking supermodel. Her solo show, Beverly Johnson, In Vogue, opens with a montage of black women who were first in their fields. Supreme Court Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson, First Lady Michelle Obama, and Madam CJ Walker are shown alongside other names that are perhaps not as well known such as Juanita Hall, the first black woman to win a Tony Award and Jane Bolin, the first black woman to graduate from Yale Law school and become a judge in the United States. As the pictures fade away and Johnson takes the stage in a chic sheath dress and stilettos, a picture of comedian Bill Cosby appears. Johnson sips from a mug, slams it down and shouts an expletive. It is not quite the expected beginning but Johnson and director/co-creator Josh Ravetch (who also co-created Wishful Drinking with Carrie Fisher) skillfully address the issue from the start. While many in the audience may be familiar with Johnson being drugged by Cosby under the guise of an audition, we learn very quickly that Cosby is only a part of her story. A significant part certainly, but not by any means all of it. 

From there, Johnson goes on to tell how she became the first black model on the cover of American Vogue. She has led an extraordinary life full of great highs accompanied by deep lows. She explains that her six grandchildren call her Softa - because she is both soft and tough. Both of these sides are on display as she talks about facing racism, marrying the first-made black man in the Italian Mafia leading to a bitter divorce and custody battle, meeting, socializing, and working with icons of American art, sports and fashion such as Halston, Elizabeth Taylor, Arthur Ashe, and a very young Mike Tyson, getting sober and discovering a new life as an actor and finally coming forward as one of Cosby’s victims after seeing friend and former model Janice Dickenson discussing her experience publicly. 

Johnson says that when she was twenty-one, she became a face, and at sixty-one, she found her voice and that led to finding power in every corner of her life. This is clear at every moment during the tightly paced show which is moved along by music and projections of Johnson and the people who have populated her life. It is a story told as only she can without pity or self-congratulation, only a determination to use that voice to speak truth to power for herself and those women who risked much to share their stories of being assaulted by a man seen as an American Icon. 

In the end, she says that she tells her grandchildren, “You’ve inherited much from us, some of it gorgeous, some of it ugly, but your story has yet to be written. Sooner than you know, you’ll be the adults in the room. The women we honored earlier tonight were kids like you, once upon a time. They became the women we admire today.” Watching Johnson, we are certain that her story is still being written, and we will be watching to see where she goes from here. For now, she has more than earned her place in the pantheon of barrier-breaking women on whose shoulders she stands.

"Beverly Johnson: In Vogue"

Performed by Beverly Johnson

Written by Beverly Johnson and Josh Ravetch

Directed by Josh Ravetch

January 14- February 4, 2024

59E59 Theaters (59 East 59th Street, NYC)


Wendy Lane Bailey has a powerful classic pop voice and a rather cavalier attitude towards the idea of genre. Wendy-Lane’s debut solo recording, Breathing, was produced by composer/arranger/pianist Michele Brourman. Her performances in venues across the country have earned critical praise for versatility and sophistication. She has appeared as a guest artist on multiple recordings, including Leslie Gore’s and Susan Egan’s. She studied at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts, HB Studios and the Eugene O’Neill Theatre Center. Off-stage Wendy Lane is a creative advocate for artists. While living in Washington, D.C., she founded a regional networking organization for musicians and for five years, was the Associate Director of the Cabaret Conference at Yale University. She received a 2007 Bistro Award for outstanding achievement and was nominated for a Washington Area Music Association Award. While serving on the board of NJ’s Pioneer productions, she produced, directed, and appeared in several theatre pieces. She is currently developing Hot Coffee, MS, a solo theatre piece with music in collaboration with Michele Brourman & Gretchen Cryer. In 2020, she accepted the position of Assistant Artistic Director of the United Solo Theatre Festival. In addition to her performing work, she teaches and consults privately and in master classes for singers of all genres.


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