career advice

Beverly Johnson Had to Type Before She Modeled

In a Q&A in Glamour’s November issue, Beverly Johnson recalls how she booked her first major cover in 1972. Apparently, she had to take a typing test before they would hire her:

A friend who was convinced I should be a model got me an appointment at Glamour. They told me to take a typing test, but I acted like I couldn’t even type. I had 20 words on the page. They said, why don’t you go get something to eat, and when I got back, they offered me a 10-day modeling job. Can you imagine?

This anecdote is intriguing but also really confusing. What did Glamour editors hope to accomplish by having her take a typing test? Was this standard in the seventies — a requirement that beauty be accompanied by other “feminine” skills? Was it a miscommunication, and they were really looking for an assistant but then decided she was cover-girl material? Maybe, if she had been able to type really fast, they would have stuck her behind a desk instead of putting her on the cover! We don’t even want to consider the butterfly effect of that one: she never would have gone on to land fifteen more Glamour covers, or her landmark 1974 Vogue cover, and never would have become “the first black supermodel.”

Beverly Johnson Had to Type Before She Modeled