JoAni Johnson, a 69-year-old model who has appeared in campaigns for fashion brands such as Fenty and Pyer Moss, is one of many women who have worked hard to debunk negative ideas about aging. Day in and day out, she proves that age is nothing more than a number.
More than two years ago, JoAni Johnson, a 67-year-old model from Harlem, New York, was spotted walking the streets of Manhattan’s Meatpacking District. While most Americans retire at age 65, JoAni embarked on a dream career that would change lives. As Johnson and her late husband were walking down the street, an employee of Allure magazine stopped them and asked to take her picture.
After appearing in the viral Allure video in 2016 that dispelled beauty myths about aging gracefully, the Harlem native has become a regular at New York Fashion Week in recent seasons, walking the runway for brands like Deveaux and CDLM. Chances are you’ve seen her in a recent fashion campaign. From Piper Moss to Rihanna’s luxury store FENTY, the 69-year-old model has advertised for some of today’s hottest fashion brands.
Joanne dreamed of becoming a model. However, due to the strict height and weight requirements of the time, she chose to work in a showroom for 13 years. After that, she worked as a receptionist and even qualified as a tea blender after organizing tea parties, which she still enjoys doing when she’s not tearing up the runway.
“When I was younger, I desperately wanted to be a model, but due to restrictions, I couldn’t. Pat Cleveland and Beverly Johnson were the models of the day and I couldn’t compete with them,” Joannie said.
“The company I worked for was selling jeans at the time. Gloria Vanderbilt jeans were the best-selling jeans, so we would buy them and make cottage industry versions. You had to know what was coming out, and it was a quick and fun time for the business. Just being a part of the radical changes that paved the way for today’s acceptability was exciting. Those years (the ’60s and ’70s) meant, through fashion, the broad influence of youth culture. Our music had changed, our art had changed, and fashion had followed. Studio 54 was in full swing and the world seemed open to new ideas and opportunities”.
Joanne Johnson may have been hesitant at the start of her modeling career, but the 69-year-old has just landed the job most models dream of. The New York native is one of the faces of Rihanna’s new luxury clothing line, Fenty, in collaboration with LVMH. Before becoming one of Rihanna’s luxury fashion muses, Johnson starred in a 2016 viral video for Allure about her gray hair and modeled for brands like Erin Fischer, Tome, Deveaux and CDLM by Chris Peters.
“I don’t think what I do is your typical modeling career, and being 5’4″, black, and 67 years old, I’m not a typical model by the usual definition. What I represent is not a fashion, so my new career is essentially a positive challenge to the status quo. It’s great!” She said.
Despite her advanced age, she is confident in every performance, both on the runway and in front of the camera. In fact, she accepts her age and uses it to her advantage.
“Being older lets me know that I’ve overcome difficult challenges, such as my husband’s death, and it gives me the confidence to face what comes next. Young people should welcome new experiences – they help you build on your existing abilities and hopefully develop new ones. With that, more confidence will come.”
The famous model was recently quoted by the New York Times as saying that she was also hired by singer Rihanna to model for her cosmetics brand Fenty Beauty.
The benefit of having Rihanna Johnson in her first major campaign for Fenty is that it reinforces Rihanna’s commitment to creating greater inclusivity in the fashion industry – not just in terms of race and body type, but also in terms of age.
Rihanna revealed that she has been discriminated against because of her gender and age.” There are other factors: I’m young. I’m a new member of the family. I’m a woman. Those factors play a role, but I’m not going to apologize or back down because I’m a woman, because I’m black, because I have an opinion. I run a business, and that’s exactly what I came here to do.” With that kind of determination, it’s no wonder Bernard Arnault trusts Rihanna and her vision. Let’s hope that Rihanna’s commitment to inclusion will inspire other luxury designers to follow in her footsteps.
“As I got older, big things turned to color because gray hair was not accepted. I dyed my hair and it didn’t work. So I bleached it. Eventually, I started letting my hair grow out and then cut off all the blonde hair. what happened is what’s happening now,” says JoAni.
“My hair is not porous, the story goes. I tried to color it once and it turned green. In today’s world, that would be a fad, but not at the time, and it was considered horrible. After that, I started bleaching and my hair started breaking off. Then, I met my husband and he told me to stop bleaching.
“Also, when I bleached, I did it myself because, of course, it was too expensive, but working at home gave my hair a different hue. It would start out red and then it would turn into all these different colors until it became platinum blonde. Again, in today’s world this would be a fashion, but not at the time. “
In the new season of style, Joanne Johnson is a fashion stylist. She will help people figure out how to reconcile the new trends with their lifestyles and budgets.
Johnson is a first-generation Jamaican-American. She was born and raised in Harlem.
Before she became the new face of fashion, JoAni was a stay-at-home
mom living with her husband, Peter Johnson, who actually encouraged her to take advantage of the modeling career that came her way.
JoAni Johnson meets a young man who hates blondes. He became Joanne Johnson’s husband and they had just celebrated their 20th anniversary.
When her husband of 21 years, Peter, died two months after her first fashion show. After her husband’s sudden death, modeling gave Joanne a new sense of purpose.” I tell people all the time. I do it because he likes me to do it. I know he wanted me to keep going.
The secret passed on to Joanne Johnson’s daughter is about the importance of staying true to yourself and keeping things simple. Sometimes, she says, it feels like the world is trying to spin you around. It can be confusing, and what you used to know doesn’t seem so real anymore. But you will find your truth. When you find your truth, stay focused on it and keep things simple.
Skin care regimes are usually passed down from generation to generation. When I asked JoAni what beauty tips she passed on to her daughters, she said, “I taught them to keep it simple, because that’s the most important thing. It’s about taking care of your skin, but it’s not about beautifying it. You don’t need it all.”
“The Vaseline #ListenToYourMoms campaign speaks to me because as a mother, it’s important to me to continue the tradition to the current and future generations of strong, beautiful women in my family. Throughout my life, my approach to beauty has been simple, and the knowledge of versatility combined with the healing power of Vaseline Jelly has been a trusted ‘go-to’ for generations of women in my own life.”
JoAni attributes her current success to her late husband. He encouraged her to allow the staff of Allure magazine to photograph her, a photo that went viral, and JoAni continues to pose and pay tribute to him today.
“When I was younger, I desperately wanted to be a model, but due to restrictions, I couldn’t. Pat Cleveland and Beverly Johnson were models at the time and I couldn’t compete with them,” JoAni said.
“I did it in his honor. JoAni recalls, “If it had been him, I never would have taken the first picture. She remembers attending her first fashion show.” I’m glad he was there. He was more excited about me walking in the show than I was. I didn’t know what I was supposed to do, except walk. But my husband was so excited that it took him a week to figure out what he was going to wear to fashion week because he had to,” Joanne said.
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