Sunday, March 10, 2002
New York Beverly Johnson, the first black model to grace the cover of Vogue, has the advantage of approaching age with hindsight.
While many other women approaching 50 fear they are getting old and will no longer be seen as sexy and attractive, Johnson went through those anxieties when she was 26.
"I started modeling at 17. People find it hard to believe that at 26 I was looking at the lines of my face. That was my fearful period ï¿½ the younger girls were coming up," says Johnson.
Now 49, she says she feels "liberated." And sexy and attractive.
Johnson is among those featured in "Fifty Celebrate Fifty" (Meredith Books), which profiles both famous and not-so-famous women who, as they put their fifth decade behind them, still haven't reached their peak.
Meryl Streep, fashion designer Josie Natori, Twiggy, Diane Sawyer, author Amy Tan and Donna Summer are in the book developed by the editors of More magazine, and so are single mother Laura Carroll, peace activist Jody Williams and archaeologist Sue Hendrickson.
The book celebrates the women's accomplishment, spirit and beauty.
"In my business, there is a lot of pressure to freeze at a certain age," according to Susan Sarandon.
But the 55-year-old actress says she won't cave ï¿½ there's something too unnatural about a 60-year-old who looks younger than she did when she was 30.
And, she adds, she is happy with the way she looks now.
"Do you really expect me to say gravity hasn't taken its toll? No. But as I'm earning these lines (in my face), I'm making an aesthetic choice," Sarandon says.
"You have to look at so much more than the surface. ... But I can't say I don't care about how I look.
Johnson says she doesn't see a woman of any particular age looking back at her in the mirror each morning. She just sees a woman who is happy.
"I wouldn't want to be 27. I'm in a good place now and I'm going to be in even better places," she adds
Johnson doesn't reveal her age with any sort of enthusiasm. ("I don't find it attractive to give your age, height and weight as an introduction.")
But she says she was eager to be a part of this book to show other women who are plagued with self-doubt that 50 can be fabulous.
"The women in this book have it all," Johnson says.
Choosing the photographers for "Fifty Celebrate Fifty" required more forethought than just hiring top fashion lensmen, explains Lisa Burroughs, the book's photography director.
"I looked for photographers who think women are beautiful at any age and aren't dependent on hair or makeup," she says.
For the most part, all the women in the book were fairly agreeable to having their pictures taken.
"There was an absence of neurosis when it came to being photographed. ... It's a reflection that they're happy with who they are," Burroughs observes. "These are accomplished women who are comfortable with themselves. There is something beautiful about that ï¿½ and that can be photographed."
Of course ï¿½ just like almost every other woman who realizes her photograph will be seen by thousands of people ï¿½ some of the book's subjects wanted to take off a few unwanted pounds before meeting the camera, adds Burroughs.