TIME 10 Questions

10 Questions With Beverly Johnson

10-questions-beverly-johnson
Paras Griffin—Getty Images Out with a memoir, The Face That Changed It All, the veteran supermodel reflects on her career and on coming forward about Bill Cosby.

The veteran supermodel reflects on her career and on coming forward about Bill Cosby

You became one of the highest-profile Cosby accusers when you alleged last year that the comedian had drugged you. How did you decide to speak out?

I can’t even tell you how difficult it was to come out. It was only when I told one friend that I’d had for 20 years. She started to tell me about when she was raped by an uncle. We had known each other 20 years, and we had never told each other these stories. I told myself, If I’m going to write a memoir, I’m going to write a memoir. I’m not going to censor myself.

Many people have applauded you. What is the feedback that we don’t see?

It totally changes your life. It’s not that this coming forward is awful, but it’s not 100% positive. Nobody wants to be judged and criticized, and that’s what comes along with it. But what stands out for me is that I found a strength in myself and a part of my soul. My soul aged gracefully. It’s just such a grace that has happened from this.

Your book is candid, and you had a reality show. Are you comfortable sharing this much with the public?

Last night I received a hard copy of the book, and I’m like, What did you do? What were you thinking? We’ll see. Interview me in a few months.

Is the modeling world uniquely competitive?

That’s in every industry, isn’t it? Competition and rivalry are good. It brings out the best in us.

How does posing for photos change as you age?

When you’re 103 pounds and 18 years old, you can give them every angle in the world. But things change, and that’s the wonderful part about life. It would be really boring to try to stay exactly the way you are with the same old hairstyle that you had back in high school.

You write about your rivalry with Iman. Do you regret not helping each other more?

At my moment, there was always a token black person. And in the ’70s I became that token black person. It brings out the worst in people when they think there’s only one spot, where for everyone else there are lots of spots.

What do you make of the fashion industry’s response to underweight models?

In my era, we were super-skinny, but people got inspired by the fashion. They didn’t want to look like us. Now models have a responsibility to send out the correct message. The scrutiny has to continue.

You dated Arthur Ashe and Mike Tyson. Did life in the public eye affect your romantic choices?

Obviously, from my book, I didn’t do so good. I made some mistakes. Arthur Ashe and I–our connection was manufactured. But in the other cases, I don’t tend to go after someone that’s going to bring me more celebrity or fame. I’m not that ambitious.

You have a hair-extension line. How has it been running a business?

Really difficult. The learning curve was challenging. I’ve found that I’m smarter than I ever thought and that it’s exhilarating to build something brick by brick. Modeling is instant gratification. You see the picture. You get your check.

When do you feel most beautiful?

I feel the most beautiful when I’m really speaking my truth in my soul. I don’t look in the mirror a lot, but right now I’m looking in the mirror and I’m going, Whoa! You look good.


This appears in the August 31, 2015 issue of TIME.
TIME 10 Questions

10 Questions With Barbara Bush

Barbara Bush Former First Lady White House
Jim Watson—AFP/Getty Images Former first lady Barbara Bush attends a White House ceremony to recognize the Points of Light volunteer program in Washington on July 15, 2013.

Turning 90, the former first lady reflects on her husband’s favorite pastime, the advantages of age and her second son’s jump into the 2016 race

Your husband jumped out of an airplane for his 90th. What’s your plan?

Not jumping out of an airplane. I am not an idiot. The whole family is coming, which will be fun.

Your husband was President. Your first son was President. Now Jeb, your second son, is running for President. What did you feed those boys?

Obviously too much.

You once said America has had enough Bushes. Then you thought anew. How come?

I am against discrimination of all kinds: race, religion, sexual orientation or whatever your last name is.

What does America need to know about Jeb’s wife Columba? What advice have you given her?

She is a tiny, shy woman with a huge heart. I try not to give my daughters-in-law advice, so they will come visit with my sons.

Are there any advantages to being 90?

Sometimes when someone asks me to do something I really don’t want to do, I can say, “I might not be alive.” It works.

The Clintons are getting a lot of grief about their foundation. Do former Presidents face too many potential conflicts to stay active in public affairs?

No. Former Presidents have a great bully pulpit. They must find a way to use it wisely and well to help others.

You spent a lot of time as First Lady–and more in the years since–on literacy. Has it improved in 20 years?

Not enough, which is why I am letting the Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy use my birthday to raise money. It’s sort of embarrassing. Our friends hide their wallets when they see us coming. But we are desperate to solve this problem. We have some exciting new ideas we want to try. I hope you’ll ask me about that down that road.

Let’s do it now.

I was hoping you would say that. We are partnering with XPRIZE to find the best minds around the globe to come up with innovative and technologically driven solutions to illiteracy. It’s a global competition challenging teams to develop mobile apps for adults to create the greatest increase in literacy skills in 12 months. We’re going to kick it off later this year. We think it will make a difference.

So, what have you read lately that you liked?

The Postmistress by Sarah Blake.

Your husband is tweeting. You aren’t. How come?

I promised my family I would keep my mouth shut.

Speaking of which, we have a question from him here. It goes like this: “‘Bar, I plan to jump on my 95th birthday. Do you have a problem with that?'”

Would it stop you if I did? But please land again in the churchyard. You know why I think that makes sense.

What’s the best political advice you have ever received?

Be yourself. Well, maybe someone a little nicer.

–MICHAEL DUFFY

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This appears in the June 15, 2015 issue of TIME.

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