Beverly Johnson, world-renowned supermodel

International Spokesperson, Global Down Syndrome Foundation

As the first African-American woman to grace the cover of Vogue magazine in 1974, Beverly Johnson is used to breaking down barriers. The model, mother, actress and entrepreneur now has one more title to add to her impressive resume: International Spokesperson for the Global Down Syndrome Foundation. Beverly joins music icon Quincy Jones and award-winning actor John C. McGinley in this capacity for the Foundation.

Beverly Johnson & Natalie Fuller photo

Beverly’s remarkable three-decade career began when she took the modeling world by storm in the ‘70s,transcending race and appearing on more than 500 magazine covers and thousands of editorial pages through the 1990s. But Beverly didn’t limit herself to print – she also worked the runway for Yves St. Laurent, Valentino, Calvin Klein and Halston. Ever the over-achiever, Beverly also appeared in feature films and television programs, including her new reality show Beverly’s Full House, now airing on OWN.

Throughout her career, Beverly has been a dedicated activist, lending her celebrity to important causes including AIDS awareness, Ask4Tell4, an education campaign surrounding uterine fibroids in women, and the United Negro College Fund. Beverly has also introduced a line of paraben-free hair-care products for women of color called Beverly Johnson Hair Care, now available at Target.

But when Beverly’s niece, Natalie Fuller, now 23, was born with Down syndrome, Beverly’s activism became personal. In 2011, Beverly joined Natalie strutting down the catwalk at the Global Down Syndrome Foundation’s Be Beautiful Be Yourself Fashion Show. It was clear that modeling prowess – and beauty – run in the family. Beverly said the two-part event, held in Denver and Washington, D.C., motivated her to increase her involvement.

“It was the most inspiring charity event I have ever attended,” said Beverly. “And the awareness it brings to what people with Down syndrome can do is amazing.”

As an international spokesperson, Beverly will echo the Global Down Syndrome Foundation’s call for increased research and medical care funding for individuals with the condition. Beverly plans to highlight – and work to reconcile – the lifespan disparity between blacks and whites with Down syndrome. While the average life expectancy for a white person with Down syndrome is 60, the life expectancy for an African-America born with Down syndrome is just 36 years.

“We are deeply moved by Beverly’s determination to create a better world for her niece and the millions more who have Down syndrome worldwide,” said Michelle Sie Whitten, Executive Director of the Global Down Syndrome Foundation. “Her celebrity, poise and articulate manner will certainly help us to raise research dollars that will allow us to close the lifespan gap between blacks and whites.”

Beverly will continue to participate in Foundation events and visit officials in DC to help the Global Down Syndrome Foundation raise funds and awareness regarding the urgent need for improved medical care and research for people with Down syndrome.