Beverly Johnson was a trailblazer in the modeling world, and now she’s blazing a new trail in her personal life.
Johnson, who in 1974 became the first Black model to appear on the cover of the U.S. edition of Vogue, recently got engaged to her boyfriend, financier Brian Maillian, 70.
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Johnson, 67, who has appeared on more than 500 magazine covers in her career, told Hoda Kotb and Jenna Bush Hager that his proposal came as a surprise.
“It was a small family dinner in a restaurant and my older sister had come in town, and she thought I had proposed to Brian and she’s telling Brian, ‘You didn’t answer my sister’s proposal,’” she said Monday on TODAY with Hoda & Jenna. “I said, ‘What proposal?!’”
Johnson then explained how Maillian’s mother played an integral role in the engagement, offering up her own ring while they were in Palm Springs.
“Brian says, ‘I’ve asked your sister to marry me many times, and she's said no. And I don't have a ring.’ At which time Brian’s 88-year-old mother who is sitting at this table of 20 takes off her ring and passes it down — we’re standing up to make this toast — and then finally we’re standing there looking at each other with the ring and he gets down on one knee,” Johnson said.
“I put the ring on and then I take if off immediately to pass it back to his mother, and she said, ‘You can keep it on for a little while,’” she told Hoda and Jenna.
When she recounted the moments that followed in an earlier interview with People, she explained that she “was sobbing uncontrollably.”
“Black culture contributes enormously to the fashion industry. But Black people are not compensated for it,” she wrote.
“Brands do not retain and promote the many talented Black professionals already in the fashion, beauty and media workforce. Brands do not significantly invest in Black designers. The fashion industry pirates Blackness for profit while excluding Black people and preventing them from monetizing their talents.”