It’s never too late to live your dreams and 68 year old JoAni Johnson is ultimate proof!
Defying the odds in a world which constantly dictates unrealistically streamlined beauty and fashion standards and unconciously dictates putting the lid on the dream book, urging one to take solace on acquired accomplishments, retire and lazy around all day after a certain age, sexagenarian rebel JoAni Johnson ditched labels big and is living her wildest dreams.
An ageless beauty, almost hitting 70 is proudly one of the faces of Rihanna’s recent Fenty campaign. Unlike the norm, JoAni Johnson’s soaring modelling success kicked off in her 60s and has since launched her to become a cultural icon in both the fashion and beauty worlds.
The now famed model was first discovered in 2016 while walking through the park with her husband by an Allure magazine photographer and amazingly she went viral. After her photo was scouted out by a modeling agency, she quickly started booking campaigns and working with high-end designers.
The Harlem raised beauty has since modeled in luxury campaigns for Rihanna’s LVMH maison Fenty and Pyer Moss. She has also walked the runway for Ozwald Boateng, Deveaux, CDLM and Eileen Fisher. She is also a New York Fashion Week regular over the past few seasons, walking down the runway for brands like Deveaux and CDLM.
“A lot of the [young girls] are confident. I see them, I’m with them on various events and things like that. It’s not confidence that they don’t have. I’m just at the point in time where I’m like ‘it is what it is,’” she said with a shrug and a smile. “I’m not looking to blow it out of the water, even though people tell me that it is blowing.”
A younger JoAni nursed dreams of being a model but with stringent height and weight requirements back then, she didn’t meet up and opted to work in showrooms instead for 13 years. Then, she went on to hold positions as a receptionist, she even became a certified tea-blender after hosting tea parties — which she still loves to do.
“When I was younger, I wanted to model desperately, but I couldn’t because of the restrictions. Pat Cleveland and Beverley Johnson were models at the time, I couldn’t compete with them,” JoAni said.
JoAni owes her current success to her late husband, Peter. He encouraged her to allow the Allure magazine employee to take her photo that went viral. JoAni continues to model today to honor him.
“I do it in honor of him. I would have never taken that first photograph,” JoAni recalls. She remembers walking in her very first runway show. “I was happy that he was going to be there. He was more excited about me walking the runway than I was. I had no clue what I was supposed to do besides just walk. But my husband got very excited, it took him a week to figure out what he was going to wear to Fashion Week, because he had to,” JoAni said.
When Peter her husband of 21 years, died two months after her first fashion show, Johnson felt compelled to continue. It was his enthusiasm that had pushed her forward. “He encouraged me all the way,” she says. Her voice is gentle and clear. “He was so proud.”
On personal style;
“My personal style is rather eclectic and is dictated by my mood. I know what all the trends are, but I don’t hold myself to that. I go with what I’m comfortable with. Y-3 is the ultimate in sports luxe. Rick Owens is design innovation on a hanger with the perfect amount of calculated edge.
On what she enjoys most in her fashion career journey:
“I enjoy having the ability to disrupt all the fashion rules, whilst inspiring large groups of people to think of inclusion more broadly in this space. I don’t consider what I’m doing as your usual modeling career, and at 5’4, black and 67 years of age I am not your typical model in the general defined way. What I represent though is not a fad, so essentially my new career is positively challenging the status quo. And it’s great!
Rihanna has been applauded for efforts towards diversity through Fashion, as one of the models chosen by Rihanna and her team, what do you think these positive reactions say about the importance of representation and diversity in today’s fashion landscape?
“Fashion is part of our world. Shouldn’t it represent the people of the world? I applaud Rihanna and those who have moved fashion in the direction of inclusion, allowing many who felt they were forgotten to now say, yes I can be a part of this industry. Campaigns featuring nontraditional models like me can introduce different audiences to designers and vice-versa, that they otherwise may not have been exposed to. And that should be good news for everyone.”