I consider Beverly Johnson to be my fashionable aunt in my head. You know, that aunt who is willing to expose the good, bad and the ugly from her past in hopes that it might help you to avoid some of the pitfalls she encountered back when she was young and reckless. The former supermodel will be unveiling a bit more of her past—including her cocaine addiction—in her new memoir, The Face That Changed It All, which hits shelves August 25, 2015.
“I’ve talked about bulimia, anorexia, depression and losing my daughter in a custody battle but never about drugs,” Johnson, 63, tells People. “You laugh and cry but it’s my life… I hope it can inspire. ”
According to Johnson, cocaine addictions were welcomed by industry insiders because the substance kept models thin.
“The skinnier you were, the more fabulous you were,” she recalled. “Drug use was encouraged. It was like ‘Oh my God, you are chiseled to the bone.’ All of the things you needed to be a high-class model: high cheekbones, bright eyes, that was all provided by the drugs. It was like being offered a drink. It was one of the perks. People around us always had it.”
There was even a period when she indulged in at least one gram of cocaine per day and at one point, she utilized the substance as a weight loss supplement to maintain her 103-pound frame.
“I was eating nothing, zero,” she confessed. “I drank black coffee, a sip of broth if things got tough, and in the evening, a glass of champagne as a pick me up. We didn’t even drink water. We thought it was fattening.”
“We thought it was glamorous and expensive,” she says, “but it was all a delusion.”
Of course, her substance abusing days were not just filled with receiving compliments on her model figure. The iconic beauty recalled convulsing in the backseat of a taxi one day. She had to grab a bag of M&M Peanuts in order to raise her blood sugar. When asked how she survived those years, Johnson replied:
“You didn’t have to think.”
There was also that time she almost overdosed.
“It felt like my heart was going to come out of my chest,” she says. “You think you just want to lie down, but that’s when you die. My boyfriend threw me in the cold shower, shoes and all, and made me drink a whole carton of milk and I stabilized.” Looking back, she says, “I’m lucky to be alive.”
The model shares that her personal life was in shambles in more ways than one. In addition to being forced to pacify the monkey on her back, she was battling her ex-husband of 18 months for custody of their daughter, Anansa, who was a toddler at the time. Their troubled marriage came to an explosive end when he allegedly stole her money earned from modeling jobs, hit her and threatened her with a gun.
“I’d never been so afraid my entire life,” she says. “I realized drugs could kill you and my daughter would not have a mother if I didn’t get help.”
However, as they say, the good thing about hitting rock bottom is that there’s nowhere else to go but up. Johnson pushed herself to enter a 12-step drug rehabilitation program in the ‘80s where she was able to kick the habit for good.
Johnson will also dish on her on relationships with famous men including Eddie Murphy, Chris Noth, and of course, Arthur Ashe.
“If we married, we would have been the Beyoncé and Jay-Z of our day,” she wrote of her relationship with Ashe.
Honey, we can’t wait to see what else she’s talking about in this book.