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A New Stage Presence

Supermodel Beverly Johnson appeared on hundreds of magazine covers in the ‘70s and ‘80s. But she’s never been on stage--until now.

It’s not for lack of love. “Once I realized I wasn’t going to be a lawyer, the modeling thing kind of fell into my lap,” recalls the New York native. “But I knew I always wanted to be in the arts. So even when modeling took off, I was still acting. I became a professional student.” (Following studies at Northeastern and Brooklyn College, she spent three years with theater guru Lee Strasberg.)

She also appeared in eight films--including “Ashanti” with Michael Caine--yet dismisses her past screen work as “something I’m not proud of.” Two years ago, buoyed by the improved status of blacks in the industry (and her own ABC talent development contract), Johnson began pursuing acting full-tilt. Now, she says confidently, “I just know it’s going to happen in my lifetime. I never gave up hope, you know. But I did have my doubts.”

Whatever happens, she’s always got the other career. “I’m still modeling, if you can believe that,” she says of the high-profile business she helped integrate almost 20 years ago. “I like it, I love it. But there are other things I want to do. This is a time I can take off financially. I can relax about where I am in my career, what I’ve accomplished--and not worry about the 12-year-olds coming up. And I decided I really wanted to do a play.”

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The result is her role in Bart Baker’s “Love Acts,” currently at the Coast Playhouse in West Hollywood. “People know me as this supermodel,” she explains. “So I’ve really had to sell myself as an actress--do something they could see me in, where I could show them, ‘Look, I can act.’ ” Come June, she’ll also be immortalized in plastic, when Matchbox Toys launches its Real Model Collection, a trio of dolls likened to her, Christie Brinkley and Cheryl Tiegs.

“They really do look like us,” Johnson says proudly. “And unlike Barbie, our dolls have careers. They work.”


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