Beverly Johnson Hopes To Change The Way We Talk About Menopause

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Beverly Johnson has been a fashion icon for over 50 years. The first African-American woman to appear on the cover of Vogue in 1974, Johnson changed the ideal beauty look in the fashion industry. Now she wants to change how women talk about menopause.

Johnson is no stranger when it comes to experiencing menopause. When she was 47 years old, the model had a hysterectomy that put her into “full-blown menopause.” The result was surprising to Johnson. The model hadn’t been warned by her doctor that menopause would happen immediately following the surgery.

“It was a major operation,” Johnson remarked. “I didn’t fully understand what the procedure entailed. The doctor didn’t explain and I thought menopause would come on gradually.”

Johnson’s hysterectomy occurred after being diagnosed with fibroids in her 30s. Although she first had a myomectomy to remove the fibroids, they soon grew back. Once they returned, the painful uterine fibroids pushed on her uterus, causing her to menstruate every day for a year and become anemic.

Although the hysterectomy helped, the procedure greatly impacted her body. Two months following the operation, Johnson woke up sweating in the middle of the night. 

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“My body changed,” she reflected. “You start gaining weight in the middle. And I was still modeling. I felt tired. I remember talking to older women and when they’d break out in a sweat, I’d say ‘What’s wrong? Are you okay?’ And the response was always ‘You’ll know about it soon enough.’ I never connected the two. Well, I was that woman now.”

Johnson Turned To Friends For Advice

Johnson, 70, shared how going through menopause “when there was no Google” was difficult. Menopause was a taboo issue that people wouldn’t talk about, including her family members. “My mom would say ‘It’s nothing. It will be over soon,”’ the model reflected. “She downplayed it, but she downplays anything that is kind of uncomfortable.”

Similar to other women who have gone through menopause, Johnson turned to her friends for advice. “I got more helpful information from girlfriends than my own doctors,” she says. “As soon as you mention it to someone going through it, it’s the topic of conversation.”

Johnson is adding her voice to the conversation on menopause as a way to empower other women. She wants women to continue sharing their journey to destigmatize menopause. “Why do we have to stay in the Dark Ages when it comes to this?” Johnson asked. “It’s life changing, but it also causes some health changes, so it’s wonderful people are talking about it.”

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