Beverly Johnson Returns to the Catwalk for a Cause

Former supermodel hits runway to fight Down syndrome

By Pat Lawson Muse
|  Wednesday, Nov 16, 2011  |  Updated 10:18 PM EDT
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Supermodel Beverly Johnson, who changed the face of fashion as the first black model to grace the cover of American Vogue, and her niece Natalie Fuller walk the runway for Down Syndrome research

Supermodel Beverly Johnson, who changed the face of fashion as the first black model to grace the cover of American Vogue, and her niece Natalie Fuller walk the runway for Down Syndrome research

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In 1974, she became the first African-American supermodel to grace the cover of Vogue. She inspired generations of women with her beauty and became a role model of good health before it became vogue.

Beverly Johnson walked the catwalk again at the JW Marriott in Washington, D.C., Wednesday night to help raise awareness about Down syndrome and money for research.  She modeled with her niece Natalie Fuller who has Down syndrome.

“It’s very underfunded,” Johnson said. “We want to actually shine light on these incredible children and realize their talents and gifts. They need to be honored.”

The event, sponsored by the Global Down Syndrome Foundation, was dubbed “Be Beautiful, Be Yourself.”  It featured almost a dozen young models from the Washington metropolitan area who have Down syndrome.  Some of Washington’s most powerful and influential leaders attended the gala, including Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) and Rep. Pete Sessions (R-Texas). Both were presented with the Quincy Jones Exceptional Advocacy Award for their strong support and advocacy.  Sessions’s 17-year old son Alex is the 2011 ambassador for the event.

The gala also featured ambassadors and administration officials.  Celebrities and professional athletes served as escorts for the models.  The other highlight of the evening was a performance by singer Gladys Knight.  Proceeds from the gala will benefit the Linda Crnic Institute for Down Syndrome, reportedly the first academic institute working to eradicate the medical and cognitive ill effects associated with Down syndrome.

On News4 at 4, Johnson said “We need Congress to give us the funds for education and research to fight this,” Johnson said.

As for her other pursuits: Look for her in a new reality TV show; she has new products coming out next spring at Target; a new Tyler Perry movie; and a television series.

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