On Monday afternoon, a heavy-hitting crowd flocked to the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Temple of Dendur for a luncheon in honor of the late Eunice W. Johnson. The event, billed as a celebration and planned for months, took on an added poignancy when the famed philanthropist and a founder of Ebony Magazine passed away earlier this month at the age of 93.
White House social secretary Desirée Rogers, Whoopi Goldberg, Thelma Golden, Ruben and Isabel Toledo, Francisco Costa, Jeffrey Banks, Susan Fales-Hill, Veronica Webb and Nick Ashford and Valerie Simpson of cult music duet Ashford & Simpson paid tribute to Johnson, whose Ebony Fashion Fair traveling runway shows are credited with launching the careers of many African-American models and changing perceptions of minorities in fashion.
“I met Mrs. Johnson when I was 14,” recalled Pat Cleveland. “She put me in her fashion fair.”
Rogers also had a personal connection to Johnson: “I had known Mrs. Johnson for over 20 years, because I am best friends with her daughter. She was an amazing woman and I looked up to her.”
via www.wwd.comI want to get my issues with the reporting on this article out of the way before I get to the lovely photos from this event.
A.) The appropriate title of the charitable fashion shows Mrs. Johnson ran for more than five decades is Ebony Fashion Fair, not simply "fashion fairs."
B.) On what planet are the legendary singing-songwriting duo Nick Ashford and Valerie Simpson a "cult music duet?" Ashford and Simpson wrote iconic songs like "Ain't No Mountain High Enough," "You're All I Need To Get By," "I'm Every Woman" and even Ray Charles' "Let's Go Get Stoned." They have also had (quite!) a few hits of their own throughout their 4o-plus years in the music industry. They are American music legends and should be referred to as such.
“I got to know Eunice Johnson about 25 years ago, because her husband was from Arkansas City,” Clinton said. “Over the years, I saw the work the Johnsons did. I respected them because they had a partnership when few people did. And she found a way to use women’s fashion to do good.”
Clinton recalled walking the late Johnson down the church aisle at her husband’s funeral in 2005: “I thought, ‘She is still remarkably attractive.’ She had an ageless vitality.”
Desiree Rogers is known to the world as the White House Social Secretary, but Mrs. Johnson knew her as one of the best friends of her daughter, Johnson Publications Chairman & Chief Executive Officer Linda Johnson Rice, for more than twenty years. She read a letter at the luncheon from President Obama. Linda Johnson Rice was also in attendance.
Pat Cleveland began her groundbreaking modeling career with the Ebony Fashion Fair under Mrs. Johnson's direction. As the story goes, her mother sent in pictures to Ebony and Mrs. Johnson called her in for a go-see. The rest is history.
One of my favorite writers, Susan Fales-Hill. She is best known for writing and producing for The Cosby Show and A Different World, but if you haven't read Always Wear Joy, the extraordinary biography that she wrote about her late mother, the wonderful singer and actress Josephine Premice, I highly recommend it. I am also happy to hear that she has a novel, One Flight Up, due out in July 2010!
I love, love, love Isabel and Ruben Toledo and I love that they were at this luncheon.
It's nice to see Whoopi Goldberg too.
*All photos are from WWD and Getty Images.