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JoAni Johnson: The 67-Year-Old Model Rihanna Cast for Fenty

Photo by Ibrahem Hasan

Article by Michael Love Michael, via Paper.

Johnson’s career as a tea-blender requires her to give presentations on the history of tea, tea drinking trends, and more. For work, she travels internationally to lend her authoritative, poised voice to the community. Soon, the world will also know Johnson as a fashion star in her own right — a born and bred New Yorker, who stands at 5’4″ and defies industry norms by simply being herself.

“Being Black and not of a certain height, in modeling terms, didn’t give me a chance to get in the industry,” Johnson says. “Now this is my time.”

PAPER caught up with the booked and busy Johnson to talk about working with Rihanna and creating more diverse seats at fashion’s table.

How did you get involved with the Fenty campaign?

Actually, it was pretty straightforward as far as I know. The creative team reached out to my agents to see if I was available for the campaign, and shortly afterwards I was on a flight to LA to shoot with Glen Luchford.

Rihanna was inspired by the Black Is Beautiful movement of the ’60s. You’re starring in a campaign inspired by something you lived through. What is that like?

Well, I’m working as an older model, which is amazing to begin with. I also consider myself ageless. Whenever I hear terms like “older” or whatever, I try not to let it register because it takes me away from what I’m doing and the joy of doing it. You know, I’d always thought about being a model when I was younger. But it was different times, so restrictions were so tight. Being Black and not of a certain height, in modeling terms, didn’t give me a chance to get in the industry. Now this is my time. And in a lot of ways, it’s more perfect because I bring a real story of life to a newfound work, which gives me a degree of life texture when you’re presenting the brand.

“I consider myself ageless. Whenever I hear terms like “older,” I try not to let it register because it takes me away from what I’m doing and the joy of doing it.”

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