Beverly Johnson (58)
Statuesque. Confident. Elegant. That's Beverly Johnson — model, actress, entrepreneur and pioneer — in a nutshell. Johnson, now 58, made waves when she became the first African-American model to grace the cover of American Vogue in 1974. Just one decade after the American Civil Rights Act was passed, the impact of that one photograph still reverberates. “Around the globe, people were trying to interview me — from Africa, from Sweden, to all parts of the world — about what that cover meant, that finally America is recognizing black beauty in the mainstream,” she told the website Black Voices.

The power of a Vogue cover in endorsing standards of beauty is as potent today as it was then. On the occasion of her Vogue cover [March 2009], American First Lady Michelle Obama said that she considered it her own most important one because it showed young girls of colour that they too could be beautiful. Johnson's 500-plus covers later helped create the climate that allowed models like Iman, Naomi Campbell and Tyra Banks to join the ranks of other iconic models.

After modelling came the book, Beverly Johnson's Guide to a Life of Health and Beauty, as well as acting gigs on shows as disparate as Law & Order, Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman and The Parent 'Hood, as well as being a judge on the reality show She's Got the Look.

But her business instincts brought her away from the camera and into the boardroom with The Beverly Johnson Hair Collection, which designs and sells wigs and hair accessories to the African-American market. This year, she followed that success with hair care products sold at the U.S. chain, Target.

Johnson has said before that the key to looking young is being happy and no doubt a huge part of what keeps her happy is time with her daughter Anansa, a plus-size model. “She is just one of my heroes,” Johnson told a reporter. “She's got what I've been trying to get for decades. Just loving yourself and loving your body the way God made it.” Shirt, Ralph Lauren, $75

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