“Inspiring Beauty:” Eunice Johnson’s Beauty Started Within

faar-eunice-johnson-ebony-magazine-01-v“In like a lion, out like a lamb.” At least that’s what it seems like during this early March period.  Back on Groundhog Day, Punxsutawney Phil announced that there would be six more weeks of winter.  Meanwhile, down south in the Piedmont region of North Carolina, Sir Walter Wally asserted that spring was on the way.  I guess they both were right.  North Carolina saw temps in the 70s, even low 80s a couple of weeks ago.  Nevertheless, a Nor’easter left its mark up and down the East Coast last weekend, and we’re still wondering this week where our early spring has gone.  In fact, my girlfriend in upstate NY says there’s several more inches of snow coming their way tomorrow.

So as we eagerly await the undeniable signs of spring (read: warm temperatures along with all of these budding trees), it’s helpful to take five minutes for mindfulness.  We’ve just come out of February (Black History Month) and are thrust into March (Women’s History Month). Even before we take some down time during Spring Break (whether va- or staycationing), let’s be still and think about some of our favorite Black women to be celebrated.  Not that we need a commercially-imposed reason to do so, but these month observances are good prompts.

Having recently taken my daughter and her friends to the NC Museum of Art’s exhibit,”Inspiring Beauty: 50 Years of Ebony Fashion Fair,” I am still reflecting on the amazing life and accomplishments of the late, great Eunice Walker Johnson (1916-2010).  Co-founder of Ebony and Jet magazines (with her husband, the illustrious John H. Johnson), Mrs. Johnson is perhaps best known as the woman responsible for the Ebony Fashion Fair experience. More than a mere fashion show, the Ebony Fashion Fair event wowed audiences up to 170 cities per year with fashions from across the globe, a diversity of designers the world had never seen, live music, and models with uber attitude.  This woman was able to turn what some might have dismissed as a pipedream into a well-oiled production involving a staff of hundreds of Blacks that drew larger and larger crowds across the color spectrum and across our country, not to mention the $50 million raised for charity.  Also, don’t forget the legwork behind the scenes bringing the work of famous and yet-to-be-famous designers onto the world’s stage.

So what’s your “pipedream?” What’s the thing you know in your bones that you were created to do, yet it seems unattainable? As challenging as the 21st century world is for Black women, imagine the odds that Eunice Johnson faced in her day.  Can’t you hear the naysayers now:? “European designers won’t take you seriously.” “Whites don’t want to see black skin in haute couture.” “Black people CANNOT work together.” “That fantasy will die out in a few years.” And yes, the Johnsons became wealthy through their hard work building the Johnson Publishing Company, but they certainly didn’t start that way.  So Eunice Johnson’s dream clearly stood the test of time, and as a woman of faith, her character traits of perseverance, hope, vision, courage, and grace were certainly operating in her life.  And that’s the thing about blossoming: it’s hard to notice when it’s happening, but as we stay rooted in the Tree of Life, the world is suddenly witness to God’s greatness bursting forth in us!


À Votre Santé (“To Your Health”),

“Dr. T”

Tonya D. Armstrong, Ph.D., M.T.S.






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