Rihanna has an eye for great talent. The budding fashion and beauty mogul who previewed her Fenty luxury clothing line with LVMH in Paris last week cast a 67-year-old model that has been taking the industry by storm.
JoAni Johnson, a stunning grey-haired Harlem native standing at just 5 feet 4 inches tall, has worked with the likes of Oswald Boateng, Pyer Moss, and CDLM clothing among others. Johnson’s career is only a few years old but she has already been featured in Vogue, Allure, and Essence magazines to name a few, and made her New York Fashion Week debut last year.
Her modeling career took flight thanks to a viral video about aging gracefully and being comfortable with her silver locks. Johnson hit her first runway at age 65, according to Elle magazine.
It may look like she was destined to be in front of the camera, and although she was always interested in fashions, Johnson didn’t break into modeling until she was a semi-retired. In college, Johnson first majored in art and biology before becoming a math major. After graduation, she moved to France to study nursing but later relocated back to New York where she worked for a denim company. In addition to taking time off to become a stay at home mom, Johnson has worked as a receptionist, a showroom runner, and opened a tea blending business. She considers modeling to be a hobby, according to an interview with Refinery 29 this past February.
In 2016, Johnson and her late husband were walking through Manhattan’s Chelsea neighborhood when a photographer asked to take her photo. Johnson didn’t want to do it at first, but her husband encouraged her to let the woman snap the photo, and the rest is history.
A few weeks later, Johnson was contacted by a casting agent who asked if she wanted to be in a video about people with grey hair. The job turned out to be for Allure magazine.
After her husband died suddenly last November, Johnson became more focused on fashion. “I tell people all the time: I do this because he loved me doing it. I know that he would have wanted me to continue,” she told Refinery 29.