STYLE & BEAUTY
09/12/2014 10:37 am ET Updated Sep 12, 2014

Beverly Johnson's Scary Diet: As Supermodels In The '70s, 'We Thought Water Was Fattening'

Beverly Johnson broke a big barrier for models of color when she became the first black woman to appear on the cover of Vogue 40 years ago, but it came with a price. While she was achieving that milestone, she was starving herself on "maybe a bowl of brown rice and an egg a week."

Johnson opened up about her dangerous strategy for staying skinny in her supermodel heyday during an interview with HuffPost Live's Caroline Modarressy-Tehrani.

"I weighed from 103 to 117 pounds my entire career. And how do you get to be that weight? You don't eat," Johnson said.

That habit wasn't unique to Johnson. She said the same attitude was commonplace among the other models with whom she worked.

"Food was the enemy. We didn't even drink water because we thought water was fattening," she said. "It was really terrible."

Johnson shed so much weight that it scared her mother, who finally hit her breaking point. When Johnson arrived home one night, her mom "literally dragged me out of the bathtub and she stood me in front of a three-way mirror," allowing her to truly see her body from all angles. It was a frightening sight, she said.

Johnson realizes now how scary her diet was, but at the time the behavior was glorified by those in the fashion world: "In our industry at that particular time, you were chiseled to the bone and you were fabulous."

See the full HuffPost Live conversation with Beverly Johnson here.

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