Supermodel Beverly Johnson: Cosby Drugged Me; There Are 'Many' Others

Illustration for article titled Supermodel Beverly Johnson: Cosby Drugged Me; There Are 'Many' Others

This afternoon, Vanity Fair published a first-person account from supermodel Beverly Johnson claiming that Bill Cosby once drugged her. Johnson is the 20th woman to come forward in recent weeks with similar allegations.


Johnson writes that, as in many other cases of Cosby's alleged abuse, the comedian first gained her trust by offering her help with her career.

Illustration for article titled Supermodel Beverly Johnson: Cosby Drugged Me; There Are 'Many' Others

Johnson's claim to fame was her illustrious and groundbreaking career as a model; in 1974, she was the first black model to appear on the cover of American Vogue and later became the first black woman to appear on the cover of the French edition of Elle. By the mid-80s, however, she was struggling to break into acting. When she was offered the chance to perform a small speaking role in an episode of The Cosby Show, Johnson jumped, hoping that exposure on the massive sitcom could only lead her to bigger things.

She says she first met Cosby in his dressing room after a taping of the show, and that he seemed genuinely concerned about her divorce. During that first meeting, he asked her what she wanted from her career. "I was on cloud nine," she writes.

The next step in the process of getting her cast in the role of a pregnant patient of Dr. Cliff Huxtable, obstetrician on The Cosby Show, involved a visit to the comedian's home.

When my daughter and I visited Cosby's New York brownstone, his staff served us a delicious brunch. Then he gave us a tour of the exceptional multi-level home.

Looking back, that first invite from Cosby to his home seems like part of a perfectly laid out plan, a way to make me feel secure with him at all times.


The next time she visited Cosby's house, she went alone in late afternoon, and the two shared a meal. Then things got weird.

Cosby said he wanted to see how I handled various scenes, so he suggested that I pretend to be drunk. (When did a pregnant woman ever appear drunk on The Cosby Show? Probably never, but I went with it.)

As I readied myself to be the best drunk I could be, he offered me a cappuccino from the espresso machine. I told him I didn't drink coffee that late in the afternoon because it made getting to sleep at night more difficult. He wouldn't let it go. He insisted that his espresso machine was the best model on the market and promised I'd never tasted a cappuccino quite like this one.

It's nuts, I know, but it felt oddly inappropriate arguing with Bill Cosby so I took a few sips of the coffee just to appease him.


Another of Bill Cosby's accusers, Beth Ferrier, reported a similar modus operandi to Philadelphia Magazine, when she went public with her allegations of sexual assault in 2005.

About 21 years ago, after she ended a months-long consensual affair with the entertainer, she says he drugged her when she visited him before a performance in Denver.

"He said, 'Here's your favorite coffee, something I made, to relax you,' " said Ferrier, 46, who at the time worked as a model.

In a telephone interview from her Denver home, Ferrier told how she drank the coffee and soon began to feel woozy. The next thing she knew, several hours had passed, and she had no memory of what happened.


Johnson didn't meet a similar fate to Ferrier, though. In her story, she says that thanks to her massive modeling career, she'd attended plenty of parties where drugs flowed freely, and that after only a couple of sips of Cosby's mystery cappuccino, she knew she'd been "drugged—and drugged good."

Here's what she said happened next:

My head became woozy, my speech became slurred, and the room began to spin nonstop. Cosby motioned for me to come over to him as though we were really about to act out the scene. He put his hands around my waist, and I managed to put my hand on his shoulder in order to steady myself.

As I felt my body go completely limp, my brain switched into automatic-survival mode. That meant making sure Cosby understood that I knew exactly what was happening at that very moment.

"You are a motherfucker aren't you?"

Johnson says that she continued to yell at Cosby, which did not please him.

I recall his seething anger at my tirade and then him grabbing me by my left arm hard and yanking all 110 pounds of me down a bunch of stairs as my high heels clicked and clacked on every step. I feared my neck was going to break with the force he was using to pull me down those stairs.

[...] When we reached the front door, he pulled me outside of the brownstone and then, with his hand still tightly clenched around my arm, stood in the middle of the street waving down taxis.

When one stopped, Cosby opened the door, shoved me into it and slammed the door behind me without ever saying a word.


Enraged that she'd been drugged by a man she trusted (a man who had a hell of a lot of people fooled), Johnson decided to confront Cosby. But when she called the number that he'd given her, his wife picked up. He'd given her the number of a phone that rang in his bedroom. After that, she decided against confronting the comedian, fearing for her career. "How could I fight someone that boldly arrogant and out of touch?" she writes.

In later years, she says that she met other women who had been drugged under similar circumstances. "Many" still haven't come forward, she writes.


Johnson wasn't only afraid to share her story because of fears over her own career; she writes that she was afraid to tarnish the reputation of a black man who had become beloved by mainstream America in a way few black men had been before. She didn't want her story to get the sort of legs that ended up damaging black men as a whole, that contributed to negative stereotypes. But now, she writes, that allowance no longer makes sense to her.

I reached the conclusion that the current attack on African American men has absolutely nothing to do at all with Bill Cosby. He brought this on himself when he decided he had the right to have his way with who knows how many women over the last four decades. If anything, Cosby is distinguished from the majority of black men in this country because he could depend on the powers that be for support and protection.

I had to use my voice as a sister, mother, and grandmother, and as a woman who knows that, according to the C.D.C., nearly one in five women has been sexually assaulted at some time in her life, and that women of color face an even higher attack rate.


At this point, there's not much more to say except:

Fuck Bill Cosby.

Image via Getty.


Global Beet

I will forever be indebted to the comedian who started this whole fire storm. Nothing makes me happier to know that Hannibal Buress called out that "pull up your pants", respectability politics, pudding pop rapist as the piece of slime he is. I only pray the hits keep coming.

ETA: Wow. On second thought, after reading that last sentence I hope the hits don't keep coming since that would mean more people suffered at the hands of this sociopath.