JoAni Johnson vaseline
photo: Instagram/JoAniJohnson6000

For decades, women have been trained to fear getting older. From brands forcing the anti-aging movement upon us to the rapid rise of cosmetic procedure, messages that suggest growing older is bad have been deeply embedded in the beauty industry. Even young women are taking drastic steps to prevent the aging process before it even begins with premature fillers and so much more. And though many companies have worked to deter agist marketing tactics, it wan't until recent years that society slowly began to embracing older women.

One of the many women at the front lines of the debunking the negative views about aging is Jo-Ani Johnson, a 67-year-old supermodel who's been featured in campaigns for fashion brands such as Fenty and Pyer Moss. Day after day she proves that age truly isn't anything but a number. I got to sit down with Johnson to discuss her $3 beauty secret, what it's like to be one of the most mature women in the fashion industry, and her Fenty campaign.

Revelist: What is your earliest beauty memory?

Johnson: One of my aunts dyed her hair until she passed. The other one did not and was completely grey. And it’s so funny because my youngest sister used to dye her hair as well until she developed an allergy. As she was dyeing her hair and I wasn’t, it was almost like seeing them again and reliving it.

R: Why did you ultimately decide to stop dying your hair with age?

J: Well, my hair’s not porous, and the story goes: I had tried to dye it, and it turned green. In today’s world it would be fashionable, but back in the day it was not; it was considered terrible. After that, I started bleaching it, and my hair began breaking off. Later down the road I met my husband, and he told me loose the bleach.

Furthermore, when I was bleaching it I was doing it myself because of course, it was too much money, but the at-home job resulted in my hair forming into different shades. It started with red, and would morph into all these different colors down to platinum blonde. Again, in today’s world it would be fashionable, but back in the day it was not. 

R: What drove you to become a model after the age of 60?

J: It’s the universe; none of this has to do with me. It’s not like I sought it out. It’s not like I thought,  “Oooh things are changing; let me get on the bandwagon.” I was stopped on the street, and they took a photo, and then someone asked me to model for them — to be in a video, and that video went viral. The rest is history. 

R: Have you faced ageism in the modeling, beauty, and fashion industries?

J: It’s interesting to think about because I haven't [experienced agism] within the industry itself, because the people who hire me or ask me to be a part of their works are expecting me; this is what they want. However, as I’ve mentioned in other interviews, the world hasn’t. 
Often times I'm standing in front of the door, and I’m trying to get in, but I’m 5’4 and a half  — please don’t forget the half. So I often don’t fit the criteria of what the door person, or the bouncer, or the person that’s checking me in thinks I should. Even more, I usually go and I’m looking pretty normal. So I’m usually hiding my hair, and I’m usually dressed down, so it often becomes, “What are you doing here? Why are you trying to get in?” And I’m standing there patiently like, “I’ve got to get to work, you’re making me late.” 

R: Do you think it’s been harder in your modeling career to navigate people's expectations about your race or your age?

J: I’ve got to say it’s about equal, because I’ve seen other black women that are younger than I am also face the same challenges and face people question them extensively about their purpose in certain spaces. 

R: Companies and media outlets are slowly distancing themselves from the term "anti-aging" or banning it outright. How do you feel about that?

J: I don’t have a stance. I’m ageless, so you can call it whatever you want to, but it doesn’t apply to me. I am a person. I am a human being; that’s most important to me. I wish it was important to a lot of other people, but it hasn’t quite caught on yet. I’ll read [that term], and it doesn’t even register. 

R: But do you think banning the term "anti-aging" can affect women who are still concerned about aging?

J: When I see that term, my first thought is marketing — I consider who’s using that term. And the answer is always: It's someone who is marketing a product. Even if it’s in an article, it’s urging you to do something or buy something that the brand promises is going to change whatever is going on with you, and often times it won't. Aging is natural. 

R: What is your advice for younger women who've been taught to fear the aging process?

J: Fear is a mind killer, but you have to embrace your journey, and everybody’s journey is different. As we grow, we change our perspectives; we adapt. Whether it’s exfoliating your skin, whether it’s plucking the eyebrows more, there are so many chances for you to embrace and adapt. 
I recently went to get my eyebrows done and she asked if I wanted her to pluck out the grey. My first thought was, “You mean I have grey hair in my eyebrows?!” But instead of becoming sad, or wallowing in the possibility of more grey hair, I began looking for a grey eyebrow pencil so that as it starts to grey, I can blend it. They don’t make it yet; tell somebody to make it. 

R: You're partnering with Vaseline, one of the longest-lasting brands in the industry. What role has it played in the history of beauty?

Both in beauty and health and just simple care, it has been one of the staples. When I was a child my mother used to put Vaseline [ointment] on my elbows and my knees. Now, in the cold weather, I put it on my face to protect me from the elements, which I think we need now more than ever with the way our environment is changing. Air conditioning dries out your skin, the heat drives out your skin, everything affects your skin. 

I'll do a face mask, cleanse with cold water, and I'll take a little dollop and massage into my skin. Like I said before, the quality is consistent. I'll go into the cabinet and see that it's almost empty because my daughters have been using it, and it shows how Vaseline continues to impact beauty. 

R: Of course, we have to talk about your Fenty campaign. How does it feel to be a part of something so big?

I was very blessed to be a part of that experience. That [Rihanna] chose me is just amazing, because I don’t think of myself as being that big. Rihanna is the ultimate in a lot of ways. Of course I can’t talk about the set, but just know that she is the consummate professional, and I'm grateful. I can't wait for everyone to see it.