In 1974, supermodel Beverly Johnson became the first African American woman ever to be featured on the cover of Vogue. About a decade after that, she found herself auditioning for a bit part on The Cosby Show, where today she claims that embattled comedian Bill Cosby drugged her.
Relaying her story to Vanity Fair, Johnson says that she hesitated to come forward for so long because "black men have enough enemies out there already, they certainly don't need someone like [me], an African American with a familiar face and a famous name, fanning the flames."
In the essay, Johnson says that her agent had booked her an audition for a small role on The Cosby Show in the mid-80s, a time when the supermodel was attempting to cross over into acting and end a failing marriage. Before the incident she describes in the essay, she says she had met Cosby twice before, including one time at his home with her daughter.
"Looking back, that first invite from Cosby to his home seems like part of a perfectly laid-out plan," she explains in her essay. "A way to make me feel secure with him at all times. It worked like a charm. Cosby suggested I come back to his house a few days later to read for the part. I agreed, and one late afternoon the following weekend I returned."
Upon her arrival, Johnson says Cosby told her that he'd like her to act drunk, with Johnson noting that The Cosby Show sometimes used models to play pregnant women in Dr. Huxtable's waiting room. Before the scene could begin, Cosby apparently offered her a coffee, which Johnson claims was drugged:
After the meal, we walked upstairs to a huge living area of his home that featured a massive bar. A huge brass espresso contraption took up half the counter. At the time, it seemed rare for someone to have such a machine in his home for personal use.
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.
Now let me explain this: I was a top model during the 70s, a period when drugs flowed at parties and photo shoots like bottled water at a health spa. I'd had my fun and experimented with my fair share of mood enhancers. I knew by the second sip of the drink Cosby had given me that I'd been drugged — and drugged good.
Despite being allegedly drugged, Johnson says she managed to make her escape after calling Cosby a "motherf-----" several times in rapid succession:
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 motherf----- aren't you?"
That's the exact question I yelled at him as he stood there holding me, expecting me to bend to his will. I rapidly called him several more "motherf------." By the fifth, I could tell that I was really pissing him off. At one point he dropped his hands from my waist and just stood there looking at me like I'd lost my mind.
What happened next is somewhat cloudy for me because the drug was in fuller play by that time. 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.
It was still late afternoon and the sun hadn't completely gone down yet. 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. I somehow managed to tell the driver my address and before blacking out, I looked at the cabbie and asked, as if he knew: "Did I really just call Bill Cosby 'a motherf-----'?"
Cosby, not surprisingly, did not respond from requests from Vanity Fair for comment.
"Many are still afraid to speak up," Johnson wrote in her essay's conclusion. "I couldn't sit back and watch the other women be vilified and shamed for something I knew was true."