Beverly Johnson remembers first "Vogue" cover

Beverly Johnson
Beverly Johnson on "CBS This Morning," left, and in her 1974 groundbreaking Vogue cover.

Supermodel Beverly Johnson was the first black model to make the cover of Vogue magazine, breaking barriers and redefining what beautiful means in the U.S.

Johnson was 21 when she claimed the cover in 1974. It's 38 years later and Tuesday on "CBS This Morning," she said the cover means more to her than now it did that day.

"I remember it like it was yesterday," the 59-year-old model said. "It's still as exciting as it was that day. And even, it means even more. I went to the civil rights pilgrimage in Alabama (on March 2nd and we walked across the Edmund Pettus Bridge that was in 1965 for the voting rights, and to think that I thought that in 1974, you know, I was kind of angry. You mean, we never had a woman of color on the cover? Really?"

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At the time, Johnson said she wasn't prepared for the responsibility that came with what the cover stood for.

"I knew that's what every model aspires to do, is to be on the cover of Vogue. I mean, that means you have made it as a model. I did not know I was the first person of color on the cover," she said. "With that came this huge responsibility that I, as a 21-year-old really wasn't prepared for.

"... (The reaction) was almost immediate," she said. "What I did is I made a conscious decision to find out who I was, where I came from and what this whole thing is about. I grew up in Buffalo, New York, and I was very sheltered. I realized that even -- I mean, 1965, we were just doing -- passing voting rights for black people in America. So, 1974, what that cover stood for, (was that) finally mainstream America is recognizing that black women or black people are beautiful, too."

These days, Johnson is a grandmother and is documenting that experience with her family on "Beverly's Full House" on Oprah's network OWN. For more with Johnson on "CBS This Morning" on that series and her strained relationship with her daughter who lives with her, watch the video in the player above.