Those who doubt high fashion’s impact on culture haven’t met Beverly Johnson. In 1974, she became the first African American model to appear on the cover of Vogue, breaking racial barriers and paving the way for supermodels such as Iman, Naomi and Tyra. We bumped into her at Tracy Reese’s Spring 2011 show, and she shared her thoughts on the highs and lows of Fashion Week.

» EXPRESS: What did you think of the show?
» JOHNSON: I absolutely loved it. I thought there were some stunning dresses and I love the whole ’70s thing and the big hats. It brought back memories for me. But they had a really nice twist on it. They’re things that I definitely would own.

» EXPRESS: You changed fashion history in 1974 when you appeared on Vogue. What’s it like to be a cultural icon?
» JOHNSON: Well, oh, it’s awesome. I hope I lived up to the responsibility of that cover and that it continues to make an impact. But I must say one thing that did disappoint me. I went to a number of shows where they didn’t have black models. This was my first time experiencing that by being there. Ever. I had never experienced it first-hand before, and it’s very upsetting and disappointing for me.

» EXPRESS: So how can the industry work to change that?
» JOHNSON: It just has to. It’s crazy, the contribution that we all make to the industry. We should all be able to share in it, particularly when we do the shows. Just for marketing. I don’t understand.

» EXPRESS: Michelle Obama has become Washington, D.C.’s style setter. What kind of impact do you think she’s having on the fashion industry?
» JOHNSON: Oh, she’s awesome. She’s a wonderful, chic lady that really knows how to blend the inexpensive with the expensive and she’s just a fashion icon.

» EXPRESS: Any projects coming up we should know about?
» JOHNSON: Well, I have my hair care line at Target and we look forward to expanding that.

Photo by Michael Loccisano/Getty Images