A Eunice Johnson Appreciation: Around the World With Ebony Fashion Fair

Audrey Smaltz, Ebony Fashion Fair’s legendary commentator, reminisces about hitting the road with the doyenne of black fashion.


No one ever called Mr. John H. Johnson’s wife by her first name. People would ask me, “What’s Mrs. Johnson’s first name?” And I would always respond, “MRS.!”

When I first met Mrs. Johnson, I was a diamond in the rough; I was just coming out of a divorce, and I needed a job. Fast. Mrs. Johnson took me on, and throughout most of the ‘70s, I worked as her personal assistant and later, as her fashion show commentator. I was a young girl from Harlem with a fashion dream fulfilled.

Together, we traveled the world first-class to Paris, London, Rome, Venice, the French Riviera, staying at the best hotels: the Lido on Venice’s Grand Canal, the Plaza Athenee in Paris.

But while the locales were glamorous, the work was anything but. Working without a car or driver, I hailed taxis and directed the transfers, from the airport to the hotel, to designer salons to fashion presentations and back, hauling bags the whole time. Before I could have half the day to myself on Saturdays, I had to run Mrs. Johnson’s errands. I kept a journal during those times, just to keep up. A typical “day off” in Rome consisted of five or more stops:

Lancetti (pick up Mrs. Johnson’s dress)

Valentino (buying for the show)