Why It's Not Too Late to Find Your Soulmate
Model Beverly Johnson and her fiancé Brian Maillian tell how they built their later-life relationship
Supermodel and businesswoman Beverly Johnson didn't think she would ever get married again. The twice-divorced mother of one had all she needed. "I loved my life," says Johnson, 68, "You become very happy with who you are (alone). I had a big, beautiful life. I had my big house, my daughter, my dogs, my career, golf… Nothing was lacking."
But Johnson admits that love was on her vision board. She explains, "I hadn't given up on meeting a special someone to share my life with, but I wasn't actively looking either. Then I had one of those Oprah 'a-ha' moments."
That moment was when Johnson decided to take a risk and reach out to Brian Maillian, 70. He had been married twice before.
"We had a mutual friend and had met several times over the years at different events. One time, we had talked about a business venture I was contemplating," says Johnson. "He worked in finances and gave me his card in case he could be of assistance. I put the card in my nightstand drawer and then one day, I gave him a call."
Next Avenue spoke to the couple, who live together in Rancho Mirage, Calif. and became engaged in 2020, about their love story and their advice to those thinking it's too late to meet your soulmate:
Next Avenue: You two knew each other for many years before you got involved romantically. What prompted you to try taking the relationship out of the "friend zone?"
"We are both evolved and have become better versions of our spiritual selves than we were when we were younger."
Beverly Johnson: I had never thought about Brian as a love interest until a mutual friend passed away. Then one night at 4 am, that friend came to me in a dream and said, 'The time is now to call Brian." The next day I found his card in my nightstand drawer and made the call.
Brian Maillian: The timing wasn't right. She was on the West Coast and I lived on the East Coast. Plus, she's Beverly Johnson. I didn't feel worthy.
Johnson: (Laughs) That's so sweet! Of course, he was worthy. The two of us have led parallel lives. While I was breaking barriers in the modeling world [in 1974, she was the first Black model to grace the cover of U.S. Vogue magazine], Brian was breaking barriers for Black men in the world of finance [as the owner of a private equity/hedge fund].
Do you think that being older made you more ready for this relationship?
Johnson: I don't think in terms of age or a number. Both Brian and I have done a lot of work on ourselves in the past few years and we continue to work on ourselves, with our life coach. We are both evolved and have become better versions of our spiritual selves than we were when we were younger.
Maillian: When Beverly initially reached out, she was sober [40 years] and I was working until 8 pm and then heading out for dinner and drinks. We had very different lives. I'd get home at midnight in New York City, a little intoxicated. I'd call her on the West Coast as she was getting ready for bed and I would be slurring my words.
At first, I wasn't ready to make the changes she needed for me to be a good partner. But then I realized I didn't want to lose her. I elected to take the off-ramp, change my life [and move to the West Coast] and go all-in with this great woman.
What if people think that at a certain age they are too set in their ways to find a compatible partner?
Maillian: People are living longer and living healthier. We still have a lot of life to live, so why not keep your options open and consider sharing your life with someone? I don't think getting older should make you rigid.
Johnson: If you say, 'I don't like this and I don't like that,' you aren't open to receiving life's gifts, including love.
Do you think people have to be willing to compromise to make love work as they get older?
Johnson: I think the word 'compromise' is overused. To me, it's about trusting in love and using the lens of love when making decisions for a better, more gratifying partnership.
Maillian: I don't see it as a compromise so much as having a checklist. We have things in common (such as) we are both neat and we both love to play golf, so those are great attributes to share. But Beverly is a big dog person and I am not. I got bit as a kid. But Beverly wanted to adopt two dogs. If I needed to say okay to having dogs to live my life with this queen, I'm happy to do it.
Johnson: People used to say to me, 'Wait until you have grandchildren,' and I didn't understand what they meant. But then I had a grandchild, and wow, I didn't know I could love like that. It's the same thing with Brian. I didn't know that I could have a relationship like this. I am in another state, a feeling of Zen. It is a bliss that I didn't think I could have until I found it.
Why get married? What is it about making it legal?
Maillian: I am traditional at heart, so I like the idea of being married and Beverly being my wife. Our grandkids have also been asking when are we going to get married, so that is another reason. I want to celebrate and combine our families into one.
Johnson: I want to experience that spiritual connection and say those vows in front of God and our loved ones.
Any wedding plans yet?
Johnson: I am an introvert and would like a small wedding. But Brian is an extrovert, so he wants to go big and invite a lot of people.
Do you have any advice for people that have been hurt in love before?
Johnson: Every experience is a lesson and has made you who you are. Instead of being fearful, go into the future thankful for all you have survived and willing to say 'yes' to whatever or whoever comes your way. It's never too late for love, but it's up to you.