The openly gay son of Magic Johnson and #RichKids of Beverly Hills star EJ Johnson is fashionable and flamboyant. Raised in the gay mecca of West Hollywood, Johnson exudes confidence with his bold style, which this season includes a lot of fringe and an array of Chanel bags.
Although many gay kids feel pressure to conform, Johnson says there was no real push for him to be somebody other than who he is.
“I tried basketball when I was six or seven. It didn’t click,” he says. “I’ve always been creative and artistic versus sports-oriented. I was always more into drama and art and my family supported me in that.”
Johnson doesn’t remember a time when he wasn’t around LGBT people.
“My mom’s eyebrow artist was gay, as was one of her assistants and I knew many kids who had same sex parents,” he recalls. “I remember being very young and Mom explaining that some kids have two mommies, some have two daddies and that’s just the way it was.”
As for ever being bullied in the past, Johnson made it clear he could hold his own, not only physically, but with his cutting wit.
“I was never a kid to be messed with,” he says. “I’ve never been weak and I’d always have a devastating comeback.”
With National Coming Out Day in October, Johnson offered advice for those struggling with their sexuality.
“I always encourage people to come out to themselves first,” he says. “I think it’s really important to really accept it within yourself and really get comfortable with it first before you tell anyone. It’s never an easy process, but it helps a lot when you adjust in the mindset and you’re mentally strong in the situation.”
On how his family is similar or different from most, Johnson replies: “I have nothing to compare my life with, but I think my family is just like any other, aside from the glitz, glam and fame. I’ve got two parents, we all love one another and there’s always been a celebration of talents in our house.”
Discussing his love for fashion, the California native explains he’s been inspired by New York.
“I’ve always had an interest, but I really got serious when I moved to New York,” he says. “I moved there for school and it all came into prospective for me. People there kill it. They dress up to go the grocery store.
“There’s so many eclectic looks,” he continues. “I’m just like, yes! How can you not want to be a part of that? Everyone is doing the most. It’s amazing. I really immersed myself in that culture. I stepped up my style and played with looks I normally wasn’t into and came into myself.”
In addition to #RichKids, Johnson’s taken on other projects for E!, including covering New York Fashion Week.
“I love the interviews with the designers,” he says. “It’s nice to get back there with the artists themselves and really hear about what the vision was and where they were going with the line. That’s what I really enjoyed. Obviously, watching the show as well, but just getting behind the line and the artistry, talking about their craft and passion, and creating art is really great.”
His father, professional basketball player Magic Johnson, retired from the NBA abruptly in 1991 after announcing he had contracted HIV. Magic has since been an ally to the LGBT community, offering to be a confidant to any players struggling with coming out.
“It’s comforting for athletes,” Johnson says of his dad’s offer. “It’s also good for the African American community, where it’s harder to come out. On both of those points, it’s great that these relatively sheltered communities have a role model in that aspect. I’m very blessed and glad my parents are able to do that.”
Following in his father’s footsteps, Johnson has taken on advocacy. He recently tackled the issue of homelessness with the Los Angeles LGBT Center and is passionate about the cause.
“It really spoke to me, thinking about people that didn’t have homes or places to go,” he explains. “Especially when it’s based on sexual orientation, meaning their family didn’t want to care for them or they didn’t want to accept them, so they cast them aside. It really breaks my heart.”
In a recent interview, Johnson says his father has given him clothes and bags as gifts. With shopping for fashionista an intimidating task, I asked if Dad always got it right or if he sometimes needed the gift receipt.
“He’s a really great listener,” he explains. “There have been times I just mentioned that I loved something and then on my birthday, he’ll surprise me with it. He also has a good eye and I trust him. He gets it right nine times out of ten.”
Catch #RichKids of Beverly Hills on E! Sundays at 10/9c.
PHOTOGRAPHY BY ANDREW STILES