Celebrity Then And Now
Posted by Ryan Neal
Celebrity Then And Now
Publication: RidiculouslyExtraordinary. Posted by Ryan Neal
Magic Johnson's Son
Currently Known For:
Television Personality, Socialite, and Fashion Commentator
June 4, 1992
Magic Johnson's Son
“I was born wearing a tiara.” Already making headlines after his father’s highly publicized HIV positive diagnosis as a star player for the Los Angeles Lakers, Earvin “EJ” Johnson III undoubtedly has his father, Magic Johnson, to thank for his early brush with fame. However, over the last decade, the 25-year-old Johnson has done his best to break free from his father’s legendary shadow as he makes a name for himself as a television personality, socialite, and fashion commentator known for pushing the boundaries of gender! So, what’s EJ’s then and now Hollywood story? Let’s take a look!
Long before Earvin Johnson III made his debut into the world on June 4, 1992, he’d already been a hot topic of conversation months prior when his dad announced his official retirement after he was diagnosed with HIV. At the time, Johnson had just wrapped up a stellar season in the NBA and was about to start the 1991-1992 season when a routine physical confirmed the scariest diagnosis of his life—he was HIV positive. As the news leaked, rumors ran wild about Johnson being gay but, during his official announcement, he confirmed that he contracted the disease in his early career from having unprotected sex with multiple female partners. The news that followed shocked the basketball world as Johnson’s wife, who was two months pregnant with EJ at the time, stood by his side. “Because of the HIV virus that I have attained, I will have to retire from the Lakers,” Johnson said. Confirming that his wife and unborn son tested negative for HIV, Johnson looked to the future saying, “I plan to go on living for a long time.”
In the months that followed, all eyes were on Magic and Cookie as they prepared for the birth of their son, EJ, whom they welcomed in June 1992 at a hospital in Beverly Hills. With a newborn son at home and a medical crisis on his hands, Magic continued his treatment for HIV and temporarily put his NBA career behind him to focus on advocacy. He became an advocate for HIV/AIDS prevention and safe sex and, in 1996, returned to the hardwoods where he joined the LA Lakers for 32 games before retiring a third and final time.
EJ remained unaware of his father’s health or the drama surrounding his own birth until elementary school when he was assigned to write a book report and discovered a book about his father. Wanting to write the report on his dad, whom he knew was a basketball star, EJ was still incredibly naïve. “The school called my mom and was like, ‘We don’t know if you want him to do the book report because it talks about the HIV,” EJ said of learning the truth about his father. “I think it was at that point that they told me that he had been sick and he’s a lot better.”Finding Himself
Learning the truth about his father’s health wasn’t a big deal for EJ who was already discovering his flair for fashion, a passion that would continue into adulthood. “I remember being like four and five and playing in my mom’s closet,” EJ recalled. “But also asking questions like ‘Who’s this?’ and ‘What’s that?’ and my mom explaining to me, ‘This is a Chanel and this is a Versace.’” EJ’s younger sister, Elisa, confirmed her brother’s growing passion and his flair for the extravagant adding, “The older he got, the bigger his personality got. We used to have these drawing sessions and EJ’s stick figures always had, like, a Louis Vuitton bag.”
When EJ was 15 years old, his mother caught him staring at boys on a family vacation in Hawaii. Cookie tried to initiate the conversation but EJ was still figuring out his sexuality and didn’t respond to his mother’s prying questions. Instead, he spent the next three years discovering different aspects of himself before he came out to his parents just weeks before he left for New York University to study hospitality, event planning and design.
“As a parent, I wanted EJ to know that we loved him and would always love him,” Magic said later of his son coming out. “My job as a father is to protect him. His family and those that know him would always love him, but there would be people that don’t know him and may not approve. Some people may not be nice, but it wasn’t about him. I wanted to prepare him and let him know that I would always support him.”
While Magic embraced and supported his son, Cookie struggled with the news and, as a devout Pentecostal Christian, was conflicted. “I had to pray about it,” she later confessed on The Oprah Winfrey Show. Eventually coming around and showing her support, she now understands why EJ left their church, the West Angeles Church of God in Christ. “I remember sitting there in sermons and hearing some less than reputable things about homosexuals,” she said after finally understanding and accepting her son’s decision.Being Publicly Outed
Four years after he came out to his parents, EJ was publicly outed in 2013 when TMZ published a picture of him holding hands with a male friend as they left a club on the Sunset Strip. Ambushed by the paparazzi who assumed the friend was EJ’s boyfriend, EJ brushed the incident off until the tabloid called his father for comment.
Back at New York University to finish up the semester, EJ tried to ignore the story but his friends kept texting him about the rumors. Obviously unable to ignore it, EJ publicly came out and embraced the spotlight as he chatted with Howard Bragman on YouTube about the entire incident. “I’m reveling in it, and I’m making it work to my advantage,” EJ said. Within weeks, he hired a manager and was already looking into reality television when his friend Dorothy Wang, daughter of billionaire Roger Wang, invited him to a pool party filming for her own reality series, Rich Kids of Beverly Hills.
In the right place at the right time, EJ made his reality television debut as a recurring cast member on the E! reality series in 2014. He was named a regular cast member for the next three seasons and went on to star in the spinoff series, EJNYC, which was one of the first reality series to profile a young LGBTQ person of color. During this time, he also worked as a news personality and commentator on E! News and fueled his passion for fashion by covering New York Fashion Week and sharing his commentary on Fashion Police.
Doing his best to step away from his father’s shadow, EJ underwent gastric sleeve surgery in 2015 to lose weight and, since then, has developed his own androgynous fashion style often pairing fur shawls and diamond chokers with sheer tops and ankle boots on his towering frame. In fact, he even considered coming out as a transgender woman after Caitlyn Jenner’s announcement but ultimately decided against it saying, “I’m pretty comfortable with myself.” Admitting that he has no plans to transition despite people suggesting and questioning it, EJ refuses to put himself in a box and continues to challenge gender and fashion norms.
Today, the 25-year-old EJ is taking a break from the reality television spotlight to take acting lessons and is even toying with the idea of releasing his own fashion collection after seeing the androgynous style really take off in recent years. In 2017, he hosted the Beautycon cosmetics festival where he shared his motto on never being boxed in when it comes to fashion, gender, cosmetics, or life itself. “We’re talking about breaking boundaries,” he said. “We are talking about people who are not afraid to live their truth. That is what beauty is all about, because it is in the eye of the beholder.”