Supermodel and beauty icon Iman was born as Iman Abdulmajid, in Mogadishu, Somalia. She is a cancer and was born on July 25, 1955.
Contrary to the media whoopla surrounding her reported humble origins, Iman is the daughter of a former diplomat. Her father was indeed the ambassador to Saudi Arabia. She grew up in comparatively privileged home, and learned from the earliest of ages the principles of global politics.
Her father’s political and social circles exposed her to many debates. Being a part of intellectually inspiring environments, Iman’s passion for political debate grew. After completing her secondary studies, she went to Nairobi, Kenya where she studied Political Science at the University.
One day while pushing her bicycle on campus, she met the famed photo-journalist and fashion photographer, Peter Beard, during a traffic jam on Nairobi’s Standard Street.
Beard was immediately taken aback by her strong features, beautiful eyes and gorgeous body. Upon engaging her in conversation, he begged her to come to New York to become a model. Naturally, Iman was sceptic at first. But after some reflection and investigation of Beard’s offer, she agreed to make the cross-Atlantic to New York. From that moment on, she was a success.
Iman was already something of a myth before her plane landed in New York and even before her first picture was taken. Upon her arrival, her agency, the famed Wilhelmina Models, has fabricated a story complete from A to Z about the Somali beauty. They claimed that she was a sheep herder. They also claimed that she was a savage beauty who spoke no English and knew nothing of the ways of the Western, “civilized” world. The irony is that she fluently spoke five languages, four more than most Americans.
Iman said of that whole farce, “The entire spectacle was really unbelievable. Wilhelmina Modeling Agency had created a press conference at the airport to welcome me to America and they told the press that I spoke no English and that the questions should be directed to Peter Beard. Not only did I speak English, but five other languages, all together. It was a charade.”
Her career took of like a sky rocket in the night. Her first modelling assignment was for Vogue in 1979. She went on to work with fashion heavyweight photographers Helmut Newton, Richard Avedon, Anne Liebovitz and Irving Penn.
As a model, Iman appeared in fashion spread after fashion spread, and work for the world’s most famous designers. She served as acting muse for such names as Yves St. Laurent, Versace and Calvin Klein. She has appeared in campaigns for Calvin Klein, Darvel, De Beers, Donna Karan, Escada, Gap, H&M, Imari, Kenzo, Nikos Apostolopoulos, Revlon, Valentino, Versace, etc.
Iman was one of the first models to sign a multi-million dollar deal with Revlon.
This just goes to show how Iman contributed to important changes in the fashion industry. Not only was she intelligent, but she forced the industry to further embrace models not only looked ethnic, but who truly were ethnic.
As a cover girl, Iman scored the covers of Cosmopolitan (February 1985), Flare, V (January 2002), Photo, Max (May 1986; September 1992), Essence (January 1988) and Ocean Drive (November 2004). She, as a celebrity rather than a model, shared the cover of Vogue (November 1999) with her husband, David Bowie.
After 16 years of being on top of the industry that made her into a living legend, Iman said “Enough”. In 1989, she left New York and moved to Los Angeles to pursue more attractively her career in acting. While there, she scored significant roles in movies and television shows, including, the oscar winning film, Out of Africa. She also starred in Star Trek IV: The Undiscovered Country, No Way Out and Exit to Eden.
Iman married NBA star, Spencer Haywood. The two divorced in the mid 1980s and together, have a daughter Zulehka Spencer. In 1990, Iman finally accepted an invitation to meet rocker David Bowie at his concert in Los Angeles. Bowie, who had been pursuing Iman for quite some time, fell head over heels in love with the model. The couple wed two years later. And in August 2000, Iman gave birth to their daughter, Alexandria Zahra.
In 1994, Iman founded her Iman Cosmetics of which she is the CEO. The products are available in US, Canada, UK, France, Africa and Caribbean.
She said, “For years women of colour — and I do not mean only African Americans, but Hispanics, Asian and Native Americans, as well — have been short changed by the cosmetic industry. Having experienced so many frustrations myself with cosmetics that do not work adequately with my skin, I knew that I was hardly the only woman in the world in this situation… On a personal level, IMAN has been the result of all my experience over the years in the fashion and beauty arena and it is wonderful to watch this experience develop into something this important and successful.”
Always the militant about the place of women of colour in the fashion industry even after her retirement from the runways, Iman chastised Donna Karan for never using black models in her campaigns in spite of the fact that African-Americans account for a large share of Karan’s annual sales and profitability. Donna Karan rose to Iman’s challenge and asked her to be the first black model to appear in her ad campaigns. Iman graciously accepted and together, she and Donna Karan created some of the latter’s most memorable and profound ad campaigns.
Thanks to Iman’s leadership and vision, her company has grown and developed into a champion of ethnic beauty. And in 2004, her Iman Cosmetics signed a lucrative licensing and distribution contract with Proctor and Gamble. This deal brought her products to mainstream public: Target, Walmart, and Walgreens.
In 1998, People Magazine listed the supermodel and CEO as one of the “100 Most Influential Women of the 20th Century”. It recognized her for ground breaking achievements which helped to cement the way for women of colour in the beauty industry.
Iman is actively involved in several worthy charities including Mother’s Voices, Action Against Hunger, The Children’s Defense Fund and The All Kids Foundation.
She too is an author. Her first book is I AM IMAN (Universe, 2001). It is an autobiographical sketchbook of her working life. Her second book is The Beauty of Color: The Ultimate Beauty Guide for Skin of Color.
The Deli (1997)
Exit to Eden (1994)
Heart of Darkness (1994)
The Linguini Incident (1992)
House Party 2 (1991)
Lies of the Twins (1991)
Star Trek VI: the Undiscovered Country (1991)
No Way Out (1987)
Out of Africa (1985)
Jane Austen In Manhattan (1980)
The Human Factor (1979)