Iman: Color And Pride

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Iman, the former statuesque model, sent a shock wave through the fashion world when she recently disclosed an unpopular and dark area of the fashion industry to PBS channel 13’s host Tavis Smiley on “The Tavis Smiley Show.�

“The United States does not have a top model of color,� said the Mogadishu, Somalia-born, now retired high-fashion model – days before supermodel Tyra Banks nationally televised her retirement as a runway model. The former internationally-recognized supermodel further stated that the top models from the South American country of Brazil bear a Euro-centric look.

Iman Abdulmajid was born to a Somali ambassador to Saudi Arabia and attended schools in Egypt and Kenya. She has continuously dismissed the more than decade-old bias rumor that she was discovered, as a model, running in the bushes of Africa. Additionally, the former political science student who attended Kenya’s Nairobi University and was recruited as a model by photographer Peter Beard told Smiley how she made a major break through in the fashion world, as a model of color.

“America is more acceptable of foreigners,� Iman exclaimed, referring to foreign models as Smiley seemed to gasp for air at this revelation. “They think of me as exotic,� added the 50-year-old stunning beauty and author of “The Beauty of Color: The Ultimate Beauty Guide for Skin of Color� (Putnam Publishing Group, 2005).

Without elaborating on the staggering increase in plastic surgeries worldwide, in particular, among teenagers—including those of color—hoping that they will be the next supermodel Iman, Beverly Johnson, or Tyra Banks, she advised the public station television audience: “You have to find beauty in your own standard. You have to celebrate your self. That is why there is a Naomi Campbell, Tyra Banks, and even an Alek Wek.�

Iman is married to British rock star and actor David Bowie and has a successful cosmetics company: Iman Cosmetics. She recounted to Smiley, an unfair experience, which unfolded early in her former modeling career. According to the spiritual fashion leader and goodwill ambassador, a make-up artist on assignment to put make up on the then budding model approached her wanting to know if she was in possession of her personal stash of foundation. “I found that insulting,� recalled Iman.

She is the mother of two daughters: Zulekha Haywood—her father is former NBA basketball player Spencer Haywood—and Alexandria Zahra Jones whose father is David Bowie. She on numerous occasions “came close to closing the doorsâ€? to her cosmetics company—yet the enterprising businesswoman found ways to prevail and produce a cosmetics line which caters to all women, including women of color.   

When Iman was asked what makes her cosmetics line different she said it is “the only brand which celebrates women of color.â€? She further noted that “Big companies are still making money,â€? from women of color without producing cosmetics suited for their skin.  Iman explained how major cosmetics companies do this maneuvering. “They have celebrity endorsements,â€? she added, pointing to high-profile public figures such as Halle Berry and Beyonce. “We have been a celebrity-artist obsessed society,â€? Iman noted.

The occasional actress noted that products often promoted by A-list celebrities of color are not necessarily accommodating the needs of women of the African Diaspora. Yet women of color, as consumers, are lured into stores where products manufactured for other women are sold and they are compelled to purchase any available products.

Distinguishing her brand from the plethora of cosmetics, the ageless starlet concluded:
“My brand has to stand on its own.â€?  This year Proctor and Gamble will distribute Iman Cosmetics.

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