As Madonna, Cher and Oprah will tell you, a sure fire way to tell if you’ve hit superstardom is if you don’t even need a full name to be recognized. Model Iman, who has had a prominent career in the fashion industry for the past thirty years, married a rock and roll legend and hosts a popular television show with few people knowing her last name, can attest to this fact.
Iman Abudlmajid was born July 25, 1955 in Mogadishu, Somalia. From a young age, she was destined to be a globe travelling phenomenon. Her father was the ambassador to Saudi Arabia, and Iman herself spoke Arabic, Somali, English, French and Italian. She grew up in different African countries, spending her high school years in Egypt and studying at the University of Nairobi in Kenya.
Iman never finished her studies, however. In 1975, while still in school, she was approached by Peter Beard, a renowned American photographer, artist and writer. Iman returned with Beard to New York City and almost immediately began getting work – her first editorial appeared in US Vogue in 1976.
During her reign as one of the first prominent black supermodels, Iman snagged two Vogue Italia covers (March 1976 and March 1987) as well as ad campaigns with the likes of Donna Karan, Versace, and Yves St. Laurent (who once referred to Iman as his “dream woman.”)
Iman is also known because of her marriages with basketball player Spencer Haywood (1977-1987) and rock star David Bowie (1992 – present), her brief acting career (including a stint in the Oscar-winning Out of Africa), and most recently for hosting Project Runway Canada. However, she also takes pride in her namesake line of cosmetics she created in 1994. The cosmetics and skincare products are designed to accommodate women of colour. Iman also wrote two books, I am Iman (2001), depicting her life in the fashion industry, and The Beauty of Colour (2005), a makeup guide. For the past two years, she has been working with Keep a Child Alive, an organisation dedicated to fighting the spread of AIDS in African children.
Although Iman started her career like any other model, she has since used her fame to raise awareness for worthy causes. By helping issues both in her homeland and in the fashion industry, Iman is making a difference – without the help of her last name.
All images courtesy of the Fashion Spot forums.