Iman discusses her early modelling career in candid interview

Iman, 65, dazzles in high-fashion shoot and details how she faked her parents’ signatures on her passport in order to travel to the US to pursue her early modelling career

Iman has revealed she faked her parents’ signatures on her passport when she was a teen so she could travel to the US to pursue her early modelling career.

The supermodel, 65, explained at an evening with Harper’s Bazaar, in celebration of International Women’s Day, on Thursday that she did it because she didn’t think she ‘had a chance’ of succeeding.

Explaining how her parents didn’t know she was going, and she lied that she was already 18 so she could fly from Kenya to the USA, Iman said: ‘She [her mother] had no idea I was leaving. 

Candid: Iman revealed on Thursday she faked her parents’ signatures on her passport in order to travel to the US to pursue her early modelling career because she didn’t think she’d succeed

‘To get a passport to leave the country I needed a signature from both my parents, but I faked it and said I was already 18. 

‘I didn’t think I had a chance [to become a model], so I thought I would go to the US and then go back in a couple of months before my parents would know I left. 

‘I came to the US and the first thing that was written about me was a week later in Newsweek the only magazine my father reads and they were mortified, of course, that I lied my way out of the country, was on my own and I didn’t finish my Political Science education.’  

Of course Iman did succeed, becoming an iconic model and muse for fashion designers like Gianni Versace, Halston, Calin Klein, and Yves Saint Laurent.

Honest: Iman explained, ‘To get a passport to leave the country I needed a signature from both my parents, but I faked it and said I was already 18. ‘I didn’t think I had a chance’

Reflecting on her prolific career, Iman went on: ‘The reason for my success was out of necessity, being a refugee in Kenya. When the opportunity [to be a model] arose, I thought I would give it a whirl. 

‘It was an opportunity to take care of my brothers and sisters because all of us were at the age of furthering our education when we became refugees. Through modelling I was able to finance my siblings’ schooling.’

But Iman claimed she’s seen as ‘average-looking’ in Somalia, as she told editor-in-chief Lydia Slater: ‘They still say [in Somalia] if Iman became a model every Somalian girl has a chance. I was an average girl, but I did good, I can’t complain.’ 

Going on to discuss the institutional racism she experienced as a young model, she said she made sure she received the same pay as her white counterparts by going on ‘a hiatus’ until the discrepancy was solved. 

Plan: Iman (pictured with Cindy Crawford in 1989) said ‘I thought I would go to the US and then go back in a couple of months before my parents would know I left’

Iman explained: ‘I walked into this industry, not knowing the discrepancy between what they were paying Black models versus Caucasian models. To me it wasn’t about Black or white, it was about what my worth was. 

‘If I was doing the same job as a Caucasian model, then I should be compensated for it. I took a hiatus until they started paying me the same amount.’ 

She went on: ‘I never thought that I had to overcome anything. It was the industry that had to change. 

‘If I can make them change for me, then that would become the norm for any other Black model that comes after me.’

Supermodel: Of course Iman did succeed, becoming a muse for fashion designers like Gianni Versace, Halston, Calin Klein, and Yves Saint Laurent (pictured in 1979)

The model added that she decided to launch her own range of make-up, IMAN Cosmetics, because a make-up artist once asked if she had her own foundation and made her look ‘grey’ because he didn’t have make-up that suited her skin tone.

‘The seed was planted in my head on my first job in New York,’ she began. ‘I was working for American Vogue and at the shoot there was a makeup artist and a Caucasian model. 

‘When it came to my turn to get my makeup done, the makeup artist asked me, “Did you bring your own foundation?” I was perplexed by the question because he didn’t ask the Caucasian model. 

‘I said “no.” He then proceeded to mix and match products for my face and when I looked in the mirror, I didn’t look brown anymore, I looked grey.’

Experience: Iman (pictured in 2019) also discussed the institutional racism she faced, saying she only got the same pay as her white counterparts by going on ‘hiatus’ until it was changed

It was her mother Mariam who helped her believe in herself, as Iman said: ‘she instilled in me self-worth, to always know my worth. 

‘I was able to engage this industry [modelling] with the idea that I was going to walk away from anything that did not serve me well.’

Iman, who was married to rock star David Bowie from 1992 until his death in 2016, also spoke about how he and her father Mohamed helped support her throughout her career.

Fashion mogul: The model added that she decided to launch IMAN Cosmetics because a make-up artist once made her look ‘grey’ because they didn’t have foundation to suit her skin tone

‘I am very close to my dad. He raised me as a Muslim girl in Somalia [and said] that there is nothing in the world I can’t do like my brothers or even better,’ she said.

‘He used to say, “or even better”. He never treated me as I was less than my brothers. My father is my rock.

‘My husband David Bowie. He was always my biggest fan. Of course, I also chose someone who is like my father, kind and supportive.’

Iman and David share 20-year-old daughter Alexandria Zahra Jones, known as Lexi, together, who is a budding artist based in California.

David also had a son, Duncan Jones, from a previous marriage while Iman shares her daughter Zulekha Haywood with a former love.

It has been five years since David shockingly passed away at the age of 69, on January 10, 2016, after an 18-month battle with cancer.

Iman married the English rocker in a romantic ceremony in Lausanne, Switzerland in April 1992 which was later formalised in a wedding hosted in Florence in June.  

Love: Iman, who was married to David Bowie from 1992 until his death in 2016, said the iconic musician ‘was always my biggest fan’ and was ‘kind and supportive’ (pictured in 1996)

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