As she celebrates her sixtieth birthday this week, legendary supermodel Iman has spoken out about why we still have a fight on our hands when it comes to ethnic representation in the beauty industry.
"At the core of it, the beauty ideal is still the same," Iman, who reached the zenith of her modelling career in the 80s, tells The Cut. "Everyone still thinks blonde, blue eyes."
Since retiring in 1989, Iman has thrown herself into campaigning for greater diversity in the modelling industry with Bethann Hardison's Diversity Coalition.
Referring to South Sudanese model Nykhor Paul, who recently hit out at make-up artists on Instagram for not being equipped with the right products to compliment her skin tone, Iman says exactly the same situation prompted her to set up her own - now globally successful - make-up line, Iman Cosmetics.
"In 1975, a makeup artist asked me if I brought my own foundation," she recalls. "But now, every line from François Nars's to Iman to Bobbi Brown has a lot of skin tones.
"So, good for her [Nykho] — the laziness and audacity of those makeup artists! It’s not like you didn’t know this model was going to be there. Make-up artists already know. And why shouldn’t you have the foundation — that’s your job. It’s like hiring a painter to come paint your house and he’s forgotten your paint and has to ask for it! You should get fired, you should be fired!"
Dear white people in the fashion world! Please don't take this the wrong way but it's time you people get your shit right when it comes to our complexion! Why do I have to bring my own makeup to a professional show when all the other white girls don't have to do anything but show up wtf! Don't try to make me feel bad because I am blue black its 2015 go to Mac, Bobbi Brown, Makeup forever, Iman cosmetic, black opal, even Lancôme and Clinique carried them plus so much more. there's so much options our there for dark skin tones today. A good makeup artist would come prepare and do there research before coming to work because often time you know what to expect especially at a show! Stop apologizing it's insulting and disrespectful to me and my race it doesn't help, seriously! Make an effort at least! That goes for NYC, London, Milan, Paris and Cape Town plus everywhere else that have issues with black skin tones. Just because you only book a few of us doesn't mean you have the right to make us look ratchet. I'm tired of complaining about not getting book as a black model and I'm definitely super tired of apologizing for my blackness!!!! Fashion is art, art is never racist it should be inclusive of all not only white people, shit we started fashion in Africa and you modernize and copy it! Why can't we be part of fashion fully and equally?
A photo posted by nykhor (@nykhor) on
The Somali-born model and actress also revealed that her career in the spotlight has not always been easy.
"I suffer from low self-esteem," she says. "I had horrible self-esteem growing up. You really have to save yourself because the critic within you will eat you up. It’s not the outside world, it’s your interior life, that critic within you that you have to silence.
"Find something to like about yourself and hold on to that. It’s a constant battle whether you are 16 or 50. As you age, you do really find that quietness inside and that being-comfortable-in-your-skin feeling."
Iman has been married to singer David Bowie since 1992 and has two children.
Having just turned 60, she adheres to a series of therapeutic rituals to maintain a sense of wellbeing.
"I like to get up around 5:30 or six — that’s my favourite time of day," she says. "My family is still asleep and the office is still closed, so I can start my day slowly. I first have a glass of warm water with lemon. And then I lie down and keep my mind clear for about 20 to 30 minutes. I get up and have a cup of coffee and slowly ease into it.
"My ritual is cooking. I find it therapeutic," she adds. "It comes naturally to me.
"...I started cooking when I began dating my husband. During my modeling years, I didn’t cook. We got up at 10 or 11pm and then went out, eating at 4 or 6 am before going to bed. Life is too short not to have pasta, steak, and butter. I like moderation, but I like the idea of having vegetables a few times a week. I don’t love eating meat. I really only like chicken and fish."
As for fitness, she says, "I go and do Pilates three to four times a week. It is very challenging, but I still find it boring. As I age, cardio is the most important thing. Not feeling out of breath is the thing that I miss most."
On the topic of ageing, Iman says, "I feel pretty good. I feel really healthy, loved, blessed, and I’ve never been more comfortable being inside myself. I’ve been forced to sit still. I tell my younger friends, 'Don’t be afraid of change. That is when you really see what your destiny is'.
"...I don’t read the comments, really, but someone once commented, 'Oh my God, she looks so good for 70,'" she notes. "And I said, 'Bitch, don’t rush me! I’m 60, not 70.'"
Read the full interview on The Cut
Photos: Rex Features