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Iman stands out as a trailblazer in the fashion industry. She was one of the first Black models to star on the catwalk and followed her modelling career with a successful cosmetics business designed for women of colour. While she helped pave the way for more representation, she also experienced first hand the racism and discrimination that persists within the industry today.
In the latest episode of the BoF Podcast, Iman speaks with BoF editor-at-large Tim Blanks about her experiences and the work that still needs to be done to address the problem.
The supermodel credits her mother’s empowering vision of self-worth for enabling her to navigate a tricky industry. “[Self-worth] is what [my mother] heavily instilled in me to be able to walk away from anything that doesn’t serve you well regardless [of] how enticing it is,” she said. “Whether it’s a man or work or whatever it is … I would always make the right decision for myself if I had a sense of self-worth.”
Iman has achieved stellar success and helped pave the way for greater representation throughout the industry, but throughout her career, she’s had to work harder than her peers to secure her place. “Most of the time makeup artists had no clue how to do our makeup,” says Iman. “Forget about hair, that is why most of the pictures you will see [Black women’s] hair is just pulled back because [stylists] didn’t know what to do with it.”
Iman remains actively involved in efforts to tackle racism in the industry through The Black Girls Coalition, a pressure group she co-founded with close friend Bethann Hardison to highlight the lack of representation in the fashion industry. “It’s a learning experience because you just have to manoeuvre and find your place in this system [as a Black woman and model.]”