To celebrate International Women's Day, in association with YPO, Veuve Clicquot and Clé de Peau Beauté, we hosted our inaugural 'Evening with Harper’s Bazaar’ with special guests including Dior's creative director Maria Grazia Chiuri and the head of UN’s HeForShe movement, Elizabeth Nyamayaro.
As part of the proceedings, Bazaar's editor-in-chief Lydia Slater sat down with the supermodel, philanthropist, entrepreneur and activist Iman to discuss the sources of her strength and motivation throughout her extraordinary life and career.
"My mother always instilled in me self-worth. I don’t think I would have been an 18-year-old coming to the United States without that. I came here knowing my worth so I came into this industry knowing I would walk away from anything which did not serve me well. That’s what took me further than anything else."
"When I found out I was being paid less than the caucasian models, I took a hiatus until they paid me the same. I never thought I had to overcome anything, I always felt it was the industry that had to change. If I can make them change for me, then that will become the norm for any other black model who comes after me."
"This has always been a driver for me. It was what led me to take up modelling when I was a refugee in Kenya, in order to provide for my family. It was what made me start Iman Cosmetics; because the very first make-up artist on my first shoot did not have any foundation for my skin tone. I had to make my own. I wouldn’t have had to do all that myself in 1975, if there were make-up artists who were qualified to do their job. From that day on I never went to a job without my foundation, because the chance was almost always there, that they would not have one for me."
A strong family
"Everything starts with my mum, because if I didn’t have that base of the self-worth she gave me, I would never have left and been on this journey now. I am also very, very close to my dad. He raised me as a muslim girl in Somalia with the idea that there was nothing in the world I can't do. He taught me to be successful like my brothers or, as he would always say, ‘even better!’ It never left me, that belief. I personally think the first relationship we have with a man - our father - as young girls, really affects us for the rest of our life. My father is my rock."
Her husband, David Bowie
"Then men we choose in our life are so important. He was always my biggest fan. Whenever I would say - oh what if this fails? - about Iman Cosmetics - he would say ‘and so what?’ He never liked going to fashion parties, but he would never miss any of my beauty accomplishments. He would always be the first person to congratulate me."
"That is one thing I will say that, as a Black person, we never, ever lose. Not only that, but joy. We have to find joy in our lives wherever we can get it, otherwise what's the option?"
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