Iman Shines on Three Exclusive Covers for INSTYLE’s 30th Anniversary

Posted on June 12, 2024


The legendary Iman graces three covers for InStyle’s 30th Anniversary Issue, where she reflects on profound changes in fashion, beauty, and culture over the past three decades.

The model, founder, and activist reflects on crucial moments in her career—including how Iman Cosmetics was born out of not having her foundation shade in existence for her first modeling job, working with fellow supermodels Bethann Hardison and Naomi Campbell to amplify fashion’s diversity problem, and more. On a personal level, she opens up about being a mother in the public eye with her daughter Lexi and finding the perfect partner in David Bowie.

Here, she looks back on the influence she has wielded and looks forward to the impact she might continue to make through conversations with three women—model Precious Lee; designer and Fifteen Percent Pledge founder Aurora James; and actress and television host Keke Palmer—who are, in their own ways, carrying her torch.




On the pros and cons of fame, and being mistaken for Tyra Banks: “I would say the only pros I have ever seen is that when I have a very serious subject that I want to highlight—whether it’s famine in Africa, whether it is the plight of refugees—then I have an audience. I can get an audience immediately. So, that’s the only thing that I find that really lifts me up. The rest of it… I’m lucky enough to live in New York and especially in Soho; everybody in Soho is a star, or they think they are. So, nobody bothers me.

I have a very sweet recollection with young girls in Soho. I told this to Tyra many times, and she laughs her heart out. These girls were behind me. I think they were from NYU. They followed me: ‘Tyra, Tyra, Tyra, Tyra.’ I didn’t pay attention to them. Then finally, one tapped me on the shoulder, and I turned around, and she said, ‘Are you Tyra?’ I said, ‘No.’ And she said, ‘Oh my God. Are you Iman?’ I said, ‘Yes.’ She said, ‘You look just like Tyra.’ I said, ‘No, she looks like me.’ And they thought I was dissing her. I said, ‘No, she’s younger than I am. I was here first.’

But when I talk about fame, it’s like some days you are the pigeon, some days you’re the statue.”

On being a mother in the public eye: “What I did with my youngest was if people come to me when I’m with her in public, I just say to them, ‘Please don’t.’ If I’m in public, I’m Lexi’s mom, I’m not Iman. And I’m hoping that they will understand that because a lot of them are parents.”

People expect [things] from you. They expect you to take a photograph with them, to look beautiful. They see you without makeup in the street with your kid, and they’re like, Oh, she didn’t look so good. Well, who cares? I’m with my kid. You can’t satisfy everybody. You can’t make everybody happy. And so, you just make yourself and your children happy.”

On not having a foundation in her shade for her very first modeling job: “I looked, literally, gray,” Iman recalls today. “I still say the gods of beauty were looking after me, because the photographs were black and white—that hides all sins.” Otherwise, she believes, her career would have been short-lived. “My image is my currency, so I better have control of that,” she remembers thinking.

On how she, Bethann Hardison and Naomi Campbell addressed the lack of racial diversity in the fashion industry: “In 2013, my friend Bethann Hardison called me. By then I was retired from modeling and I’d started Iman Cosmetics, so I really was not aware of what was going on on the runway. And she said to me, ‘Are you aware that they’re not using Black models on the runways at all?’ And I said, ‘What do you mean? This is 2013.’  And from then on, Naomi Campbell and Bethann and I started this conversation of putting a light on what was really transpiring—the absence of Black models on the runway.

“Obviously it didn’t start with me, Bethann, or Naomi. It was people who had done it before us. It’s just the time, just push things forward and forward and forward. And I’ll tell you, all hell broke loose—the murder of George Floyd, the Black Lives Matter [movement], all bets were off. And nobody wanted to hear, ‘Oh, I’m here for you.’ Well, how are you here for me?”

On getting retailers to pay attention to Black consumers with Iman Cosmetics: “The absence of Black models or Black beauties in magazines or in advertisements, it creates a whole self-esteem thing for our young girls. If they’re only bombarded with images of a certain type, they think that that’s beauty; that they are not beautiful. So, I was playing with that, and thank God I was majoring in political science, so I had some kind of a sense of how to play with that and made them understand that it’s in [the retailers’] best interest to treat us right. Because money is money. It doesn’t matter what color it is. It’s always green.”

On being an icon: “I don’t know what it really means. And you know this more than anybody else because you started in this business very young: Every time, it’s a growth spurt. So, it’s never like you get to a destination that you become an icon. And the definition continuously changes. But I’ve always kept it in my head that the minute that you start affecting and changing people’s lives by just how you live, then you’re an icon to them. I don’t need to be an icon to many. I just need to be an icon to a few.”


INSTYLE’s 30th anniversary cover is available now here.

[Photo Credit: AB+DM/InStyle]

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