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Iman (model)

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Abdifatah Mohamoud
Iman in 1996
Abdifatah Mohamoud

(1955-07-25) 25 July 1955 (age 68)
  • Model
  • actress
  • businesswoman
Years active1975–present
  • Hassan
    (m. 1973; div. 1975)
  • (m. 1977; div. 1987)
  • (m. 1992; died 2016)
AwardsFashion Icon lifetime achievement award 2011
Modeling information
Height1.76 m (5 ft 9+12 in)
Hair colorDark brown[1]
AgencyTess Management (London)
Websitedestinationiman.com Edit this at Wikidata

Iman Mohamed Abdulmajid (Somali: Iimaan Maxamed Cabdulmajiid, born Zara Mohamed Abdulmajid, 25 July 1955[2]), known mononymously as Iman, is a Somali–American model and actress. A muse of the designers Gianni Versace, Thierry Mugler, Calvin Klein, Donna Karan, and Yves Saint Laurent, she is also noted for her philanthropic work. She was married to rock musician David Bowie from 1992 until his death in 2016.

Early life[edit]

Iman was born Zara Mohamed Abdulmajid (Somali: Zara Maxamed Cabdulmajiid) in Mogadishu, Somalia and raised as a Muslim. She was later renamed Iman, meaning "faith" in Arabic[3] at her grandfather's urging, who believed she would "prosper" with a masculine name.[4][5] Iman is the daughter of Mariam and Mohamed Abdulmajid.[6] Her father, a diplomat, was the Somali ambassador to Saudi Arabia,[7] and her mother was a gynecologist.[8] She has four siblings: two brothers and two sisters, and was the first girl in her family in six generations of sons.[9][10]

Iman lived with her grandparents during her formative years. At age four she was sent to boarding school in Egypt, where she spent most of her childhood and adolescence.[4][11] Following political unrest in Somalia, Iman's father moved the family back to the country. At his behest, she and her mother and siblings subsequently traveled to Kenya and were later joined by her father and younger sister.[4] She briefly studied political science at the University of Nairobi in 1975.[12][13]



While she was at university, Iman was discovered by American photographer Peter Beard, and moved to the United States to begin a modeling career.[7][14] Her first modeling assignment was for Vogue a year later in 1976. She soon appeared on the cover of some of the world's most prestigious magazines, establishing herself as a supermodel.[7]

With her long neck, slender figure, fine features, and copper-toned skin, Iman was an instant success in the fashion world, though she herself insists that her looks are merely typically Somali. She became a muse to many prominent designers, including Halston, Gianni Versace, Calvin Klein, Issey Miyake and Donna Karan.[11][15][16] She was a favourite of Yves Saint-Laurent, who once described her as his "dream woman".[17] Iman has worked with photographers including Helmut Newton, Richard Avedon, Irving Penn, and Annie Leibovitz.[15]

Iman credits the nurturing she received from various designers with having given her the confidence to succeed in an era when individuality was valued and model-muses were often an integral part of the creative process.[11] She is represented by TESS Management in London.[18]


Iman Cosmetics[edit]

After almost two decades of modeling, Iman started her own cosmetics firm in 1994, focusing on difficult-to-find shades for women.[19] Based on her years of experience mixing her own formulations for make-up artists to use on her, she was closely involved with the final product and also acted as the commercial face of the company.[11] Iman Cosmetics was a $25-million-a-year business by 2010. It is centered on $14.99 foundations in four formulations and 14 shades, and is among the top-selling foundation brands on Walgreens website.[11]

In early 2012, Iman signed fellow Somali designers Ayaan and Idyl Mohallim, founders of the Mataano fashion company, as brand ambassadors for her cosmetics line.[20] In late 2021, Iman released her signature fragrance, "Love Memoir". The color of the amber bottle is a nod to the sunsets she and her husband enjoyed. The shape of the bottle is a mimic of two stones, which references to a spiritual ritual where you place flat stones to guide people who come after you. The tradition is also connected to healing from grief. Iman has done this ritual around her and David's property.[21]

Global Chic[edit]

Due to her marketability and high profile, Iman was approached in 2007 by the CEO of the Home Shopping Network (HSN) to create a clothing design line. Inspired by her childhood in Egypt and modeling time with Halston, Iman's first collection introduced embroidered, one-size-fits-all caftans. Her collection on HSN is called Global Chic.[11]


Iman at the Metropolitan Opera opening night in 2006

Iman appeared in two episodes of Miami Vice, playing Dakotah in Back in the World (1985) and Lois Blyth in Love at First Sight (1988). She also had a guest role as Mrs. Montgomery on The Cosby Show (1985). In 1988, she appeared as Marie Babineaux in an episode of In the Heat of the Night.[22]

In the mid-2000s, Iman spent two years as the host of Bravo TV's fashion-themed show, Project Runway Canada. In November 2010, along with her friend and colleague, designer Isaac Mizrahi, Iman also began hosting the second season of The Fashion Show. Bravo started the series to replace its former hit Project Runway that has now moved to the Lifetime network.[11][23]


Iman first featured in the 1979 British film The Human Factor, and had a bit part in the 1985 Oscar-winning film Out of Africa starring Robert Redford and Meryl Streep. She then portrayed Nina Beka in the 1987 thriller No Way Out with Kevin Costner, and Hedy in the Michael Caine comedy Surrender the same year.

During her first year in Hollywood, in 1991, she worked on several film productions.[24] Among them were the Tim Hunter-directed Lies of the Twins and Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, where she played a shapeshifting alien. In 1991, she appeared in The Linguini Incident opposite her then-fiancé David Bowie. She had a smaller part in the 1991 comedy House Party 2 and in the 1994 comedy/romance film Exit to Eden.[22]

Video games[edit]

Iman made a cameo appearance alongside her husband David Bowie in the 1999 Windows 9x and Dreamcast 3D adventure game, Omikron: The Nomad Soul, developed by the video game company, Quantic Dream. In the game, she appears as one of the numerous Omikronian citizens the player can "reincarnate" into.[25]


In addition to running her global beauty company, Iman is also actively involved in a number of charitable endeavors. Since September 2019, Iman has held the role of CARE's first-ever Global Advocate, where she works alongside CARE to support its mission to create a world where poverty has been overcome and all people live with dignity and security. She is also currently a spokesperson for the Keep a Child Alive program, and works closely with the Children's Defense Fund.[15] She also serves as an Ambassador for Save the Children, and has been active in raising awareness of their relief services in the greater East Africa region.[26] Additionally, Iman works with the Enough Project to end the global trade in conflict minerals. She played a key part in the public campaign against blood diamonds through her termination of her contract with the diamonds conglomerate De Beers over a conflict of ethics.[27][28]


Over the course of her long modeling and philanthropic career, Iman has received many awards. On 7 June 2010, she received a Fashion Icon lifetime achievement award from the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA), a special prize reserved for "an individual whose signature style has had a profound influence on fashion". Iman selected her friend, actress and former model Isabella Rossellini, to present the award.[11][29] Wearing a gown designed by Giambattista Valli with four giant diamond bracelets on each arm, Iman thanked her parents "for giving me a neck longer than any other girl on any go-see anywhere in the world".[29]

Personal life[edit]

Iman with her husband David Bowie in 2009

Iman is a Muslim. She has credited her faith with helping her through dark times.[30] She is fluent in five languages: Somali, Arabic, Italian, French, and English.[31] She also obtained American citizenship when she was in her twenties.[32]

Iman was first married at age 18 to Hassan, a young Somali entrepreneur and Hilton hotel executive.[33][34] The marriage ended a few years later when she moved to the United States to pursue a modeling career.[33] In 1977, Iman dated the American actor Warren Beatty.[35] Later that year, she became engaged to the American basketball player Spencer Haywood, and they married soon after. Their daughter, Zulekha Haywood (from whom she has a granddaughter), was born in 1978; in February 1987, the couple divorced.[36]

In 1990, Iman met the English musician David Bowie on a surprise blind date set up by a friend in Los Angeles. The friend was hairdresser Teddy Antolin, who invited Iman to a party. When she arrived at the restaurant, there were only four attendees: Antolin, Antolin's boyfriend, Iman, and Bowie. At the end of the evening, Bowie offered to drive her home, and she said: "No, I'm going to drive my car." He invited her to tea the next day and Iman learned he did not drink tea. They went to a nearby coffee shop.[37] Bowie named his 1991 instrumental piece "Abdulmajid" after her, which was later converted into a symphony by Philip Glass.[38]

On 24 April 1992, Iman married Bowie in a private ceremony in Lausanne, Switzerland. The wedding was solemnized in Florence, Italy on 6 June.[39] Their daughter, Alexandria Zahra Jones, was born 15 August 2000 at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City.[40] Iman is also stepmother to Bowie's son from a previous marriage, Duncan Jones. Both children bear Bowie's legal surname. Iman and her family resided primarily in Manhattan and London.[41] When Bowie died on 10 January 2016, she wrote in tribute to him that "the struggle is real, but so is God".[42]


  • I Am Iman (2001)
  • The Beauty of Color (2005)


List of acting performances in film and television
Title Year Role
The Human Factor 1979 Sarah
Exposed 1983 Model
"Do What You Do" music video 1984 Jermaine Jackson's love interest
Miami Vice 1985 Dakotah
The Cosby Show 1985 Mrs. Montgomery
Out of Africa 1985 Mariammo
No Way Out 1987 Nina
Surrender 1987 Hedy
In the Heat of the Night 1988 Marie Babineaux
Miami Vice 1988 Lois Blyth
227 1990 Eartha Kitten
House Party 2 1991 Sheila Landreaux
Lies of the Twins 1991 Cat/Elie
L.A. Story 1991 Cynthia
Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country 1991 Martia
The Linguini Incident 1991 Dali Guest
"Remember the Time" music video ( Michael Jackson ) 1992 Queen Nefertiti
Heart of Darkness 1994 Jungle bride[43]
Exit to Eden 1994 Nina
Project Runway Canada 2007 self
Project Runway Canada 2009 self
The Fashion Show: Ultimate Collection 2010 self


  1. ^ "Iman Abdulmajid – Profile". Fashion Model Directory. Retrieved 9 May 2012.
  2. ^ Iman, Peter Hill Beard, David Bowie, I Am Iman (Universe Publishing, 2001), p. 15.
  3. ^ Editors, Biography com (9 April 2021). "Iman". Biography. Retrieved 26 December 2022. {{cite web}}: |last= has generic name (help)
  4. ^ a b c Hendrikse, Wim (2013). David Bowie – The Man Who Changed the World. New Generation Publishing. pp. 410–411. ISBN 978-0755250530. Retrieved 18 January 2016.
  5. ^ Marie Claire (8 December 2016). "Life stories: Iman". Marie Claire UK. Retrieved 26 December 2022.
  6. ^ Iman, Peter Hill Beard, David Bowie, I Am Iman, p. 11.
  7. ^ a b c Supermodel Iman is Ottawa bound for TV show Archived 7 November 2012 at the Wayback Machine. Canada.com (25 June 2008). Retrieved 9 May 2012.
  8. ^ Women of Achievement – Iman. Thelizlibrary.org. Retrieved 9 May 2012.
  9. ^ Iman, Peter Hill Beard, David Bowie, I Am Iman, p. 17.
  10. ^ webedit2 (12 March 2018). "Supermodel Iman wants widespread education and earnest activism". Interview Magazine. Retrieved 26 December 2022.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: numeric names: authors list (link)
  11. ^ a b c d e f g h "Iman, Former Model, to Receive Award - NYTimes.com". The New York Times. Archived from the original on 7 June 2010. Retrieved 10 March 2010.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: unfit URL (link). New York Times (6 June 2010)
  12. ^ Leslie Halliwell, John Walker (2001). Halliwell's Who's who in the Movies. HarperCollinsEntertainment. p. 225. ISBN 0002572141. Retrieved 18 January 2016.
  13. ^ Mukhtar, Mohamed Haji (2003). Historical Dictionary of Somalia. Scarecrow Press. p. 113. ISBN 0810866048. Retrieved 28 February 2018.
  14. ^ Iman – Profiles – Project Runway Canada Archived 27 May 2010 at the Wayback Machine. Slice.ca. Retrieved 9 May 2012.
  15. ^ a b c "INTERNATIONAL SUPERMODEL IMAN TO HOST PROJECT RUNWAY CANADA". Archived from the original on 13 July 2011.
  16. ^ New Chapters for Iman. Los Angeles Times. (24 December 2001). Retrieved 9 May 2012.
  17. ^ Beauty Icon: Iman. Style.com. Retrieved 9 May 2012.
  18. ^ Iman Portfolio Archived 26 May 2010 at the Wayback Machine. Tess Management. Retrieved 9 May 2012.
  19. ^ Working Woman, Volume 20, Issues 1–6. MacDonald Communications Corporation. 1995. p. 67. Retrieved 18 April 2018.
  20. ^ PAPERMAG (26 July 2013). "Designers and Twins Ayaan and Idyl Mohallim Find Fans of Their Line Mataano the World Over". Retrieved 4 August 2016.
  21. ^ "Inside Iman & David Bowie's Scenic Home Filled With Wonderful Objects | Vogue" – via www.youtube.com.
  22. ^ a b "Iman". IMDb. Retrieved 4 August 2016.
  23. ^ Sneak peek : 'The Fashion Show: Ultimate Collection' Archived 23 July 2011 at the Wayback Machine. Denver.metromix.com. Retrieved 9 May 2012.
  24. ^ John C. Brasfield Pub. Corp. (1992). Architectural Digest. 49 (7–9): 200. {{cite journal}}: Missing or empty |title= (help)
  25. ^ "Omikron: The Nomad Soul". Allgames. Archived from the original on 10 December 2014. Retrieved 4 August 2016.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: bot: original URL status unknown (link)
  26. ^ "Five Seeds of Hope for Somalia". HuffPost. 13 October 2011.
  27. ^ "Iman".
  28. ^ Meldrum, Andrew (9 May 2004). "Iman cuts De Beers links in ethics row". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 15 August 2011.
  29. ^ a b Dodes, Rachel (9 June 2010). Kors, Jacobs, Iman Take Home Fashion Awards. The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 9 May 2012.
  30. ^ Marshall Cavendish Reference (2011). Illustrated Dictionary of the Muslim World. Marshall Cavendish. p. 108. ISBN 978-0761479291. Retrieved 27 June 2016.
  31. ^ "The World of Work" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 10 February 2015. Retrieved 10 February 2015.
  32. ^ Eckardt, Steph (24 September 2019). "Iman Opens Up About Being a Refugee: "These Aren't Nameless, Faceless People"". W Magazine. Retrieved 4 March 2023.
  33. ^ a b Iman, Peter Hill Beard, David Bowie (2001). I Am Iman. Universe Pub. p. 54. ISBN 0789306336.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  34. ^ Newsweek, Volume 86. Newsweek, Incorporated. 1975. p. 46. Retrieved 18 January 2016.
  35. ^ Krivoshey, Bethsabée (5 November 2015). "Tableau de chasse – Les célèbres conquêtes de Warren Beatty – Iman". Vanity Fair. Archived from the original on 17 August 2017. Retrieved 25 April 2016.
  36. ^ "Spenser Haywood timeline". The Seattle Times. 25 February 2007. Retrieved 24 April 2016.
  37. ^ McNeil, Liz (21 November 2021). "Iman & David Bowie". People Magazine.
  38. ^ Pegg, Nicholas. The Complete David Bowie. p. 15.
  39. ^ Pegg, Nicholas (2006). The Complete David Bowie. Reynolds & Hearn. p. 238. ISBN 1905287151.
  40. ^ FIRST LOOK: The News in Brief, 15 August 2000. E!.com (15 August 2000). Retrieved 9 May 2012.
  41. ^ "'He still ties my shoes for me': Iman reveals how David Bowie makes her feel special". Fashion Model Directory. 25 December 2010. Retrieved 9 May 2012.
  42. ^ Serico, Chris (11 January 2016). "'The struggle is real, but so is God': See Iman's poignant David Bowie tribute". Today. Retrieved 15 January 2016.
  43. ^ Voyeurism: (fin de siecle), Volume 2, Issue 2 of Felix (New York, N.Y.). The Standby Program. 2000. p. 89. ISBN 9781570271021. Retrieved 8 June 2018.

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