Zara Mohamed Abdulmajid, also known as Iman (“faith” in Arabic), was born in Mogadishu, Somalia on July 25, 1955. At the time, the 20-year-old college student (in Nairobi) was first discovered by photographer Peter Beard at a sitting in Kenya. After she became acquainted with him, she got her first modeling job for Vogue in New York during the year 1976.
“Growing up in eastern Africa in the 1960s and ’70s, I could not have aspired to become a fashion model even if I’d wanted to: If they existed, news of their habits never reached me at boarding school. My own idols came from the Arab world’s then-splendid music and movie stars, such as Umm Kulthum, Faten Hamama, and Mariam Fakhr Eddine.” – Iman
Being one of few black models in the fashion industry, was both a gift and a curse. On one hand, she was poised and was able to stand out in any crowd of models. On the other hand, it was a bit of a lonely road because black women were underrepresented in the fashion industry. She modeled for designers like Halston, Donna Karan, Gianni Versace, and Calvin Klein. From experience of mixing different shades to fit her skin tone for shoots, she wanted to create a brand that was more fitting for women who look like her. From there, we were blessed with Iman Cosmetics in 1994. Her brand’s goal is to highlight and focus on the various shades of black women.
Iman, a true inspiration, was one of the first black supermodels of the 20th century, paving the way for icons like Naomi Campbell, Tyra Banks, and Roshumba Williams.