Iman Mohamed Abdulmadjid known as Iman Bowie (b. July 25,1955), was a famous Somalian supermodel and activist , and a top business woman and philanthropist.
Model, business executive. Born Iman Mohamed Abdulmajid on July 25, 1955, in Mogadishu, Somalia. Iman is sometimes described as her native land's most famous export. One of the most sought-after fashion models of the 1970s and 1980s, Iman became a successful business executive in the 1990s with her own line of cosmetics. Married to rock star David Bowie since 1992, she became a mother for the second time at the age of 44 in the summer of 2000, but it was just one of many boundaries the enigmatic entrepreneur and social activist has broken in her lifetime. "She broadened the definition of beauty," declared Washington Post writer Robin Givhan of Iman's stunning, exotic looks. "She made earthiness sensual. She helped to transform fashion into entertainment and models into personalities."
Iman's mother, a gynecologist, gave her daughter a man's name when she arrived into the world with the hope that this would better prepare her for the challenges she would face as a female in Muslim East Africa. Her parents were decidedly progressive: Iman's father was a diplomat stationed in Tanzania, and under the law he could have had multiple wives, but chose to keep just one. The parents agreed that their daughter should be sent to a private Catholic school for girls, which was considered more progressive than the standard Islamic education available to young females in the 1960s. There, Iman thrived. "I was a very nerdy child," she told husband David Bowie when he interviewed her for Interview in 1994. "I never fit in, so I became laboriously studious."
By 1973, Iman was 18 and a student of political science at the University of Nairobi. She also worked as a translator to help pay her tuition costs. Photographer Peter Beard, a well-known figure in the fashion world, saw her one day on a street in Nairobi and was captivated by her long neck, high forehead, and gamine grace. He began following her, and finally approached her to ask if she had ever been photographed. "The first thing I thought was he wanted me for prostitution of naked pictures," Iman recalled laughingly about that day in an interview with Knight-Ridder/Tribune News Service writer Roy H. Campbell. "I had never seen Vogue. I didn't read fashion magazines, I read Time and Newsweek. " But when Beard offered to pay her, she reconsidered, and asked for the amount due to the college for her tuition, $8,000; Beard agreed.
Beard shot rolls of film of Iman that day, and took them back to New York with him. He then spent four months trying to convince his "discovery" to move to New York and begin modeling professionally. He even leaked items to the press about her fantastical beauty, and exaggeratedly claimed that she was descended from African royalty and that he had "found" her in the jungle. Another story alleged that she was a goat herder in the desert. When Iman finally capitulated and flew to New York, dozens of photographers greeted her at the airport. A press conference that day initiated her into the vagaries of celebrity and fame. "I was very surprised and offended that they could be so gullible to believe that all Africans come out of the jungle," Iman told Campbell. "Somalia is a desert. I had never even seen a jungle. And I was even more insulted when they started asking the questions and talking only to Peter because they thought I did not speak English and I could speak English and five [other] languages."
In 1978, Iman married basketball star Spencer Haywood, with whom she had a daughter. She continued to model, but was sidelined for a time in 1983 after a taxi wreck. In 1987, she and Haywood divorced, but a custody battle over their daughter Zulekha, who lived with her father in Detroit, endured for six more years. In 1989, Iman quit modeling altogether. She was adamant about leaving the business permanently and not staging a comeback, as she told Bowie in 1994, "because then there is no grace in it," she said in Interview. "So, when I decided to leave, I made sure that there was no cushion for me to go back to in New York. I sold my apartment; I severed contacts there, except with my friends, so that I would never have the excuse that, when something went wrong, I could go back to that as a cushion. I think I made one of the best decisions I've ever made for myself."
Iman moved to Los Angeles, where friends introduced her to the English rock legend in 1990. They were wed in Lausanne, Switzerland, on April 24, 1992, and were remarried in an Italian church two months later. Initially, their relationship seemed improbable to many, and it was even suspected to be some sort of publicity stunt, but Iman and her husband have proved one of the more enduring rock/fashion couplings of the modern age. Over the years, Iman made several film appearances, but the big screen failed to fully capture her grace and energy.
In 1994, Iman launched her own line of cosmetics for women of color. She had long been frustrated by the paucity of products for black skin. "I would go to cosmetics counters and buy two or three foundations and powders, and then go home and mix them before I came up with something suitable for my undertones," she said in an interview.
Iman received a fashion icon lifetime achievement award last June, given by the council of Fashion Designers of america, a special prize awarded to ‘an individual whose signature style has had a profound influence on fashion.’ as she accepted the award, Iman jokingly thanked her parents ‘for giving me a neck longer than any other girl on any go-see anywhere in the world.’
Behind Iman’s beautiful face is a big heart. a conscientious global citizen, she is using her high profile for doing philanthropic work and is actively involved in a number of charities. She is a global ambassador for Keep a child alive, an international organisation dedicated to providing treatment and care for children orphaned by aids and abandoned children. It is estimated that 16.6 million children have lost their parents to HIV/Aids. Many of these are themselves infected with the Aids virus. Keep a Child Alive provides life-saving anti-retroviral treatment to these vulnerable children. The organisation also builds and maintains orphanages and, where possible, supports orphaned children’s family caregivers to ensure that the children are cared for in their own communities. Keep a Child Alive provides treatment and care for affected parents as well.
‘I am an African who wanted to help my continent and to ease the daily suffering [of its people],’ Iman said in one interview. ‘Additionally, as a mother, I was moved by the enormity of the orphan situation in Africa. Aids is an incurable disease, but it is no longer a death sentence in the west because of ARV drugs. And I wanted Africans to have the same chance of survival as the people in the west.’
Iman is also closely involved in Action Against Hunger, an international humanitarian organisation working to end hunger worldwide. Working in conflict situations, natural disaster-hit areas and regions prone to chronic food shortages, the organisation works to fight child malnutrition and provides safe drinking water to communities. It runs programmes in more than 40 countries, reaching approximately five million people annually.
In recent years, Iman has been trying to raise awareness about the plight of women and girls, especially rape victims, in eastern Congo, where one of the most brutal wars of our time has been raging for years. Militia groups have been using rape as a weapon of war.
‘It is not lost on me that what sustains the continent of Africa starts with the women,’ Iman said in a recent interview. ‘When families and communities are being destroyed in that way, there is a moral issue at stake... We need to say “enough,” now.’
Iman has also been trying to draw particular attention to the role that illicit trade in minerals, such diamonds, plays in fuelling and perpetuating conflicts in Africa. She is currently involved in efforts to highlight conflict minerals in the Congo. In 2004, Iman pulled out of her contract with the diamond giant De Beers on ethical grounds. There were reports at the time that the company was exploiting the Bushmen of Botswana, who were being forcibly removed from their ancestral lands to make way for mineral extraction.
In the past, Iman had attempted to raise awareness about the tragedy of the people in her native Somalia. She went back to her homeland in the 1990s to see for herself the devastation caused by the civil war and the distress of the population caught in the crossfire of brutal warlords battling for control. When she came back, Iman broke down at the UN as she struggled to convey the suffering of a people who could not speak for themselves