Supermodel. Blogger. Muse. Cosmetics powerhouse. Designer. Wife. Mom. The list of accomplishments under Iman's always chic belt is awe-inspiring. One of the most memorable bold-faced names defining an era of iconic beauty, the Somali style star's packed-to-the-brim schedule leaves us breathless, to say the least.
Needless to say, we're all ears when it comes to this model-turned-mogul, and when given the chance to snoop around her Midtown Manhattan offices and have a little sit-down, we didn't think twice. From all things beauty and skin care to Hedi's first collection at Saint Laurent (he's a big Bowie fan, so she introduced them...no big deal), this forever-stunning icon was happy to share...she even threw in a little supermodel dish for good measure.
Ahead, everything we learned (including the anti-aging secrets we would have otherwise chalked up to a Faustian pact).
Iman wears a Rachel Zoe top and jacket, Levi's jeans, and Global Chic shoes and ring.
Photographed by Nina Westervelt/MCV Photo
Do you think supermodel means the same thing today, as it did when you first became famous?
"No, First of all, I think the only sacred ground that’s left for models is the runway. If the celebrities could figure out a way to get on the runway, they would. But they don’t have the bodies for it. Models have lost everything else. They’ve lost the beauty accounts, the covers. But the thing that’s also a shame is that they don’t have a voice.
"But social media, like especially the way Coco Rocha is doing it — that’s where you can actually create your own content and your own voice. And young models have to stop being treated like hangers for hire and take control of that. Because they can. Trust me, young girls and boys who are out there in their teens who want to be in this industry whether as a designer, a makeup artist, or a stylist, they aren't looking at Kim Kardashian, they are looking at Karlie Kloss.
"It’s that connection to fans that models don’t have to be given, now. They can have a voice. They can video blog. They can Tweet. They can create. And that’s what they really should do."
Let's talk a bit about your HSN brand, and particularly the foundation. What's the secret to finding the right shade, if you don't happen to be exactly "fair," "medium," or "dark"?
"The foundations are all done in-house. Right in this office. We check every batch and make sure it looks as close to a real skin tone as possible.
"When you are choosing a foundation, don't look for what you want
to look like, in your head, but what you really do look like. You want to match it around the jaw line, where the neck and the face meet. Take three foundations — one that you think is lighter than you are, and one that you think is darker than you are, and the one that you think is probably closest to your shade — and do those three stripes at your jaw. The one that the eye cannot see is your shade. Because you don’t want anybody to say, 'your makeup looks great.'You want somebody to say 'you
Do you use beauty brands that aren't your own?
"Yes. I discovered SK-II, maybe three years ago. I could be down with the flu and jet-lagged, and that's the one product that could still
make me look like I just came from a spa. Specifically the Skin Signature 3-D Redefining Mask
. When you put it on you look like Hannibal Lecter. I swear, my daughter screams when she sees it on me. It looks like the weirdest thing. I try to tell her it’s an African mask and she says, 'no, it looks like a ghost!' But the moisture that it puts on the skin, I’m telling you, you look like a new person."
What about drugstore brands? Any favorites?
"St. Ives scrubs
. Even my daughter likes it. For the body, though! I think it’s too harsh for the face."
Iman Cosmetics Luxury Lip Stain, $10, available at imancosmetics.com.
You were so famously Yves Saint Laurent's muse and he's spoken so kindly about how you’re his dream woman. How do you feel about Hedi Slimane at YSL?
"I actually saw the live stream. I know Hedi very much because he is a huge fan of my husband's so I introduced them years ago. I think critics are missing the point. Because people were for it and people were against it, but I think they were missing the point. First of all, it’s tough, but he is true to himself. And if you dissect the collection, it’s extremely wearable. But, look at Alber Elbaz. He was literally fired from YSL, but look at Lanvin now! And look at Marc Jacobs. Remember, he was fired from Perry Ellis. It takes time but I think, in YSL, I can see the DNA. I can see where it’s going to go. And he’s going to surprise everyone in the next collection. I think he’s done a great job especially with fine tuning Yves Saint Laurent. You know, most French people call it Saint Laurent! Nobody calls it Yves Saint Laurent. So I think he knows what he’s doing."
Are there emerging designers who have that same clarity of vision, in your eyes?
"There is one. He’s off the radar. Tribune Standard. He’s something to be looked at, that one. He’s fully accomplished from tailoring to the complete look. You can see the lookbook and it is a collection. It’s a fully informed collection. I think he’s going to go far."
You look phenomenal. What are your secrets to aging so beautifully?
"Well, that’s genetics. I have nothing to do with that."
Do you do anything in terms of upkeep?
"Yes, I do. And it’s not so much that I do, but that I did. My mom taught me this when I was very young: What you take care of in your twenties is what you’re going to inherit in your sixties. So, this has been a forty-year romance with my skin and I have taken care of it religiously. I clean, moisturize, and hydrate my skin twice a day. As I get older, my skin gets a little bit drier so it needs more moisturizing. But regardless, one thing hasn’t changed from my 20s to my 50s — and that's SPF. Anything I put on my face has to have SPF. I don’t care if it’s mid-winter.
"Trust me, if you consistently take care of your skins and its needs — and sometimes, that has to be what you eat and drink, but also, the topical treatments that you apply on a daily basis — in a couple of years, you will see the difference. It’s an investment in yourself."
So, in terms of food and drink, we've read that you're super-disciplined — that you only allow yourself a small teacup of coffee each day. What are your rules?
"No! I’m not that disciplined. People would like to believe that. Actually, It’s just that I don’t have a strong system for coffee. But, as far as discipline goes, I have a 12-year-old and what I try to explain to her is that we do what we have to do now, so that we can do what we want to do later on. That’s the mantra.
"Sometimes we have to fast and we have to do things that are boring — nobody wants to do it, but you have to do it so that you can do what you want to do later on. So, if you want to have a couple of glasses of wine just make sure that a couple of days of the week either you fast or you cleanse your system. Everything in moderation — including moderation. I don’t believe in saying, 'I don’t eat pasta or dairy or whatever.' Life is way too short!"
What's the one piece of advice you most try to get your daughter to hear?
"I don’t know what goes through...I remember being at that age and feeling like the whole world would collapse if I had one pimple. But, as a parent you just keep on repeating, repeating, and repeating, and hoping that if you change the words around, she won't tune you out. I try to explain to her... 'Trust me, it will pass!' Right now, she’s getting pimples. Because she likes to wear her hair on her face. And I say to her that hair is oily, and that’s why. But you live and learn. This will all
What about the best advice that you never took, but should have?
"It was something very simple: 'You have to forgive yourself.' My mom used to say that. You have to be kind to yourself. And I try to remind myself of that, at 57, daily. Because we all make mistakes and you cannot beat yourself down. There is this critic in all of us, saying, 'you’re not good enough' but you have to forgive yourself. So, you make a mistake. Move on."
But that's such a tough lesson. How do you go about actually silencing your inner critic?
"It is a tough lesson. But it’s about looking back so you can move forward. What is the worst thing you've ever done? You survived it, right? So, nothing major has happened. You didn’t die, you didn’t kill anyone (hopefully). You didn’t do something so drastic that you'll regret it for the rest of your life. It’s okay. You’re going to learn from it and move on."
Iman Cosmetics Eye-Con Collection, $35 available at imancosmetics.com; Cote D'Azur Collection, $20, available at imancosmetics.com.
What do you do to take care of your body?
"I haven’t done anything now for the last couple of months because I fractured my foot and it's taking forever to heal. And I can feel it in my body. My energy is lower — I can just feel it. But, again, it’s the same thing as eating. [Exercising] is something you really have to do and as you get older. It’s true, if you don’t move it you’re gonna lose it. You have to be active — even if that’s just walking."
Global Chic for HSN ring.
Do you have a preference when it comes to how you wear your hair?
"Hair is a big issue with black women. It’s the thing that we like to change the most. I mean, I get so bored because, having modeled for so many years, I get bored with looks. I keep changing looks all the time. But now they have hair clips and extensions that you can take off and clip in. So, it’s play time!"
We hear that all the time, when we write about textured hair. There's so much debate. What's your opinion?
"The debate...it’s...self-esteem motivated. Like 'shouldn’t we all celebrate who we naturally are?' But who does? Makeup doesn't do that. So, I’m totally against the debate. I think whatever you like, you should do. It’s called options. Nobody’s saying you’re blacker than I am just because you have natural hair. It’s like wearing pants or skirts. I’m a pants girl — I don’t like skirts! That’s my preference. And I think as individuals we should have that choice without making a statement.
"It’s not a racial statement. The way I dress, or relax or lighten my hair, it’s not like I’m saying I don’t want to be black. I shouldn’t be carrying the whole race on my shoulders just because I want to color my hair. To me, it’s not a big deal. My daughter, she likes to straighten her hair and at the same time, she wears it curly on different days. It’s not a big deal.
"We really need to move forward in the language of what beauty is. Beauty is such a minefield for a lot of people that we think it says something about the inner person, and it really doesn't. Sometimes, it’s just play and it’s about having fun. It’s like, when girls wear something tight and revealing are they saying something? No! They think they look hot! Let them be! I’ve always hated rules and regulations."
In the background, you see mood boards mapping out fabric ideas for Iman's upcoming home collection.
What are your biggest beauty or fashion regrets?
"Oh, I’m not going to tell you about all those. I actually have worn something that I knew I shouldn't have, when I was leaving the apartment — and then, of course the picture proved it and outlived the outfit. And it still haunts me. Sometimes people say 'Isn’t that you?' and I say 'No, it’s not. Does that look like me? Do you think I would wear something like that? Are you crazy? What do you think? I’m a fashion icon! I don’t wear things like that!' God help us."
What are the fashion trends you're seeing now that you really hate?
"So many. I’m not a fan of boxy coats. You know what they said about the neon colors? If you were around in the '80s, you shouldn’t wear it now. That’s how I feel about the boxy coats. I had coats like that in the '80s. They remind me of old Armani. Also, somehow waists have gone higher. It’s not empire. It’s just a little higher than where your waist actually is. I'm not a fan.
"Also, anything that was your signature when you were in your twenties. Let it go! It’s like Liza Minnelli and those lashes! It’s like, you're in your f*cking sixties. Let it go! I hate nostalgia. Like when they say 'they don’t make models like they used to' I don’t know what they’re talking about. Like, Karlie Kloss? I mean she would put Linda Evangelista to shame. And Coco Rocha? Who walks like that? I mean, she’s a model beyond models. And Karolina Kurkova... I really don’t know what they’re talking about! Different times have different people. And so I hate nostalgia."
You're creating so much, from accessories to makeup, and soon, home. Where do you find inspiration?
"First of all, the accessories, to me, are the backbone of any woman’s wardrobe. I mean, I have these jeans, I’ve had them maybe for a good six or seven years? But I definitely would not have carried the same bags six years, seven years ago. So, I think accessories are the stars in our closet and the clothes take on the supporting roles. I could start with a bag and the whole outfit would have to go with it. Most of the time it’s the bag or the shoes. So, the accessories in my collection are really a natural extension of how I dress up.
"And home? I’ve always loved home, because I’ve traveled so much. My husband calls me a 'chic hoarder.' I collect, collect, collect. I jokingly even said years ago, when we would go to the collections in Paris, when people were going to nightclubs I was going to flea markets. So, that's another natural extension of me. Home is the safe haven where you can travel to whatever destination you want. You can live in a concrete jungle like this and your house could be Moroccan! So that’s what I love about decor. You can make your home anything you want."
Do you follow home trends in your own space?
"No, I don’t. I think like an old-fashioned interior decorator. It starts with fabrics, which will determine what the room wants to be. Then, the paints and the rug and all that will come together once I choose what the fabric will be in the room."
Do you have an all-time favorite accessory purchase?
"Not a purchase. It was a gift. It was one-off at Lanvin. I think one of the first Lanvin necklaces that Alber did. He gifted it to me. It’s one of those jewel encrusted, really big pieces. It’s literally one of those things you say you can wear with just a T-shirt. That’s the outfit!"
What's next for you?
"I don’t know. It usually just reveals itself. I don’t think I would have done the website
if I hadn't had a fractured foot that landed me in bed for two months. Somebody said to me recently,'“What?! You created a website? I haven’t done anything yet!,' and I said, 'Well, maybe you should fracture your foot.'"