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Iman is a retired supermodel from the country of Somalia. She's married to rocker David Bowie.
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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."
Signed to the modeling agency Wilhelmina, Iman began a career on haute-couture runways and in the pages of fashion magazines such as Vogue and Harper's Bazaar. She was instantly a favorite with designers and editors alike, and was one of first models in her day to be successful in both print and on the runway. French couturier Yves Saint Laurent even devoted a collection to her, "The African Queen," and one of the most famous images of her career was a shot of her striding down a Paris runway in a Thierry Mugler design with a leashed leopard at her side. She led an admittedly jet-set life, as she told the Washington Post, and often squandered her earnings. "You earn an extraordinary amount of money almost for nothing at a very young age," she told fashion writer Givhan. "I'd spend all this money to take the Concorde to Paris for a party and then come back. And I didn't do it just once. [Modeling] doesn't prepare a young girl for the future."
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.
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