Cosmetics line has fashion world eating out of Iman's hand IN THE NAME OF BEAUTY

July 14, 1994|By Vida Roberts | Vida Roberts,Sun Fashion Editor

The vision of Iman gliding down the world's top designer runways was breathtaking. The sight of Iman talking business dressed in an elegant, gray trouser suit is formidable.

The model-turned-actress has turned entrepreneur and during New York fall collections week had a small group of fashion press to lunch to launch her namesake cosmetics line. Impressive.

In the penthouse of the Royalton, the Manhattan hostelry of the moment, she charmed and sipped and talked about the range of beauty products she has developed for all women of color -- not just African-Americans, but Hispanic-Americans, Asian-Americans and Native Americans.

This woman of the world, now 39 and five years retired from the international fashion whirl, is unveiling her makeup and skin-care line in J.C. Penney stores and QVC infomercials this month.

From le monde to le mall is not such a stretch to hear her talk about it. Like all the world's beauties, experience has taught her that affordability and high style often blend. "I know something that women out there don't. I made millions and I used my money to form a company. I didn't fritter my money away. Women look at me and assume I go for the top product, but I have always mixed designer and drugstore. I had to," she says, "because the products were not there for me. I had to buy four and mix and blend to get the color I needed."

That blending began in 1974 after she was discovered by photographer Peter Beard and became the exotic one-name face of fashion.

She was said to be an African princess, she was said to be a primitive, she was everywhere -- the first global supermodel.

She speaks five languages -- her accent of French undertones and Somalian sibilance -- and she speaks smart.

"The Native American is the forgotten woman today.

"A beauty is a beauty, and I met many when we auditioned women for the advertising campaign," she says.

"Agencies sent me models who 'look like a Native American' but I wanted the real thing. I edited all the models myself and asked them their heritage. I wanted honesty."

She believes honesty will build her a loyal customer base. That and quality and price.

"You always have to remember price point for women of color," she says, "because many of them only earn between $12,000 and $24,000 a year."

She says she feels in top form. She's content and in love with husband David Bowie, the singer, whom she married in 1992, and challenged by the demands of starting her cosmetics line and tapping her creative side in Gary Marshall's film adaptation of Anne Rice's "Exit to Eden" which opens this month.

But her life isn't all glamour and gutsiness. She has seen the grimmer corners of today's world and would like to brighten them.

"My daughter Zulekha is 15 years old. I see the need to do something for her generation," she says.

"There is so much cruelty and violence around her. I worry for her even though she is safe and protected, but so many young people are not."

She has an interest in the Children's Defense Fund and organizations that reach out to poor city youngsters and draw them out into the world.

A fine goal for a woman who has been a student, a pretend princess and the toast of four continents.

MEET IMAN

What: Iman, introducing her new cosmetics line

Where: J.C. Penney, Security Square

When: Monday, 10 a.m.

Call: (410) 298-8100

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