Iman: ‘I am the face of a refugee’


It’s a warm early summer day in New York, and at a fashionable photographer’s studio in fashionable Soho Iman is having her portrait taken. On the walls are dozens of enlarged close-ups of other people who have all sat, at one time or another, for Platon, the London-born photographer who has made his name and career photographing the rich and powerful.

All the greats are here: Bill Clinton, Bill Gates, Saddam Hussein. And beneath them, Iman Mohamed Abdulmajid, the only black woman in a room of images of mostly white men, is doing her best to follow Platon’s directions. “That’s GORGEOUS, sweetheart. That’s right, turn your chin just very slightly. Thank you, darling. That’s fucking BEAUTIFUL!”

It’s 24 years since Iman retired from modelling, but you’d never know it. She’s a completely unlikely looking 58 and is sitting in front of a stark all-white backdrop simply dressed all in black – black jeans and a black jumper that emphasises her extraordinary swan-like neck – and she is completely focused. Two assistants move in to adjust the lights and Platon crouches down to whisper his next set of instructions. “I want to see your compassion, that’s what this is all about. And your bravery. Show me that brave, brave woman. Show me that with your eyes.”

Iman shows him that with her eyes.

“That’s BOOOT-I-FUL, sweetheart!” roars Platon. The studio manager, a young woman in full Annie Hall get-up, claps excitedly. It does make me wonder about the Saddam Hussein shoot. Was he a sweetheart too? Iman is oblivious, however; her focus absolute. She is a pro, down to her well-manicured fingertips. But then it’s not an accident that she was the world’s first black supermodel. The first black model to make serious cash. Read more.