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Ex-Model Iman Hopes To Help Working Women
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Cosmetics firm founder, makeover artists travels country

By Cheryl Hall

Dallas , October 11, 2006 – Iman is a businesswoman on a mission.

The 51-year-old supermodel-turned-makeup maven wants to help working women of every skin tone put their best face forward.

Former supermodel Iman is a wife, mother and CEO of her own cosmetics company.

So she's traveling the country to do a little missionary work.

Iman (pronounced ee-mahn) and her troupe of makeover artists are hitting the aisles of Wal-Marts and other retail outlets around the nation.

They're introducing an all-in-one, one-for-all, cosmetic "success kit" that's designed to help women put on makeup that's business-appropriate.

"No woman entering the workforce wants to experiment in high-pigmented colors," says Iman, founder and chief executive of the international cosmetics company that bears her name. "She wants a simple, neutral-tone face that brings out the beauty that she is."

Just as important, Iman says, are the simple how-tos of putting on a workplace face. "I wanted to take out the guesswork for a woman who's already hesitant and fearful about getting into the workforce."

The kit retails for $12, and $2 of every kit sold goes to Dress for Success, which helps disadvantaged women enter the job market.

While she's in town, Iman is also holding the first in a multicity series of empowerment seminars for the nonprofit group's clients.

"Iman's a tremendous example of the powerful combination of beauty and brains," says Richelle Owens, board member of the Dallas affiliate, which currently counsels about two dozen women. "We are motivating our clients toward self-sufficiency, and she's a perfect role model for that."


In 1975, legendary photographer Peter Beard discovered Iman, the Somalia-born daughter of an African diplomat, while she was studying political science at Nairobi University. Soon after, she took the fashion world by storm with her debut in Vogue and became the first international supermodel of color.

Iman Cosmetics

The success kit is designed to help women put on business- appropriate makeup. It sells for $12, with $2 going to Dress for Success, which helps disadvantaged women find jobs.

She is married to rocker David Bowie and is the mother of two daughters.

But her day job is running Iman Cosmetics Skincare and Fragrances, which she founded in 1994 as the first collection designed for black, Asian, Latina and multicultural women.

It was conceived out of personal frustration.

"When I arrived in America, my first job on my third day in New York was with Vogue," says Iman, who was 19 at the time. "I was there with a blue-eyed, blond Caucasian model. And the makeup artist asked me, 'Did you bring your own foundation?'

"I quickly learned why. When the pictures came out, I could see the foundation looked gray," she says. "I was a model for 14 years and had to constantly mix and match product for myself."

At the outset, Iman had an exclusive agreement with J.C. Penney nationwide. Domestic sales catapulted to $20 million. But three years ago, the department store chain eliminated cosmetics, which meant Iman had to start over.

Pricing and profit

Many cosmetics companies proudly push pricing to the upper limits, but Iman chose the cheaper mass-merchant route. Under an agreement with Procter & Gamble, her products — which mostly sell for less than $14 apiece — are sold at Target, Walgreens and Wal-Mart throughout the United States.

Makeovers are her primary way of interacting with customers.

"Once you find a customer who tries and likes the product, she becomes a believer," she says.

U.S. sales this year should reach $12 million, with international sales running at the same rate.

Be a swan

Iman says she wants to give back by holding sessions with economically struggling Dress for Success clients.

"Humor helps," she intends to tell them. "Once you prepare yourself to go into that workplace, try to feel confident."

She knows that's asking a lot.

"We all have self-esteem issues. But try to be a swan about it," she says. "When you see a swan on a pond, it looks so elegant and calm on the outside. But under the water, you can see it's paddling like hell."

So what would Iman know about that?

"I come from a country that's renowned for beauties," she says. "I was your average girl. Even today, I'm not considered a beauty in my country.

"When I was in high school — we were like 4,000 or 5,000 students, and 50 were girls — and I didn't have a date for my prom. My father paid my cousin to take me."

Source: The Dallas Morning News

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