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Tuesday, June 25, 2024

Getting to Know Iman on a Personal Level

You’re not going to go inside her room. Ever. You’re not going to make it beyond the front door, most likely. For years, people have been attempting to figure out precisely where the supermodel Iman and her husband David Bowie had hidden themselves in the Catskill Mountains with their son.

They were never able to figure it out. Still, few Woodstock residents are aware of the exact site, albeit it is not far from the historic town that the lauded Mr. Bowie dismissed on his first visit in 2002, describing it as “too cute for words.”

When Mr. Bowie came upon an ad for a hillside home with vistas that were mostly unchanged since James Fenimore Cooper described them, he saw something more in the landscape: an escape route from the spotlight.

On a leather couch at the Polo Bar, we were enjoying a drink. Having just been sprung from jail, Ralph Lauren’s midtown clubhouse for the glitterati is once again thriving, but it is not yet serving lunch..

That’s beside the point. When Mr. Lauren learned that Iman would be in town for a few days to promote her first project since Mr. Bowie’s death — Love Memoir, which is Iman’s first perfume and was inspired by their nearly quarter-century relationship — he not only threw open the restaurant’s doors in welcome, but he also dressed her for the occasion in a stock-tied floral print prairie dress, a chunky silver belt, and calfskin Wellington boots.

It is possible for people to envision a wide range of things about Iman, projecting onto the screen of her beauty an array of imaginations created by someone with her natural elegance, aristocratic demeanour, and a neck so gracefully shortened that she considered it a superpower during fashion castings.

While she curses profusely and readily slips into conspiratorial laughing with a reporter, the noise created by a bartender putting cubes into an ice bin threatens to drown out their talk, which is then cut short. When it occurs for the first time, Iman chooses to ignore it. Everything around her comes to a complete halt twice.

First and foremost, Iman said, she and David Bowie want a safe haven away from a media that is constantly hungry for celebrities’ emotional debris. They were also eager to break away from the psychological congestion that had accumulated as a result of their own mythology.

As a contrast to his elaborately constructed and chameleon-like public persona, his superstar status, and his supersize public presence, David Bowie in private was introspective, a dedicated autodidact and, as his wife Iman described him, an old-fashioned hubby who was so spoiled by her domestic skills (“I make a mean, mean, mean rotisserie chicken”) that she hardly ever got to eat out after they married.

By the time the two met, Iman had already built a successful cosmetics company, Iman Cosmetics, which specialised in skin care products for people of colour and had been in operation for many years. And she had spent decades transforming the alleged glitter of a modelling profession into a substantial personal wealth, which she shared with her husband.

He said that Iman, a Somali protégé who had been educated at boarding schools in Cairo and Nairobi and at Nairobi University, was the daughter of a goatherd he had come across while wandering in the African jungle, and he brought her to Diana Vreeland at Vogue.

She and Mr. Bowie, according to Iman, saw something special and strong in one other from their very first encounter. They both felt an instant emotional charge on that first date, which they enhanced by the shared belief that they had discovered in each other kindred souls who were ready to form a relationship away from the limelight of fame and fortune.

While their daughter attended the innovative Little Red Schoolhouse (now known as LREI) in Greenwich Village, the couple lived in an apartment near the Puck Building in SoHo, which she just sold to another couple. In the end, it was just her and her memories in the vast space.

The couple has increasingly retired to their upstate home over the past decade, and they have done so during the majority of Mr. Bowie’s carefully disguised sickness. After David Bowie died of liver cancer in 2016, it was there that Iman found herself once again huddled up for the night. And it was only in that space of alone that she was able to begin to process her sorrow.

Jonathan James
Jonathan James
I serve as a Senior Executive Journalist of The National Era
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