The 'insult' that launched Iman's career

When renowned photographer Peter Beard approached the young Iman in the streets of Nairobi to ask if she had ever been photographed, Iman was far from flattered—she was insulted.

‘I was very insulted,’ she told CBS. ‘Because I thought, “Oh, here goes, a white man thinking Africans have never seen a camera before in their lives!”’

Iman explained that she thought Beard was trying to pick her up, until he made clear his intentions. ‘He said, “I’ll pay.” And that was my first business transaction I made.’

Fees from the first photograph went toward Iman’s tuition, earning her a modelling contract and a ticket to New York in the process.


Along the way, Beard concocted a more sensational story of how he discovered the young model. Rather than telling the truth about encountering Iman, the daughter of a diplomat and a doctor, in bustling Nairobi, Beard told the press, ‘That I didn't speak a word of English, let alone other languages, that I was goat herding! I am an ambassador’s daughter!’ she said.

The model agreed to go along with Beard’s fictionalised story, wearing traditional dress and a tusk necklace to a press conference at which she pretended she had just learned English.

Now she’s married to David Bowie and earns $25-30 million a year for her cosmetics line. Who knew?

Watch the full interview here

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