As a groundbreaking supermodel and cosmetics entrepreneur, Iman is uniquely aware of the difficulties women of color have had with skin care and makeup. In her new book, “The Beauty of Color: The Ultimate Beauty Guide for Skin of Color,” she teaches readers how to work with skin care regimens and palettes targeted to their exact skin tone and type. Iman visited “Today” to discuss her book. Here's an excerpt.
Unfortunately, we are a society that follows trends and allows others to define beauty for us.
Women have been expected to imitate the trends of “beauty” throughout history. Ironically, a body shape that could be perceived as big today would have been perfect in a different time or culture, and lips that have gone through so much pain to be artificially inflated … because today big lips are considered sexy — in the past would have been looked on as a deformity, even though in Africa, elongating lips has been around forever.
If you think about it, no matter what you look like, you were, for sure, perceived as beautiful in some time or place. But do YOU feel beautiful?
People often say that “beauty is in the eye of the beholder,” and I say that the most liberating thing about beauty is realizing that YOU are the beholder. This empowers us to find beauty in places where others have not dared to look, including inside ourselves. Behold yourself as beautiful. Have the courage to celebrate the things about you that are unique. Find beauty in everything you are, even your weaknesses; let the beauty of your spirit shine through imperfections.
If you are the eye of the beholder, is this eye looking at life through your own fears and insecurities? Or through your own beauty? It is up to you to make that decision.
If we see ourselves as beautiful, then we can see the beauty in others and others can see the beauty in us.
If beauty is in the eye of the beholder, then what we find beautiful says a lot about who we are and our limitations.
I think that happiness relies a lot upon our ability to find beauty in everything in life; therefore, I am mostly a very happy person, because I can find beauty in just about everything, from planets to bugs, from flowers to rocks, in people of all colors, sizes and ages. I find it in smiles with broken teeth and crooked mouths, in sunsets and rainy days, but most of all I find it in the courage to be unique and the passion to discover and celebrate who we are as individuals.
Iman is one of the most beautiful women in the world. She walks through life with the grace and elegance that comes from being proud of who she is.
Iman means “magnet” in Spanish, and what an appropriate name for a woman with eyes that capture and almost hypnotize you. In them, you sense a woman who has seen and loved the world for its diversity and its endless potential for beauty.
In “The Beauty of Color,” Iman pays tribute to women in all their delicious natural hues — from caramel, toffee, and buttermilk to cinnamon, chocolate, and nutmeg.
This book will take you far beyond makeup techniques and beauty tips to help you rediscover the power that comes from embracing every quality that makes you an unforgettable, unique beauty.
IntroductionI arrived in America from Africa in 1975 to model. At the time, I had been a student at Nairobi University, majoring in political science, and I’d never worn makeup before — nor heels, for that matter. My first photo shoot, two days after I arrived in Manhattan, was with one of the first celebrity makeup artists, Way Bandy, and legendary fashion photographer Francesco Scavullo. Bandy had the smallest makeup kit — a brown pencil, a black pencil, black mascara, an eyelash curler, baby powder, and an orangey blush. He said he would create the right “base” for me — in 1975 it was called “base,” not “foundation” — and for the next half-hour, he mixed together a bunch of foundation colors — brown, yellow, red, and tawny. Imagine, thirty minutes to create the right shade. But this experience would prove to be the exception in the modeling industry.
As I started working professionally for high-end magazines, I was subjected time and time again to this perplexing question from makeup artists: “Did you bring your foundation?” It was a question never asked of my Caucasian counterparts. Photo after photo of me with disastrous skin tone made me realize that I had to learn the art of base for myself. I started mixing and matching foundations. I’d play chemist, mixing up to three different colors to achieve the perfect combination to match my skin (more on this in the foundation section).
Even though I was one of the top models in my day, I never had an artist do my makeup at fashion shows — I always did my own. In fact, the celebrated models of my generation were a diverse group of global beauties — Pat Cleveland from New York City, Dalma from Brazil, Marie Helvin from Hawaii, Mounia from Martinique, Kirat from India, and Sayoko from Japan — and I assure you, makeup artists almost never had the right makeup for any of us. I needed to do something, as much for myself as for all the global girls I knew, so I decided to launch IMAN Cosmetics, a skincare and cosmetics line for women with skin of color.
It became an instant success with beauty editors, makeup artists and celebrities.
But most importantly, it was a success with everyday women.
Before I began creating the line, I embarked on a quest to redefine what “women with skin of color” means — black, Latina, Asian, Native American, Mediterranean, and Middle Eastern women, and all the other women of the world. I wanted to create a unique line that caters specifically to the needs of skin of color. I conducted a series of interviews with diverse women — from all ages, occupations, and walks of life — and I found that their cosmetics needs were identical to mine. Flawless foundations that flattered — not altered — our skin tones, products for two-tone lips, SPF-infused skin-care (the sun does not discriminate, ladies), and the ultimate bronzer — yes, bronzer: Skin of color also looks gorgeous with a sun-kissed sheen!
Today we’re embarking on a new era, when the most celebrated beauties in the world are women with skin of color: Halle Berry is, indisputably, the most beautiful woman in Hollywood; Jennifer Lopez has the most coveted bronzed glow ever; Lucy Liu has that magnificent elegance with a touch of tomboy freckles; and Cameron Diaz is the ultimate, high-voltage, bubbly California girl!
Although my makeup collection was an inspiration for starting this book, that’s not what the following pages are about. Instead, my hope is to offer a singular and original look at the beauty of skin of color — in its various shades and origins. Here, you’ll find how to choose the right foundation for you. How to go from classic to vampy in minutes. How to come to terms with the high-maintenance diva that you are. How to turn age-old makeup rules inside out by wearing traffic-stopping glitter for day, and a fresh, bronzy face at night. Anything and everything goes.
Make up your own rules. In this book, I hope you’ll find ideas for using makeup as self-expression, and easy instructions on improving the way you look and empowering the way you feel.—Iman
Excerpted from “The Beauty of Color: The Ultimate Beauty Guide for Skin of Color,” by Iman. Copyright © 2005, Iman. All rights reserved. Published by . No part of this excerpt can be used without permission of the publisher.
For more information about Iman's beauty products, check out www.imancosmetics.com.