The daughter of a Somali diplomat, Iman had been studying political science in Nairobi, Kenya, where she caught the eye of fashion photographer Peter Beard. Encouraged by Beard to move to New York, by 1979 Iman had appeared in Vogue, and Revlon signed her to represent the company in an ad campaign—making her one of the first African or African-American models to achieve such status. Modeling led to small parts in motion pictures and television, including Miami Vice (1985), House Party 2 (1991), The Human Factor (1979), Jane Austen in Manhattan (1980), and Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country (1991). Since 1992, she has been married to British glam rocker David Bowie.
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