Iman was married to David Bowie for nearly 30 years, and the two were the definition of a “power couple”: Bowie revolutionized the role of the modern-day rock star while Iman transformed what it meant to be a supermodel — and her efforts took her far from the catwalk.
Just because you’re a beloved celebrity couple, however, doesn’t mean you don’t go through rough patches. When Iman was going through a particularly hard time, she looked to the one person she trusted more than anyone else for guidance…and what he told her altered her mindset forever.
Iman is more than her last name: Professionally, she goes by only her first name, which is now like gold in the supermodel world. Still, Iman’s supermodel status is only a piece of the complex, fascinating puzzle that is her life.
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If anything besides her marriage has made her a household name, it’s her legendary makeup line, Iman Cosmetics. The multi-million dollar company is the result of hard-work, sweat, and tears — and without Bowie, it may not have existed at all.
As a young model, Iman’s slender figure and long neck made her an instant success, but she credits these distinct features to her Somali heritage. In fact, it took Iman years to come to terms with the fact that she was even “model material.”
“Nobody [had] ever said to me that I was pretty,” Iman said of her upbringing. Having grown up in Somalia, Egypt, and Kenya during times of political unrest, Iman had never considered modeling as an option until photographer Peter Beard told her it was.
Iman’s life as an international sensation began from there, but the mindset she had as a child — that her attractive features were just her genes and her success attributed to sheer luck — never waned, not even when she transcended supermodel status…
Iman became a muse to many of the world’s most celebrated designers, including Yves Saint-Laurent, who described Iman as his “dream woman.” But Iman wanted to be more than someone else’s dream — she wanted to make her own dreams come true.
Having survived political and social turmoil in Somalia, there was more to Iman than her long legs and wide smile. “The women I gravitate to are the ones who defy convention,” she once said — so she was determined to do so herself.
In the 1980s, after ten years of modeling, Iman branched out into the film industry. Though acting wasn’t a long term goal, even her smallest roles, like in the Oscar-winning movie Out of Africa, left an impression on movie goers.
Despite her acting career, Iman knew there was more for her to discover. By 1987, she had been twice married and divorced. She had every intention of expanding her career into other industries, not to fall in love again…
But that’s exactly what happened in 1990, when Iman first crossed paths with legendary rock star David Bowie. As Bowie himself attested, he was so intimidated by the supermodel that all he could choke out when he met her was, “tea?”
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“He doesn’t drink tea. He never drinks tea. He had coffee!” Iman revealed of their first date. As awkward as Bowie thought he was, Iman later said she was charmed by him…and a little intimidated herself.
“I did not want to get involved with a rock star,” she joked. “It is not a sane thing to do!” Regardless, the pair got married in 1992. As Iman said, however, being married to David Bowie didn’t include the theatrics you may expect.
“I fell in love with David Jones,” she said, referencing Bowie’s real name. “Bowie is just a persona.” Still, Bowie was known for his constant reinvention, so when Iman came to him with a daring idea, he gave her a stereotypically “Bowie” response.
In 1994, Iman kept arriving at the same problem: Her distinct makeup shade just wasn’t being produced by any major brands. She was tired of her skin color being an obstacle when she was in the makeup chair…
She wanted to produce a makeup line with shades for all women, “Asian, Latina, African…regardless of what hue you are,” she said. She had the idea, the money, and the passion to make it happen…but she just didn’t have the guts.
Iman, the supermodel known for downplaying her accomplishments, was similarly uncertain about her ability to spearhead a cosmetics line. So she looked to her husband, who was known for his own boundary-breaking use of makeup, for guidance.
And like the rock-star he was, Iman said that Bowie “literally did not understand fear.” It was this fearlessness that gave her the push she needed. “If it wasn’t for him, I would never have done it,” Iman recently confessed.
“He was in my corner…every step of the way,” Iman recalled. So as it turns out, we have David Bowie in part to thank for the highly successful Iman Cosmetics brand. Still, there’s one person whose own legacy will be forever connected to the brand.
“At the end of the day, my legacy will not be modeling but my cosmetics line,” Iman herself once admitted. Though the brand rakes in millions of dollars annually, she’s always had just one goal with the make up line.
“I wanted to change the language of beauty,” Iman said. “It was about women with skin of color, which means the whole world.” Thanks to David Bowie’s fearlessness and Iman’s bravery, we have Iman Cosmetics — which won’t be going anywhere anytime soon.
The rock-star lifestyle may not seem like the kind of place a healthy, happy relationship will flourish, but Iman and David Bowie obviously proved this wrong. Freddie Mercury, similarly, was the stereotypical party-loving rock-star, and his lifestyle put his own relationship to the test.
Freddie Mercury, the man from Zanzibar who rose to rock-god status with Queen, was at the top of his game when he felt the pangs of cupid’s arrow. Funny enough, the “arrow” was a man who had turned him down once before.
It was 1985 when Mercury met Jim Hutton for the first time at Heaven, a gay club in London. Mercury was smitten immediately, but Hutton not so much; he didn’t recognize Mercury and actually refused the drink the rock star offered to buy him.
At that time, Hutton was romantically involved with someone. So he sent the rock ‘n’ roll god packing. About a year and a half later, however, they ran into each other for a second time while out clubbing.
Once again, Mercury offered to again buy him a drink, and this time, Hutton felt a bit more inclined to accept the offer. Sparks flew in both directions.
The men began dating soon after their second club encounter. Not even one year later Hutton packed up his things and officially moved into Mercury’s London estate, a gorgeous mansion called Garden Lodge.
As Hutton soon found out, maintaining a relationship with someone as famous as Freddie Mercury was far from easy. Mercury was constantly in the spotlight, and this often led to heated arguments.
Hutton recalled one frustrating evening when he saw Mercury leaving a club with another man. When confronted about it, Mercury admitted to Hutton he did it purely to make him jealous.
The foundation of the relationship came to a true test when Hutton gave Mercury an ultimatum after he caught the singer with a yet another stranger: be with him and only him, or get lost.
While the singer might’ve enjoyed a more open relationship, Mercury ultimately chose to give up the secretive antics and committed solely to Hutton.
Even though you’d think dating and living with a rock star would be nothing but a party every minute of the day, the men spent their alone time quite mellowly. Mercury was surprisingly shy and reserved offstage.
Hutton said, “He loved his cats. I’d get in from work. We’d lie together on the sofa. He would massage my feet and ask about my day.” The men were in love, but amazingly, Mercury never publicly came out to anyone.
That Mercury never publicly revealed his sexual orientation didn’t bother Hutton at all. Both Hutton and Mercury sported wedding rings as proof of their commitment to each other, and that was enough.
Hutton said this of Mercury’s refusal to publicly come out: “He might have worried about how coming out would have affected him professionally but he didn’t say that. We both thought our relationship, and being gay, was our business.”
The pair managed to find a balance between the wild life Mercury lived with Queen and the calm and intimate time they spent together at Garden Lodge. In 1987, however, their blissfulness came to a screeching halt.
Mercury revealed to Hutton doctors diagnosed him with AIDS, and naturally, Hutton was destroyed by the news. Putting Hutton first, Mercury offered to end the relationship.
But Hutton, ever the romantic, was dedicated to making Mercury’s remaining years as meaningful and comfortable as possible.
At the time Mercury was diagnosed, AIDS treatment was still in its infancy. Mercury, having the wealth he did, could get private treatments in his home. Hutton stood by his side for each session.
Painfully, Hutton could only watch as Mercury slowly deteriorated. He sensed Mercury knew the end was coming when he made the choice to stop his AIDS medication.
So it was that on November 24, 1991, the man who mesmerized the world with his energetic aura, Freddie Mercury, passed away.
The world of music took a massive hit on the day Mercury died. Entertainers from all over showed up to offer their condolences. Afterwards, Mercury’s fortune was split between two people in his life who had impacted him most.
Mary Austin who was actually engaged to Mercury prior to his relationship with Jim Hutton, took over his Garden Lodge estate. Hutton was still living there at the time, but Austin forced him out. Mercury, however, made sure Hutton wasn’t left penniless.
The singer left one million dollars to Hutton, who used the money to move back to his home country of Ireland. Not long after the move, he wrote a book titled Mercury and Me detailing life with the singer. Hutton lived in Ireland until his passing in 2010.
Some might say it was fate that reconnected Mercury and Hutton 18 months after their first encounter. Either way, both men were committed to each other, and although Mercury was a massive celebrity, the love both men had for each other was always real.
Whether you’re a fan of Queen or not, you can’t dispute the fact Freddie Mercury and Jim Hutton had something special. When you take a look at the history of Mercury, Queen, and their rise to stardom, everything about the group screams special…
Mercury’s birth name was Farrokh Bulsara. He was born on the Zanzibar islands in 1946 to parents who worked for the British government. They had no idea they were raising a child who would one day take over the world of rock.
Although Mercury was born in Zanzibar, he attended school in Mumbai, where he realized he had a knack for the piano. He also joined his very first band, The Hectics. His journey to the top of the music game had begun.
One of the first major bands Mercury joined was called Smile. In the group, he met future Queen band mates Brian May and Roger Summers. Apparently, he would constantly talk about how he was going to be a huge pop star.
Mercury finally got the chance to lead Smile after the singer quit, and he did so with power. The band renamed themselves Queen, and people quickly fell in love with Mercury’s prodigious vocals.
It’s hard to picture Queen releasing an album that no one buys, but the first self-titled record they put out struggled to hit high numbers. This was because not many people had heard of the band yet.
The band members’ degrees are so varied they could start a small college: Brian May has a PhD in physics and astronomy, John Deacon has a doctorate in electronics, Roger Taylor is a trained dentist, and Freddie Mercury held a degree in graphic art.
Queen’s big break came after they opened for a popular British rock group called Mott the Hoople. Queen joined them for a United States tour shortly after and spread their music to millions of more fans.
When Queen first started selling copious amounts of records, they weren’t seeing much income because of their seedy management company. They went on to hire Elton John’s manager, John Reid, who helped carry them to greatness.
When the final version of “Bohemian Rhapsody” was unveiled to Elton John, he was skeptical it would succeed due to its length. However, Mercury refused to make it shorter, and the song ended up being number one for nine straight weeks in the United Kingdom.
Mercury managed to keep many aspects of his personal life private. However, fans did know about a woman named Mary Austin, whom Mercury was engaged to for six years before she called it off. The two remained close friends.
Freddie Mercury and Michael Jackson were two of the world’s biggest singers at the time, but they never wrote music together. Mercury allegedly was put off by Jackson’s somewhat strange behavior, such as always bringing his pet llama to the recording studio.
Queen was a household name by the 1980s, and fans all over the world loved singing along. However, there was one country where Queen was more popular than anywhere else: Argentina!
One of the biggest gigs Queen ever played was at a soccer stadium in Buenos Aires. The band played to over 100,000 fans, and the performance earned them a spot at one of the best music studios in Montreal, Canada, when it came time for them to record again.
Mercury was big on cats, and at one point, he owned 10 of them. His soft spot started when he was with Mary Austin after they adopted a pair of felines named Tom and Jerry. He even wrote a song called Delilah about his favorite cat.
When Queen came out with the song “I Want to Break Free,” people all over loved it. However, when the music video debuted and Americans saw the band dressed in drag, it left a sour taste in some mouths and several stations banned it.
Although the reaction of “I Want to Break Free” was unexpected, Queen wasn’t the least bit deterred. In 1985, they performed the most memorable show of the band’s career at the Live Aid Concert in Wembley Stadium.
Throughout much of Queen’s success, Mercury hid his HIV diagnosis from his family and friends. Eventually, they found out when his body began deteriorating in front of their eyes.
Mercury passed away shortly after turning 45 years old. He left all of his belongings to his ex-fiance and close friend Mary Austin. More importantly, he left a profound impact on the world music fans will remember for the rest of time.
Queen’s performance at Wembley Stadium during the Live Aid performance in 1985 was one of the most memorable shows any band has ever staged. Just watching footage of it is enough to send shivers down your spine.
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