Iman on her marriage to David Bowie: ‘make your priority of what you want’


Philanthropist, businesswoman and former supermodel Iman is featured in the Own Network’s series Oprah: Where Are They Now? The interview took place before she lost her husband, David Bowie, in January and her mother, who passed away earlier this month. As the interview took place shortly before David’s death, I am sure she knew at the time that he was losing his battle to cancer, which made me choke up as I read it. In case you don’t know, Iman, who is Somalian, became a high fashion model when she appeared in Vogue in 1976. In 1989, still in her peak, she retired to pursue other endeavors. One of those pursuits was her Iman Cosmetics line that she launched in 1994. David was Iman’s third husband and they have daughter Alexandra who is currently 15. Iman is also mother to Zulekha Haywood and stepmother to David’s son Duncan. In the interview for Own, Iman speaks about how her 24-year marriage to David lasted and why Paris Hilton is to blame for her leaving the runway.

By Hollywood standards, Iman and David Bowie defied the odds.

Iman said the secret to their “lasting marriage” was timing.

“You have to be at the right time your life that you’re ready for an everlasting relationship, that it becomes a first priority in your life. If your career is important to you, don’t get married and have children, because something will give. I know as women we want to be able to have it all, but we can’t have it all at the same time. So, make your priority of what you want at that time. Sometimes you don’t even have to get married,” she said. “Why do you have to get married?”

In the episode, Iman also discussed how a certain celebrity reaffirmed her decision to retire from modeling 26 years ago. “I was just starting to create Iman Cosmetics, so I wanted to be also taken seriously and not be at fashion shows every day. But what really put the nail there for me was that I read they held a show—an hour—for Paris Hilton. I knew the game had changed. It became where everybody wants to be seen and it’s become a different animal. I mean, when you have D-listers…We’re not talking about Linda Fargo from Bergdorf Goodman. You know, you hold a show for that person because she is the establishment; she is fashion. But, seriously? Paris Hilton?” she said. “No.”

[From E!Online]

This reads a little like Iman is saying that women must choose to get married or have a career and that you should only marry if and when you accept that. I don’t think Iman actually followed this advice, considering she started her company four years after she married David. While her advice might seem realistic (harsh, but realistic) to some people, many women can and do maintain healthy marriages, families and careers all at once. And again, men never get questions about “having it all” or having to “give up” something to maintain a marriage/family/career.

If you have never seen Iman in her modeling days, take a look. I have always been mesmerized by her elegance. I love that she took so much pride in her profession that she could not stand by as “D Listers” demeaned it.

Photo credit: WENN Photos and Getty Images

You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.

32 Responses to “Iman on her marriage to David Bowie: ‘make your priority of what you want’”

Comments are Closed

We close comments on older posts to fight comment spam.

  1. Esther says:

    “And again, men never get questions about “having it all” or having to “give up” something to maintain a marriage/family/career. ”

    thats because in the west the sole worth of a man is in his professional success. no one feels sorry for all the men who can barely see their kids.

    • Goodnight says:

      It’s certainly not just in the west, eastern cultures are much the same. I certainly feel shitty for men (or women) who can’t see their kids because they’re working their asses off.

  2. artpunk44 says:

    She is absolutely breathtaking. Married for 24 years, they really stood the test of time. David Bowie and Iman were one of my favorite couples.

  3. Zapp Brannigan says:

    They looked so happy together, just a couple that radiated joy in each others presence. And now I have made myself sad.

  4. Snowflake says:

    So beautiful, and so much presence. How does she look so good? What does she do? I’m so sad for her, losing her spouse and mom within a couple of months of each other. Heartbreaking.

  5. Jayna says:

    I took it to mean where you are consumed by your professional life and laser focused. She did start her business after she retired, and she used to say that David would tell her, but I have money, meaning you don’t have to go off and do this. She told him she wanted a career still. She said he adapted. But she said that her business was like a nine to five for her and later it was even earlier, where she came home and it was about him and then later about her child and him. Where before in her career, she was off traveling the world for her career and very busy.

    David and Iman didn’t even have a child early on in their marriage because she were still so busy with her getting the company off the ground and him still working hard. When they knew they could focus on a child as a family they started trying. They both still had a career with Lexi was born. David was even touring. It just wasn’t th end all be all that it was before. Then when David had his heart attack and Lexi was school age, he never really ever wanted to come back to touring and miss his family.
    I agree with her that timing and the right person was what worked for them. David in his 40s was a far different person than he was in his 30s. She had done it all and seen it all and she was in a different place also in her mid to late 30s. Then add they were crazy about each other.

    Great marriage and love. Very sad.

    • ladysussex says:

      Yeah I agree with you, and I think she’s speaking some wisdom here. Yes women CAN and do have it all, but they are spread thin. When I was teaching at a private school I had students whose moms were CEOs or top executives of major international companies. I was proud to know these women. They had nannies, and really tried their best to be there for school events, but I’m telling you they often felt guilty and exhausted. And when they did have time to be with their children they didn’t want to spend that time disciplining their kids, so it led to some indulgences and spoiling. Yes I believe wholeheartedly that women can (and do) rule the world. But the damned “biological clock” issues often make women have to make difficult choices that men just don’t have to think about.

      • blinditemreader says:

        This is so true about the biological clock issues. I’m going through perimenopause in my late 30s and it’s been difficult to come to terms with the fact that the combination of this and other factors means I will likely never have children. It’s very hard in a different way than it is for a man.

  6. celine says:

    Nobody can touch Iman. She will always be the epitome of elegance and grace.

  7. misscomm says:

    I don’t think she is saying you can’t have marriage and a career. But you should have your priorities straight in case you do need to prioritize. I agree with that.

    • Eleonor says:

      This is how I read it too, she is talking about priority, about knowing who you are and what you want, an being ready to organize to build your life around that.
      I also like this
      “You have to be at the right time your life that you’re ready for an everlasting relationship”. This is so true.

      • cd3 says:

        Yes, yes and yes. Wholeheartedly agree with Iman and these two comments.

        As a married working mom with 2 kids I know exactly what she means. When I first got married, we had 2-3 years on our own where we just focused on our relationship (#1) and careers (#2). We had our first kid about 4 years into our marriage. For the last 6 years, my focus has been our two kids – not my marriage or my career (for better or worse). Now that the kids are a bit older, I’m ready to shift my focus back to my career and make my husband more a priority as well.

        Yes, a woman CAN “have it all”… but it also means you have DO it all. So if you want to have a successful career, be a mom and have a relationship, you absolutely DO need to prioritize for the simple fact that you are one person that can’t be in two places at one!

  8. Marine says:

    I sometimes check her Instagram and the posts about David always make me quite emotional…she just lost her mother too, poor Iman 😟

  9. Nev says:


  10. Pandy says:

    I hear what she’s saying. Of course there are couples who can survive “having it all” but a lot don’t as the kids and or career take priority and they lose each other. Hence the high rates of gray divorce. Nothing left once the kids leave and retirement looms. I also think That the reason men aren’t questioned about this is because they are still expected to keep a stiff upper lip and hold in their feelings on this stuff. We women talk about it because we are “allowed” to be emotional. I bet if we asked men they would be upset at how they are expected to behave and the box they have been consigned to.

    • Ripley says:

      Making a career change as I write this… Have lived and breathed hospitality for 14 years. But my husband and I both being in hospitality simply doesn’t work and something’s gotta give for our son. So now my new job will have hours from 7-3 and while I will still work it won’t be as intense as hospitality can and will be. I’ll miss it, but need it for my priority is my family.

  11. Norman Bates's Mother says:

    I’m not sure if correctly, but I understand it, that she differentiates a career and a job. That it’s impossible to be fully focused on your career and fully focused on your family at the same time. When she was a full-time, busy, world-travelling famous super model, she was not able to focus on her family life and therefore her previous marriages failed. She just didn’t have time for it. But then she retired from modelling and decided to still work, but the cosmetics line was what a blue collar job is for us regular people. Something she does to live and in her case – something she loves and wants to do, but not a priority, because she shifted it towards the family life. It’s easier to be a good mom or dad when you work 5 days a week and come back home every night, than it is for someone who is gone for weeks and months on end (not necessarily celebs – soldiers, diplomats etc) or some business owner or a CEO who works 16 hours a day and it’s more a career than just a job.

    I still can’t believe David Bowie is gone. I can’t imagine what she must feel like – losing him and her mother almost at the same time. Heartbreaking.

  12. Lucy says:

    Love her! I hope she’s doing well, or as well as she can.

  13. Sam says:

    I get what she means. You have only a set number of hours each day, a set amount of energy. It’s finite. You need to make decisions about how to divvy that up. And the more of that time you put into career, the less you have for family. That’s not sexism, that’s basic numbers. And if you choose to put most of your hours into career, you will not have much time for relationships or family. That’s the hard truth. She’s totally right. A long-term relationship takes a time investment, and that time has to come from somewhere.

  14. chloe says:

    I still can’t believe David is gone and feel for Iman, loosing him and then her mother 2 months later is a heart breaker. I think her and David met at the perfect time in their lives, she had retired and slowed down the travel and he had sobered up and started to take control of his music and interests. I would be jealous of her, but she is was perfect for him.

    • cd3 says:

      I remember hearing a quote from David along the lines of: “Being a rich and famous rock star that’s married to a super model sounds like it’s pretty amazing… and it is!” Loved them as a couple.

  15. Kate says:

    I kind if read this as: you don’t need to do things in a certain order…

  16. rahrahrooey says:

    I hope this is isn’t really annoying but I think you would refer to her as Somali not Somalian. One of my best friends is Somali and she taught me that:)

  17. Velvet Elvis says:

    I LOVE her. I hate HSN but I will sit and watch it for hours when Iman is on presenting her products. Just a fabulous woman.

  18. DesertReal says:

    I believe her quotes inferred that you can have a good, lasting, marriage if you make that a priority. She didn’t say you couldn’t have a career & a family. Just that your focus more or less determines your reality. Like a camera lens- you can focus on only so many things before before the edges begin to blur.

  19. cd3 says:

    All I can say is that Iman was ROBBED of the most beautiful woman alive or whatever cover. Not that she needs any validation, but she is physically stunning, gracious, elegant, wise and unpretentious (at least to me).

  20. Neelyo says:

    I loved her on THE FASHION SHOW. So much better than PROJECT RUNWAY.

  21. Konspiracytheory says:

    A friend of mine interacted with both Bowie and Iman often through his job. Both were always a pleasure to work with – can’t say that about many celebrities.

  22. Emily C. says:

    EVERYONE who gets married needs to make their marriage a top priority. You can have your career be a top priority too, and you certainly don’t have to give it up, but you have to be willing to sacrifice in it if your spouse needs you. Your career can’t be the center of your universe if you care about your marriage. It’s true no matter your gender. I hope this is what she meant.