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Iman helps women with their 'inner, outer beauty'

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Iman --- one of fashion's first supermodels --- knows a thing or two about starting over.

"I was born in East Africa and had a very privileged life," she said during a recent beauty seminar in Atlanta. "But overnight, another [government] regime took over and people were disappearing. My family and I had to cross the border to Kenya by foot, with nothing. Nonprofit organizations took us in."

"It can happen to anyone," said the 51-year-old owner of a global beauty company. "By the grace of God, I'm here."

And she's using her cosmetics company to help other women make a fresh start. The model and entrepreneur will donate $2 from the sale of every $11.99 Beauty Success Kit to Dress for Success --- an international nonprofit that provides career clothing for underprivileged women. The kit, available at select Wal-Mart stores and, features a lip gloss, bronzer, two eye shadows, a lipstick, blush and lip pencil, with step-by-step application instructions. The company also will donate $25,000 in cosmetics to Dress for Success, which also helps women retain their jobs and turn those jobs into careers.

"[Iman] reminded me of myself," said Nanda Cherry, attending the seminar.

Cherry, 46, is an Atlanta "Success" story. "I, too, lost everything. I want to empower women and help them, like she does."

After 18 years of marriage, Cherry found herself divorced and homeless. An employee at a women's center directed her to Dress for Success, which provided clothing and a job referral. Now she is director of Spirit of Oneness, which promotes family healing. Iman, who is married to pop singer David Bowie, launched her $40 million global cosmetics company 12 years ago. She talked to Style about a variety of subjects.

Q: Talk about Dress for Success.

A: I was honored last year by the organization. Many of the women in Dress for Success found makeup intimidating. My makeup kit is a confidence booster. It takes the guesswork out of everything. My goal is to encourage those who are entering the workforce to let their inner and outer beauty radiate.

Q: Share your thoughts on models reinventing themselves as moguls. For example, Tyra Banks has two successful TV shows, Heidi Klum just finished hosting "Project Runway" and Cindy Crawford designs for Rooms to Go.

A: Models used to become actresses after their runway days were over --- and not always successfully. Today's models are more business-minded. They think, "I am my own product, therefore I should make a business out of me." That's what I did.

Q: Are models too thin?

A: It is not healthy to have a barrage of images of extremely skinny models. Young girls look up to models and want to emulate them. Younger and younger girls are having body-image problems. They say, "Oh, I have to lose weight." I tell them: "Looking good is not just about your body weight. It's about the whole you. Where is your heart, your soul, your spirit?"

Copyright 2006 The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

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