Meet CLEO Hot Shot 2019: Iman Osman

Iman Osman, 29, Model

Body suit, Pink Soda; jacket and sneakers, both Adidas, all from JD; denim, Iman’s own; watch, Fossil

Although Iman Osman got into the modelling industry completely by chance, she has since received offers from a tonne of brands eager to work with her and is totally natural at it. Her passion for it grew as she was involved in brand campaigns that exposed her to the creative industry and she found it extremely compelling and exciting, even despite the long hours. Having faced a number of challenges along the way, particularly on her appearance, she’s only come out stronger and better for it.

How was it when you were first starting out? 

I started out by helping friends. In the beginning, I was just doing it for fun while I was still pursuing my business degree. Most of the shoots I did were for make-up startups  — they were very short and simple. Not long after that, I realised that I actually loved doing this and I could get paid for it. I continued working with a friend who brought me in to one of her campaigns and it was right after that campaign that other work offers came in, in leaps and bounds.

What’s one of the most interesting shoots you have done?

Last year, I worked with Jenn Low of Wanderlust & Co (also a CLEO Hot Shot!). The Campaign we did was, the ‘Make It Yours Campaign’. The SS19 collection was designed in celebration of independent women who want to express themselves through their personal stories and how that particular charm represented us. The most challenging and interesting part of the shoot was getting the right shots as the accessories were the main models. This was my first time working with a jewellery brand and it wasn’t as simple as modelling for a clothing or cosmetic brands.

How is the industry changing? Do you think there’s a real shift in terms of diversity?

We have seen great strides and changes being made in the beauty and fashion perception in the industry. More focus is given to women with colour, plus sizes and skin [imperfections]. Exposure and recognition of these groups is a boost to women’s confidence and self-esteem, and will help them be comfortable in their own skin.

“One very important strength that has helped to boost my self-confidence is facing discrimination, whether at work or in my life. I do not allow it to discourage or upset me. Having dealt with this issue has made me stronger.”

Tell us about a project or accomplishment that you consider to be the most significant in your career.

I was the face for an organic product for all skin types. One of the campaigns we did was called Beauty Beyond Colour. The campaign was to promote skincare awareness, that beauty is not defined by the colour of your skin and to let everyone write a message to family, friends or lovers to empower them and tell them how great they are.

I was attacked for my skin colour and received venomous comments from netizens on the issue of why this Malaysian brand would hire a dark-skinned model for a Malaysian organic product, despite having so many other fair Malaysian models out there. I won’t lie, I spent many nights feeling hurt and angry but I did not retaliate. Instead, I was blessed to have thousands of people comprising of family, friends and just people on social media who were totally supportive of my work.

What was the biggest challenge you faced in your career? How did you overcome it?

One very important strength that has helped to boost my self-confidence is facing discrimination whether at work or in my life. I do not allow it to discourage or upset me. Having dealt with this issue has made me stronger.

What would you say to young women who are looking to do what you’re doing?

If you have a strong passion to pursue modelling, my advice is to go out there and do it. Do not let comments about your weight, height, colour of your skin, size or even skin deformities discourage your ambition. Go all out and work hard. An important point to bear in mind is up until today there are agencies and parties out there who do not pay you your money’s worth. The hours can be long and the charges are unreasonable based on the amount of hours you put in. Know your worth and don’t undersell yourself. Remember that although you start from the bottom, you should work your way up.

Is there one unique story or thing you’d like our readers to know about you that they’ve never known before?

There was only a handful of people who believed in me and knew I could make it out there i.e my family and a few close friends who had vision and believed in me. When I was 13, my mum took me to a casting and I was immediately told that this is not the face they wanted i.e. my colour was ‘not right’. I was personally affected by the comments about my skin colour, my weight, hair etc.

With time, exposure, positive thinking and my perseverance in dealing with discrimination, I have evolved into the strong, confident and grounded woman that I am today.

Special thanks to Tropicana Gardens Property Gallery for venue assistance during the shoot.

Official sponsors: Biotherm MalaysiaJD Malaysia and Fossil Malaysia