When Chanel Iman watched Lupita Nyong’o win her Best Supporting Actress Oscar two weeks ago, she burst into tears. “It was a very emotional moment,” says Iman, smiling on the sun-blanched patio of Mr C’s restaurant in Beverly Hills. “All my friends and I were holding hands in front of the television, willing her to win. Then when she did it was like we had been given the award. Because I really believe that having a black woman win an Oscar is going to help pave the way, not just in her industry, but mine.”
The 23-year-old supermodel has always been vocal on the subject of race. Uncomfortably so, some members of the fashion industry – which can swing from straight-forwardly racist to wildly tokenistic, without ever seeming to
“We’ve come a LONG way, [but DIVERSITY] is an issue my industry is still WORKING on”
find a middle ground – might think. And yet, thankfully, it is not a subject Iman is likely to shut up about any time soon. “It’s an issue that my industry is still working on,” she says, a picture of LA cool in a tie-dye tank top and pajama-style pants, a tiny Chanel bag sitting like a coveted pooch on her lap. “I think that everyone should be equal; it shouldn’t be about color. It’s unfortunate that there is still a lot of politics involved in both the acting and modeling worlds. I do think we’ve come a long way, but things could still be a lot more diverse on the runway and in films.”
Was she not worried that she was taking a risk, speaking out so early on in her career about the fashion world’s biggest elephant in the room, when she told the press two years ago that “a few times I got excused by designers who told me ‘We already found one black girl. We don’t need you anymore’”?
“I don’t think so,” Iman shrugs, perusing the menu, “because I was just saying things that were true. When people ask me questions, I’ll tell them how I feel.”