As she prepares for this month's red-hot Victoria's Secret runway show, supermodel Chanel Iman talks about high fashion, new projects and what it takes to earn her wings.
FROM TOMBOY TO BOMBSHELL
Like so many supermodels before her, Chanel Iman was a bit of a tomboy—sort of. “I wouldn’t say I was a tomboy, but I had tomboy intentions,” she says with a laugh. “I played a lot of basketball when I was younger. I went to a summer basketball camp once at UCLA with 500 boys, and I was the only girl. And I won Most Valuable Player.”
There’s a good chance those same 500 boys would now bestow on the 19-year-old beauty any title she desires, given her latest gig: Victoria’s Secret Angel.
20TH BIRTHDAY WISH
Iman (her real last name is Robinson—Iman is her middle name) will walk in the Victoria's Secret runway show for the second time when the 2010 edition debuts this month in New York. The event airs on CBS at 10 pm on November 30, which also happens to be the eve of Iman’s 20th birthday. When we spoke in late August, she did indeed have a birthday wish: “I haven’t worn the wings yet,” Iman said of the show’s signature model props. “But I’m sure it will happen this season.”
OWNING HER APPEAL
Walking a Victoria’s Secret show is a decidedly different experience from other fashion runways, a fact to which Iman can easily attest, as she’s a favorite of everyone from Gucci to Louis Vuitton, Yves Saint Laurent to Phillip Lim. “I love walking a show like John Galliano, or a haute-couture show like Dior, when you really can get into a character,” she says. “With Victoria’s Secret, it’s all about being glamorous and sexy. You feel like you’re on top of the world wearing lingerie in front of all those people; you have to be very confident. But I don’t mind—I’m at that age when I want to get naked in front of people anyway.”
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The Red Bag Boutique, an LA store Iman recently opened with her mom, China, also commands her attention between modeling gigs. “I like to be in the store when I’m not working,” she says. “The concept is that it’s for women both my age and my mom’s age, so half the clothes are trendy for me, and then more classic, sophisticated stuff for my mom.”
Lately she’s been splitting her time between New York and Los Angeles, though she’s most definitely a Miami fan: “I go all the time. I’d love to buy a house there,” she says.
And though still shy of her 20th birthday, Iman realizes that success not only begets fantasy-like modeling gigs and the chance to own a boutique, but also the opportunity to give back. The HerShe group, an LA-based organization that helps girls in the foster-care program, is among the charity efforts that draw Iman’s focus. “These are girls who’ve never really had a home, so they have no grounding,” she says. “So we do things together—picnics, bowling—to show them they’re not alone. I’m just grateful to be given the opportunity to do more than model, to be a voice as well.” Sounds like she’ll earn those wings with no problem.
“Casa Tua. I love the hedges all around. It’s so private, and every time I go, they’re so sweet: ‘Hi, Chanel, welcome back, we have your table.’”
“I don’t have just one. I love The Raleigh, The Setai—which is so beautiful—but also the Delano and The Standard. I love the spa there with the Turkish hammam.”
“My friends and I always rent scooters. I’m not into clubs and stuff, but going to the beach and then riding around all night? Miami rocks.”