|Birth country: Somalia
Iman Abdulmajid was a 19-year-old political science student strolling through the campus of Nairobi University when photographer Peter Beard spotted her and persuaded her to swap her studies for the world of modelling.
Even before her arrival in New York in 1975 she had created a buzz as rumours ran rampant that she was a tribal princess encountered by Beard in the jungle. "Everybody looked at that story like a fairytale," she said recently. "Even when I said it wasn't true, they still loved it." Within weeks she was on the cover of US Vogue and gracing the catwalk for Halston.
Nearly 30 years later, the first dark-skinned woman to sign a cosmetics firm contract has now retired, having left full-time modelling in 1989. She's still very much a key figure on the fashion scene, however, with her role as an author, De Beers diamond spokesperson, and cosmetics CEO, since launching the I-Iman line in the early Nineties.
The child of a midwife mum and one-time Somali ambassador to Saudi Arabia – Iman is fluent in five languages – she now has two daughters of her own: Zuleka, who is in her 20s, and toddler Alexandra, her child with husband of 11 years David Bowie.