How defiant Iman built a $25m beauty empire – after retailers told her ‘black women don’t buy liquid foundation’

Iman has proven beauty retailers wrong with her successful make-up line, after they told her that ‘black women don’t buy liquid foundation’.

Focusing on difficult-to-find shades for ethnic women, the supermodel’s namesake cosmetic company has become a $25million business.

After nearly two-decades modelling, and mixing foundation formulations for make-up artists to use on her, Iman launched her line at JCPenney in 1994.

To take Iman Cosmetics to the mass market, she signed a deal with Procter & Gamble in 2004, but distributors like Walgreens and Target responded to it with caution.

‘I didn’t understand that it was if they have 1,000 doors, only 200 are for women of color,’ she said.

Retailers then tried to place her products at the back of their stores, which they see as the ‘ethnic section’.

‘It was a no-go. They wanted me to be placed at the back, which they considered, like it is, for the ethnic section, which I was totally against.’

And despite her soaring sales, she admitted that trying to secure distribution has been a challenge for both brick-and-mortar and online stores.


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