Hung Up On Chanel Iman
Alex Catarinella: Chanel Iman! How’s it going being one of the biggest supermodels on the planet?
Chanel Iman: I’ve been working my ass off! I just got back from Mexico shooting for H&M and I just walked in the Jason Wu show at New York Fashion Week. There’s a lot going on and I’m just glad to be working. I’m happy this year. I know what I’m doing and what my goals are. You’ll see a lot coming my way.
AC: That makes me overly excited. Can you remember your first “OMFG! I am a supermodel!” moment?
CI: My fans make me feel that way. I’m so grateful for my fans because they inspire me everyday to keep going. The sweet messages I receive always just make me feel so loved and appreciated. It makes me want to work harder. I would love to be a leader for our generation in a positive, uplifting way. And my fans give me the inspiration to be that.
AC: Do me a fashion-y favor. Tell me about your pre-supermodel modeling beginnings.
CI: I was a child model. I started when I was really young. My aunt took me to a modeling agency when I was 12-years-old, and then I moved to New York from LA when I was 15.
AC: And the rest is history. I feel like I HAD to say that. Anyway, who are your favorite designers to work with?
CI: I’ve done lots of runway shows — from YSL to Dior to Gucci to Marc Jacobs to Alexander McQueen. You name it, I’ve probably done it. I love Jason Wu. I did his very first show and I’m very supportive of him and he’s very supportive of me. I love Tom Ford. And Alexander Wang has been someone I’ve worked with from the start.
AC: FYI, it’s the Women Who Rock issue. What ladies rock Chanel Iman’s wonderful world?
CI: Let me see… Beyoncé, Oprah, Michelle Obama, Alicia Keys, Halle Berry. There’s a lot of women out there who rock who I look up to. I think Ellen [von Unwerth] rocks. It’s my first time working with her but it’s definitely not my last. She’s awesome.
AC: And any rocking family members?
CI: My mother rocks — she’s the number one rocker. She’s taught me everything I’ve known and she’s a strong woman. My older sister rocks too. She always gives me great advice and she’s just beautiful inside and out.
AC: By the way, what’s your zodiac sign?
AC: Ditto! Do we both share the totally crazy gene?
CI: I’m not crazy actually. I’m more chill and shy a little bit — well, not really on set. But in person I’m a little shy. When you get to know me, I open up. I’m a cool chill chick to hang with.
AC: I’ve gotta say, it did seem like Ellen brought out your Sasha Fierce on set. Which brings me to ask: do you have an alter ego?
CI: Of course. Everybody should have an alter ego.
AC: Does she have a name?
CI: I don’t think I would name my alter ego. That’s corny. It just comes out. I let it speak for itself.
AC: One would assume that every dude on the planet hits on you. Fact or fiction?
CI: Not really. I’m busy and focused right now. I’m not worried about guys. And if I am worried about guys, it’s a special guy that I’m worried about and he’s the only one who has access of hitting me up and flirting with me.
AC: Meow! Okay. So, you kicked it with Mr. and Mrs. Obama. No big deal or anything…
CI: I’m honored to be able to meet the First Lady and the President. They were very warm and welcoming and just gave me lots of love.
AC: Speaking of love… out of all of your magazine covers, which do you love the most? Well, besides Galore’s of course.
CI: One of my first major covers was American Vogue. Some of my favorites were the American ELLE cover, the Time cover, the The Wall Street Journal cover… I mean, I’m just blessed to be on any cover. They’re all my favorite.
AC: The Victoria’s Secret angel wings. Discuss.
CI: My first year, I didn’t have wings. My second year, I had two types of wings. I had the classic white wings, which was a really, really special moment for me. And then the same year, I got the big bubble wings, which were like half of my size and it was really, really heavy to go down the runway with. Sometimes you get light ones and sometimes you get heavy ones… but you have to make it look good.
AC: It’s such a circus of a production and super overwhelming for my eyeballs. Is the rehearsal essentially an all day hot mess?
CI: The rehearsal is very long — well, it can be. If everyone arrives on time, it’s in-and-out, but usually models run a little late.
AC: Apologies in advance, but I must ask a really important question…. How was making out with Usher in his music video for “Dive”?
CI: It was my first music video! I did it because I loved the concept. It was a pleasure to work with a guy like Usher because he always has really hot girls in his videos. It was very special for me because I grew up listening to Usher and I never thought that I would be making out with him in an entire video.
AC: Was it difficult putting on your acting shoes?
CI: It’s not really a job to make out with Usher. It’s very easy.
AC: A gay can only dream! Sigh. So, we all know that you’re drop dead gorgeous and stuff. But I also have learned that tons of major models deal with insecurities, which, PS, is SHOCKING. What do you do when/if you wake up in the morning and aren’t feeling so stunning?
CI: I think all women feel a little insecure every once in awhile. But you know what? I have really great people who surround me so I don’t really feel that way very often. When I do feel that way, I just take some time to myself and zone out in my own little world, read a book, and listen to some music. I don’t like to have negative energy around me.
AC: That’s a Sagittarius trait, girl. Anyway, who are your model BFFs?
CI: Karlie Kloss is one of my girls. And Tyra [Banks] has always been very supportive.
AC: Can you see yourself taking a similar career path as Tyra?
CI: Not really. I think Tyra is Tyra and Chanel is Chanel.
AC: So we can’t look forward to any ‘The Chanel Iman Show’ plans?
CI: I’m not really into that. I have a personality but I’m more low-key and quiet. She has a whole different type of career than I have, but it’s always great to have support from all different types of models and people. I don’t think I could ever be like Tyra… But I can be like Chanel.
Photographer: Ellen von Unwerth
Stylist: Camille Garmendia
Hair: Dennis Gots
Makeup: Devorah Kearney
Props: Bryan Norvelle @ 11th St. Workshop
Special Thanks to Gerard Maione @ What Goes Around Comes Around