Remember when Iman quit modeling, then married David Bowie?
Before they wed, In the Heat of the Night gave the supermodel one of her earliest TV roles.
By the end of the Eighties, it’s said that the supermodel Iman was at the pinnacle of her modeling career, pulling in $500,000 a year and considered irreplaceable on magazine covers and catwalks globally.
But Iman thought modeling was boring, and after doing it for 10 years, she decided to abruptly quit modeling to pursue acting instead in 1987.
This decision came shortly after Iman divorced her first husband, NBA star Spencer Haywood.
It seems the model was looking to shake things up, and designers and photographers around the world wept at her decision.
"Her style is effortless, she’d look great in a paper towel," declared fashion designer Bill Blass.
"Iman cannot be replaced," insisted photographer Francesco Scavullo.
But Iman had laid the groundwork for this departure for years, taking a non-speaking role in the movie Out of Africa and dipping her toe into acting in music videos and TV in the early 1980s.
The supermodel said it was simply time to rip off the band-aid and put an end to her modeling career.
"This is it," Iman told Newsday in 1987. "I’ve been trying to quit since the day I started … I don’t want to be one of those models who knocks it down, because it has offered me a lot. It’s made me more independent than I would ever be. But now I’m getting out. I don’t want to be one of those who go on and on, you know."
Iman knew there was a difference between appearing beautiful on camera and acting convincingly onscreen, and pointed to the Brat Pack as an example of what she did not want to do with her acting.
She wanted to bring more depth into characters than she thought they did.
"Look at the Brat Pack," Iman told the Detroit Free Press in 1988. "I don’t consider them actors. They’re beautiful young people. Models are beautiful young people. But one has to rely upon more depth than the raise of an eyebrow. I don’t consider myself beautiful. So if the whole world thinks I’m beautiful. Thank God they do. But I’d take my character over my looks in a second."
Although the whole world obviously considered Iman a great beauty, and for all of her equally great depth, her acting career did not pick up as quickly as the Brat Pack actors’ careers did.
Then in 1988, Iman took on one of her biggest TV roles yet, guest starring in the two-part In the Heat of the Night episode "Don’t Look Back."
Through the early 1990s, the supermodel seemed to gain more traction, appearing in more hit TV shows and movies, including a part in Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country.
Though she was happy to be playing a wider range of characters, she admitted to feeling a little tortured by the acting process.
"In modeling all I had to do was to sleep eight hours and wake up looking gorgeous and everything was right," Iman said. "With acting there is a lot of agony to go with it."
Good thing that we all know that Iman did not have to suffer alone for very long after her divorce.
In the early 1990s, Iman met her future husband David Bowie when a friend sneakily set them up on a secret double date.
Bowie told the Los Angeles Times in 1993 that he fell in love with Iman at first sight.
"A mutual friend knew that we were both on our own, with children," Bowie said. "We were brought to dinner one night… It was absolutely instantaneous. I couldn’t get her out of my mind … sleepless nights – real 18-year-old stuff."
Within six months, the couple moved in together and a rep told a London tabloid in 1991 that "This is a very serious romance. She may well become Iman Bowie."
In 1992, they secretly married in a civil ceremony, followed by a much bigger church wedding that Bowie famously composed all the music for. This music he confirmed inspired his next album which featured "The Wedding Song."
Bowie said once they married, their love was so deep, they wanted to adjust their careers to make time to be together.
"We see each other a lot," Bowie said. "I couldn’t stand to be separated for months. It became quickly apparent to me that I needed to find a balance between my absolute work obsession and my private life that we could share without my disappearing all the time."
Perhaps this explains why Iman wasn’t as busy with her acting career.
Through the end of the 1990s, you could see Iman in scant roles in TV and music videos, but her acting career never amounted to as much as her modeling career did.
This likely didn’t surprise the supermodel, who decided if acting didn’t work out as she hoped, she’d just easily accept that, give up, and move on.
Iman said she had long ago learned that "Acting is such a fickle business, worse than modeling."