“In my family, I’m one of six—two siblings from my dad’s previous marriage, a brother and sister from my mom’s previous marriage, and then me and my little sister when my parents got together. I grew up in Amsterdam, but dad is from Egypt and my mom is from Morocco. My mom has always been into fashion, and on top of that, she sews. The outfits she made in the ‘70s and ‘80s are my favorite. I think her love of fashion is what got me interested in it. I started modeling when I was 13 years old, after I was scouted at a train station in Amsterdam. This woman ran up to me and was like, ‘Are you a model? Here’s my card, please contact me.’ I was already super tall, and I was so insecure. When I told my parents, my mom was like, ‘OK, let’s do some research’—some agencies are fake, you know? But this one ended up being small and really cute, and they had this girl named Nimue Smit who was doing Prada campaigns at the time. So I emailed the woman, and that’s kind of how it started.
When I was 16 I came to New York to sign with DNA Model Management. My first ever shoot with Vogue was with Liya Kebede in Hawaii. Being with Liya, an icon herself, was scary. But she was super nice, and she really made me comfortable. Then the Vogue US cover with Karlie and Cara was a dream. I look up to them, you know? If I look at what I’ve done and what I’ve accomplished, I feel like it’s all going so fast. I’m a role model now, so I really need to step up. I’m definitely part of the social media generation, but now it’s like, ‘OK, this is actually my job.’ I’m so happy that brands really seem to be embracing natural beauty. I’m the brand ambassador and face of Revlon, which is such an honor because they’re all about diversity. Ashley Graham, Adwoa, Raquel—everyone is so different. Modeling is really changing in that way. For example, when I first started, hairstylists didn’t know what to do with my hair. For all the shows my hair had to be straight, and it damaged my hair so much. But when I shot with Vogue, Anna was like, ‘We don’t want you to straighten your hair, we want you as you are.’ I think that’s beautiful, and I really appreciate her for that.
It takes me like 30 minutes to get ready. I’ve learned from my hairstylist, Hos, how to style my hair, and it’s easy if you have the right products. At home, I wash my hair with Virtue shampoo and conditioner. I try to not wash it too much, so I’ll wash one day, and then not wash for two. I have a comb that I use in the shower—it takes two minutes to detangle when it’s wet and has conditioner in it, but brushing it out dry will take 20 minutes. I keep the conditioner in while I’m doing a body scrub or something, and then I wash it out. I sometimes sleep with a mask in, and I’ll put it in a high ponytail or a braid. In the morning, I wash it out. Hos has also been making me do “radiant treatments” [ed. note: a deep conditioning treatment] at Suite Reyad twice a month. He was just like, ‘Imaan, here’s the treatment, it’s going to help you.’ I’ve been doing it for two years now, and my hair is really growing.
Then, I have a special towel for curls from Bouclème—it’s like a wrap thing that kind of gets rid of frizziness and keeps it from drying out. After it’s dried a little but still wet—that’s very important—I grab my two favorite products, the Anti-Frizz Styling Cream and the Beach Waves Moisturizer from Fekkai. I mix them together, and I tilt my head over, scrunch up the curls, and make sure I get it in the front. Then I take some argan oil that my mom brings from Morocco and rub it on my ends—the ends are always a bit drier. I grab my diffuser and use it for 10 minutes, just so the hair gets a little bit of volume. That’s my go-to hair routine. Sometimes I put it in a ponytail, and for that I use a special brush that takes all the little baby hairs up. Then I put on one of those elastics with the hooks, and some bobby pins—it’s very easy. When I’m going out at night, I have to refresh it a bit. I just grab some argan oil and massage it in my hair with a little bit of water. That helps.
Whenever I have fashion week, or I’m breaking out, Anna at Advanced Skincare takes the best care of me. She gives me apricot peels, masks, extractions…she also gave me recommendations for all of my skincare products. I double cleanse, because I don’t believe in just washing your face with makeup on. I use Bioderma first, then this facial cleanser from Osmosis. It’s an enzyme cleanser, and it really fits with my skin. Then I use rose oil—just a couple drops, mixed with the Epicuren moisturizer. After that, I do the Banana Bright eye cream from Ole Henriksen. I sometimes get dark circles when I’m really tired, and this takes the dark circles away and gives me a fresh look. Another thing that’s great for dark circles is this mask my mom uses—it’s honey with saffron. You mix it together and apply it to your face, then you leave it for like 20 minutes. My mom is really good at making her own masks—she has a hundred other recipes. But anyway, after the eye cream I just spray some rose water from the Heritage store, and then I apply makeup.
I keep things mostly natural, but then do a bold lip or eye. I like to express myself with colors, and it really depends on my mood, but I always start with a little bronze. I use this really good one from Hourglass called the Ambient Lighting Bronzer. It just makes you look healthy, and summer-y. For a night out, I use Emerald Colorstay and really smudge it out with my fingers. I love to put gloss on top—just straight up lip gloss, because it’s the easiest thing. Then I wear the Volumazing mascara from Revlon because it gives you a full, thick look without getting clumpy. I still want to learn how to do a perfect matte lip. My makeup artist, Porsche Cooper, said she’d come over and do a little class. I just love a lip. Ultra-HD Lip Mousse in 100 Degrees is a bright red, and I always have it in my bag in case I have a meeting or something. When I was moving, I put on a whole dark burgundy red lip, and was like, ‘OK, this is how I’m going to Ikea.’ You know, just having fun with makeup. If it’s a big event, of course I’ll use a makeup artist and hairstylist. They know what’s good and what looks good on me, so I kind of just tell them, ‘Do your thing.’ One of my favorite hair stylists to work with is James Pecis, who actually brings a wig to protect my hair—it’s the same curls, same hair, but a wig. Perfect.
I try to get massages—I love a deep tissue massage at the Park Hyatt when I’m very tired—but the main thing I do is scrubs. It’s like a tradition in Morocco, and as a kid my mom would drag me in the shower and scrub my body. I used to hate it so much, but now I’m addicted. I go to Juvenex in Koreatown—they scrub your whole body from head to toe. When I do it at home, I use this special soap from Morocco called savon beldi, and then I scrub with a mitt. I try to do that like twice a month. When I get out, I use the Epicuren body lotion mixed with vitamin E oil. Especially in the winter, my body is so dry that I get these very fine little goosebumps. The vitamin E really goes in there and helps it. For fragrance, I like something strong and oud-y, but also a little floral. My two favorites are Bond Street Perfumista Avenue, and then Kilian Girl Gone Bad.
The last party I went to was the Versace after party, and it was so much fun. Everyone, even Donatella, was on the dance floor busting moves. But my favorite night would be pretty chill. We’d go to my favorite spot in Brooklyn—Lucali, in Red Hook—then we’d go to the movies. That’s my night out. When I get home, I like to light some incense everywhere in the home. I actually just bought real oud from Qatar, and it comes in a box with matches. Then I put on music—it could be R&B, a little bit of jazz. I go to my bathroom, double cleanse, and then I put my comfortable clothes on. I know when I wake up I’ll work out—I try to work out every day. I take a pre-workout supplement 30 minutes before I go, and it kind of gives me an energy boost so I’m ready to go even if I’m tired. I also take a multivitamin, fish oil, and a probiotic. And every morning I drink celery juice, because apparently it helps keep your organs healthy. Then I go hit the gym. I live by the Williamsburg bridge, so in the summer my boyfriend and I try to run to the city and back. When we go to the gym, we do weights, core training, a little bit of boxing, jump rope—just active stuff. I’m very lucky that my boyfriend is so addicted to the gym. He’s always motivating me like, ‘Imaan, let’s go, get up, we got this!’”
—as told to ITG
Imaan Hammam photographed by Tom Newton in New York on April 10, 2019.