Half-Malay, half-Sudanese model Iman Mohamed Osman has a conversation with BAZAAR about the painful trauma of colourism she experienced since childhood and the long journey it took to reach self-acceptance.
PHOTOGRAPHED BY EDMUND LEE STYLING AND CONCEPT BY AI LIM
TEXT BY ABDUL AZIZ DRAIM
When Iman Mohamed Osman was asked to front a campaign for local organic skincare brand Orgga in late 2018, it was a great cause for celebration. Rarely do brands recruit dark-skinned models to promote beauty, but here she was, front and centre as a true representation of inclusivity and diverse beauty.
Then, the netizens attacked. “I remember it was a week after the advertising came out, that I saw some comments on the brand’s social media, criticising their decision and questioning why Orgga hired a dark-skinned girl for a beauty brand when there were so many fairer girls out there to choose from,” Iman shares. “One comment even mockingly asked if the brand was selling charcoal products…”
Born to a Sudanese father and Malay mother, Iman Mohamed Osman, 31, has had to endure abuse regarding the colour of her skin ever since she was a child. “When my family returned to Malaysia after spending four years in Sudan, the first few comments my mother received from relatives was about my skin,” she continues. “They asked, ‘Why is she not like you? She’s so dark, why doesn’t she have your skin?’ I was about four or five at the time.”
Growing up, she had to endure stereotypical remarks from her relatives about playing out in the sun too long for fear of gaining an even darker tan, in spite of her natural melanin. “They’d tell me that I won’t be able to attract suitors if I get any darker. I’d just smile at them but I’d run crying to my mother about it, thinking I wouldn’t have any friends and that no man would want me. It was very traumatising. It’s something I still carry with me today.”