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
Though she calls Malaysia her home, Iman has struggled with her sense of belonging. “Every time I step into a new place or a new country, I still have that fear: what if people don’t like me? What if they throw stones at me? Because, you know, I’ve had stones thrown at me in Malaysia!” she laughs, recalling the absurdity of it all. “It was when I was a child, playing in the park, and being asked to go back to my country. I’d run to my mum and cried and cried and cried, and told her maybe we should go back to Sudan. Until one point, I realised I just had to live with it. But living with it was what made me lose a lot of my confidence and self-esteem.”
The constant taunts and name-calling made her uncomfortable with her own skin. “I had friends who would recommend whitening products and believe it or not, I was naive enough to try them. Thank God, I had a support system, especially my mother and my aunties, and a few close friends who believed in me enough to tell me, ‘Don’t do this!’ Because I was trying things out but didn’t get the results I had hoped for. They saw me going through that phase when I wasn’t happy with myself.” Now older and wiser, she has come to love and appreciate her blackness, and won’t let anyone tell her otherwise. “Now that I’m older, I’ve dealt with this issue better now. I’m glad I managed to come out of that. But—sigh—it was a long road.”