words, photography & creative direction KARMAN TSE
videography & editing LAWLIE
Iman Fandi is a lot of things: Adventurous, goofy, serious, cheeky. She’s a model who advocates diversity, a role model to her peers, a student of psychology about to become a student of adult life as she says goodbye to school, she has empathy and emotional intelligence, and she quotes Bob Marley. Her approach to beauty is how she takes care of herself — eating well, going to the gym and practising positivity. If this rising star is the future, the future is looking bright.
in collaboration with PORCELAIN
Star sign: Taurus. Favourite colour: Turquoise. She loves the ocean because it’s serene and mysterious. Empathy is her secret talent. She is a student of psychology and quotes Bob Marley. Goofy, adventurous, responsible and a little weird—words with which she describes her “different sides”. She’s the daughter of former model Wendy Jacobs and Singapore’s football hero Fandi Ahmad. The sister of four brothers—two older, two younger (no, she does not receive special treatment as the only girl). Modelling is her dream. It has always been, inspired by her mum—the Cindy to her Kaia. Her ultimate celebrity role model is Zendaya because she’s so multi-talented. But so is she—she paints, draws, dances and likes to sing. More secret talents.
She is Iman Fandi Ahmad.
“Iman Fandi is a lot of things”, you will hear her say—with neither apology nor hubris (it is what it is)—in the short film we made of this exemplary Gen Zer. Yes, she is all of the above—a self-portrait of sorts painted in words and in being over the six hours we spent together for this shoot and interview. And she is more.
Iman arrives exactly on time at the new Six Senses Maxwell, where the first half of our shoot is set. She’s dressed in comfortable overalls and white sneakers, her face free of make-up, her signature hair, freer. She cuts a petite frame in person, but you can’t possibly miss her.
“You don’t always have to use expensive products — sometimes a simple, affordable skincare routine works just as well, if not better. Taking a break from make-up also helps — let your skin BREATHE.”
The title of this series is “Bare With Me”, a collection of stories I’ve been building with my friends at Porcelain for some time now, with the intention of encouraging women to redefine beauty and who they are for themselves. When you’re a teenager entering into a potentially serious conversation like this, I imagine it could be quite unnerving. But not Iman. “I read your brief for this story, and I liked the idea. It’s meaningful,” she tells me why she said yes to this as we walk through a long carmine corridor to get to our room. In the end, she not only holds her own, she made it her own.
There’s an ease and lightness about her presence that permeate the room. There is no need to try and make a good first impression, no hurry to fill every silence. She’s polite and eloquent, thoughtful and unfiltered. She’s reserved at first, her “different sides” unfurling naturally, but promptly, as our work begins. Her professionalism is so impressive I forget how young she is. Whether it’s marching and jumping on a sofa, wiping off her make-up and putting on a sheet mask in a bathrobe or running along the aforementioned carmine corridor, she’s game and she brings her A game.
Our conversation is peppered with as much sensible, sagely advice that belie her tender years as unbridled, child-like chuckles. She is as warm as she is cool, and possesses an emotional intelligence and whatever-you-call-the-opposite-of-entitlement that left me feeling more optimistic about the future than ever. She’s also precociously self-aware without being self-conscious. So easy, so free, so fabulous—like her Beyoncé-esque locks.
In Vivers or adidas, with or without the glamour of fashion and diamonds, make-up and model mode full on or barefaced and baring her heart to this writer (about the perks and pressure of being a teenager, her insecurities, her future, and the responsibility to keep it real on social media and in real life), one thing is clear: This rising star shines bright because her beauty transcends the physical—it radiates from inside. She embraces her every face and every self, good and bad, in spite of the insecurities and doubt she speaks of. In a world that is constantly trying to make you something else, it is something else to stay true to who you are. Right now, who Iman Fandi is, above all else , is an 18-year-old girl who just wants to have fun, travel the world and figure out who she is becoming.
“That’s what I always strive for — NATURAL, BE YOURSELF, don’t be who you think people want you to be, you know, don’t be fake… That’s why you don’t see a NICE INSTAGRAM feed (on mine), it’s all messy, because life is MESSY, and I just like it that way.”
What does it mean to “be yourself”?
Iman: Being myself means really showing people the different sides of me, you know, my goofy side, my serious, responsible sides, my modelling and school-life sides. Everyone is afraid of judgment and it will take time to feel comfortable showing people all your different sides, I was. But in the end, this is my life, and I want to enjoy it as much as I can, and around people whom I feel my best around.
And it’s more important than ever, isn’t it, to remind and allow ourselves to be comfortable with being ourselves.
Iman: Yeah, everyone is different, and you want to be around people who will accept you for you, and not for who they think you are, or who you’re trying to be perceived as. Personally, I like meeting people who I can have a laugh with and accept me for me. This world is becoming more competitive, don’t be afraid to do something different and stand out. Make your own path and do what makes YOU happy.
“Everyone is afraid of JUDGEMENT and it will take time to feel comfortable showing people all your different sides, I was. But in the end, this is MY LIFE, and I want to ENJOY it as much as I can, and around people whom I feel my best around.”
To be who you are in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else takes courage and learning hard lessons. What have you learned?
Iman: Firstly, not everyone will like you, and that’s okay. At the beginning of the year, I told myself that I will focus on (working on) myself, that there will be no negativity, and most importantly, to live in the moment. And if I fall, every day is a new day to get back up. I have also learned to be more open, and to look at both sides to every story.
What is your biggest dream right now?
Iman: My dream has always been to be a model. Sometimes I do doubt myself and my ability to do well and be good at it because I may not be as tall as other models, et cetera, but there is more diversity in the modelling and fashion industries now than ever before, and that motivates me even more to pursue it.
What about being a role model — what does that mean to you?
Iman: A lot of people come up to me and they say, oh my god, you’re such an inspiration. Sometimes I take a step back and I think, is that how much I impact people? Because I myself don’t know. But I guess what I put on social media will always be who I am. That’s what I always strive for — natural, be yourself, don’t be who you think people want you to be, you know, don’t be fake. Just be real with everyone. That’s what I focus on. That’s why you don’t see a nice Instagram feed, it’s all messy, because life is messy, and I just like it that way.
What do you think is the most beautiful thing about you?
Iman: Oh, I’m shy to say! Haha. Well, I guess it’ll have to be my eyes if it had to be a physical feature. But if it’s something deeper, I guess it’ll be my loyalty and my trust.
Is there anything you feel insecure about?
Iman: I guess, just like other teenage girls, body image, sometimes. To anyone out there who doesn’t feel beautiful, I want to tell you that it’s OK not to be OK, and we all go through phases where we just shut down, but in the end, everything will be all right — it just takes time. It took time for me to understand what I like about myself, and how I can improve myself. With body image, I go to the gym and eat healthy, so that’s how I try and basically take care of me. You just have to figure out what is your way.
What’s your best advice on how to take care of one’s skin?
Iman: Always immediately remove your make-up at the end of the day — don’t sleep with your make-up on. Moisturise, eating healthy and drinking water help. Lastly, I just want to tell young women that you don’t have to use expensive products — sometimes a simple, affordable skincare routine works just as well, if not better. Taking a break from make-up also helps — let your skin breathe.
“It took time for me to understand what I like about myself, and how I can improve myself. With BODY IMAGE, I go to the gym and eat healthy, so that’s how I try and TAKE CARE of me. You just have to figure out what is YOUR WAY.”
What is your approach for dealing with bad days?
Iman: I tell myself that in the end, everything will be all right, and every day is a new day. Going for a run, meeting up with my friends or going for a drive and listening to good music also help me. But sometimes, despite everything you try, the negative thoughts linger and that’s when I think you have to let yourself feel the emotions and feelings because it may have been something you have bottled up. Speaking to someone you trust can help. For me, when I wake up the next day, I try to start fresh, and something that helps with that is exercise and a good, healthy breakfast.
Perfect happiness to me is living in a beach house by the beach with my future significant other, haha. I have always loved the ocean. I just find such mystery and serenity in it.
My secret talent is I can kind of speak without actually “speaking”, haha. It’s kind of weird. but I think another “talent” I have is that I can put myself into people’s situations and empathise with them pretty easily.
My most treasured possession is a “memory box” that I keep that contains things like polaroids, festival tickets and awards as mementos.
What’s your current state of mind?
Iman: I’m not too sure, but I know I am quite happy with where I am in life. I told myself I’ll be working on my happiness and on what I want to do this year (when I’m finished with school), and I have been doing that. I do have bad days here and there, and I feel like something is missing, but I guess I’m still working on myself little by little. Happiness is a choice, and that comes firstly from you. You can’t depend on others to make you happy — it’s not their responsibility. 🙂
Any last words or Imanisms before we call it a wrap?
Iman: Everything takes time. Focus on what you want in your life. It all begins with changing your mindset. Try new things and experiences. Travel if you have the chance and meet new people. This world is sooo big, and sometimes we forget that. We only live once, so take the risk, whether it’s telling a crush you like him/her, taking a test, travelling solo, finding a new job — just go for it! You’ve got nothing to lose, and no matter the result, you tried. Better an “oops” than a “what if”, they say.
Getting to Know Iman Fandi is part of the #BareWithMe series, in collaboration with our friends at Porcelain. The women featured in this series are not associated with Wear Oh Where or Porcelain, and do not endorse the products shown.