Good news: Elle’s August 2023 issue did NOT pivot to a model on the cover due to any kind of strike-related promotional nerves. The interview with Imaan Hammam took place during Ramadan earlier this year, a fact that comes up a couple times as part of a discussion about her Muslim faith intersects with her modeling. Hammam made history as the first Afro-Arab face of Estee Lauder, and it’s interesting to learn about her — and lovely of her to give over so many column inches in praise of industry legend Bethann Hardison:

For a teenage Hammam, connecting with Hardison was pivotal. “At that time, everything was so competitive,” Hammam says of the dynamic among Black models at castings. “I would walk into a room and I would be super friendly—‘Hey, what’s up? I’m Imaan’—[but] they weren’t really trying to be friends.” In retrospect, she realizes that the icy reception had little to do with her, and more to do with the fact that houses were rarely casting more than one Black model for a show. “It makes sense. If only one girl’s being picked, of course you’re going to feel some type of way.”

To encourage a sense of camaraderie among emerging Black models, Hardison put a bunch of them together on a group chat and regularly invited them to dinner. “She made sure we all came together and sat,” Hammam remembers, “and we would go to fancy-ass restaurants. She’s bougie, which I love about her. We’d show up at The New York Edition hotel—it’s 20 models—and we would rent this room upstairs [and] just sit around and talk. I think that was so beautiful and so nice. She’s a legend. She’s opened so many doors for women of color, and still does today.” 

I always appreciate when people take the time to throw some love a mentor’s way.

[Photos: Chris Colls, story by Leah Faye Cooper; the August issue of Elle is on newsstands July 15]