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On 7th Anniversary of David Bowie’s Death, a Look at His Lesser-Known Legacy — His Marriage to Wife, Iman

The late musical icon died 7 years ago this week.

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When the shape-shifting, wildly influential rock star David Bowie passed away on this day in 2016, music fans around the world went into mourning. Seven years after his death from cancer, his undeniable impact on music and style remains. Bowie’s death came as a shock: Ever-elusive, he kept his diagnosis a secret, and his final album, Blackstar — released just days before his passing — served as a powerful swan song. The musician, whose many iconic songs include “Space Oddity,” “Changes,” and “Let’s Dance,” made waves in the ’70s and ’80s for bringing an artsy, gender-bending style to the mainstream. Bowie’s legacy is one of constant evolution and creativity, as he always took bold risks in both his music and his image.

One of Bowie’s lesser-known but no less illustrious legacies is his marriage to the stunning Somalian supermodel Iman. Like Bowie, Iman is a groundbreaking figure — she was one of the first Black models to achieve the coveted “super” prefix, and in 1994 she launched her namesake makeup line, which was one of the first to put the needs of women of color front and center. The two charismatic and culture-shifting celebrities married in 1992 and stayed together until his death 24 years later — a success by any measure, but particularly remarkable in the hot-to-not world of celebrity relationships. Though rock star/model pairings are something of a cliché and not typically built to last, Bowie and Iman had an unbreakable bond rooted in respect and attraction. Here are just a few of the reasons Bowie and Iman were, as the kids say, #couplegoals.

They fell in love at first sight…or at least, one of them did.

Bowie and Iman met in 1990 when they were set up on a blind date in Los Angeles (imagine arriving to a blind date and discovering the guy is David Bowie!). In a 2021 interview with People, Iman slyly recalled, “David said it was love at first sight. It took me a few months but I got there.” Their connection felt fated from the start — Iman didn’t really want to live in LA, and intended to move there only briefly, but as she tells it, “I personally believe now that was my destiny. My destiny was calling me to get there so I could meet David.” In a 2000 interview with Hello! magazine following the birth of their daughter, Alexandria, Bowie himself said, “that she would be my wife, in my head, was a done deal. I’d never gone after anything in my life with such passion. I just knew she was the one.”

After their first date, Iman traveled to Paris to walk in a fashion show, and Bowie ordered flowers to her hotel room and greeted her at the airport upon her return. “He properly wooed me,” she admitted in the People interview.

They shared values and goals.

Both Bowie and Iman had been previously married, and Bowie was over two decades into his artistic career when they met — so he was looking to settle down. As Iman put it to The New York Times in 2021, “we knew what we wanted from each other,” and their complementary senses of maturity, grace, and humility kept the relationship going. “I know my identity, and David knew his. When we met, we agreed on living life with a purpose,” she told The NY Times.

Following Bowie’s death, Iman spoke candidly about just how irreplaceable he remains. She told People she would never remarry in heartbreakingly simple terms: “He’s not my late husband. He’s my husband.”

They were passionately attracted to one another.

Bowie and Iman were an obviously gorgeous couple, and their chemistry was off the charts. “My attraction to her was immediate and all-encompassing. I couldn’t sleep for the excitement of our first date,” Bowie told Hello! (he also called her “intolerably sexy” in a TV clip). And the feeling was absolutely mutual. In the People magazine interview, Iman recalled, “David was beyond handsome. He oozed charisma.” When the two of them were together, she felt “cherished and safe,” and he felt “blissfully happy,” as he said in a TV interview.

And yet theirs was not a relationship built solely on the superficial — the attraction was ultimately grounded in respect, and the pair were known for gazing at one another with apparent adoration.

They kept each other down to earth.

Bowie and Iman would go on to make a home together in New York City, where they enjoyed a surprisingly low-key existence. As Iman told The Guardian, “David is even more of a homebody than I am. At least I go to parties once in a while.” Bowie had already enjoyed his time of rock star excess, and when he married Iman, the two made a commitment to keep the spotlight out of their personal lives. “David and I were both very protective of our privacy,” Iman said in The NY Times. “There were certain things nobody else was going to see. Our house, our bedroom, our daughter have always been off limits.”

While both Bowie and Iman were undeniably glamorous, they didn’t get caught up in the whirlwind of celebrity. As Iman said in her interview with The Guardian, “I fell in love with David Jones [Bowie’s birth name]. I did not fall in love with David Bowie. Bowie is just a persona. He’s a singer, an entertainer. David Jones is a man I met.”

Even us non-celebrities can relate to Iman’s desire to feel grounded and focused amidst the hustle and bustle of life. “Our focus was on each other, what belonged to us, and our daughter,” she summarized it to The Times. Regardless of fame or privilege, it’s important to devote your energy to the things that matter most. Ultimately, this marriage was a modern day fairy tale — and while Bowie may be gone, the legacy of his romance with Iman endures.

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