Three Times a Lady: When I Grow Up, I Want to Be Like Iman (or Ciara, or Teyana, or...)

(l-r) Ciara, Iman and Teyana Taylor on Essence’s July/August issue
(l-r) Ciara, Iman and Teyana Taylor on Essence’s July/August issue
Image: Itaysha Jordan (Essence Communications)

How do you celebrate 25 years of hosting the biggest celebration of black womanhood in the world? If you’re Essence magazine, you mark the spirit of the summer festival season by featuring three dynamically different beauties on your covers—all with a common gift for killing the game. Is the eternal slay of the iconic Iman your needed reminder that there is no age limit on stunning? (Writer’s note: As one who grew up idolizing the supermodel who set the stage for Naomi, I eternally stan.) Or do you consider the perpetually leveled-up glam of Ciara a fairytale come to life? Or maybe the unapologetically urban glamour of the unbelievably talented (and bodied) Teyana Taylor is a constant source of irreverent inspiration?

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Whether your muse is one, or all (raises hand), Essence is paying homage to its legacy of inspiring and celebrating black womanhood this summer with three gorgeous, gifted, multifaceted women giving us indigenous glamour on its July/August covers—and a single message: Black girl magic is real, timeless and ours to claim. It is our birthright, and, as Essence notes, our tribe.

Inside the issue, the three women talk about love, resilience, and finding their own tribe of supporters along the way, as Iman refers to late husband David Bowie, who encouraged her to launch her eponymous and pioneering cosmetics line.

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“He literally did not understand fear,” she tells Essence. “He was in my corner cheering me on every step of the way. If it wasn’t for him, I would never have done it…”

For Ciara, the happy ending we’ve all been applauding was an exercise in patience and faith that paid off in happiness. “My faith has carried me through every challenge and triumph,” she says. “When I was younger and wanting things to happen when I wanted them to happen, I could never have imagined that 15 years later I’d be having the time of my life.”

And Teyana Taylor’s leap from sweet 16 up-and-comer and protégé to a self-possessed entertainer, entrepreneur, mother and one half of a celebrity marriage to NBA player Iman Shumpert is largely about keeping it real. “I don’t want my supporters to feel like we’re untouchable. I don’t want y’all to think we’re Perfect Pattys, because that’s just not real,” Taylor admits to Essence. “I think sometimes it takes other couples to see like, ‘Damn, they were able to talk and get through it. That’s inspirational…’”

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The Glow Up will be joining our inspirational tribe of sisters at Essence Festival in New Orleans next month—and taking a look back at the event’s genesis and enduring legacy. But if you needed a reminder that we’ve been style icons, look no further than Essence’s summer issue, which is on stands Friday, right on time for the first day of summer.

Maiysha Kai is Managing Editor of The Glow Up, an avid eyeshadow enthusiast and always her own muse. Minneapolis born, Chicago bred, New York built. Nuance is her superpower.

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DISCUSSION

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I’m so glad Ciara kept pushing. The industry could have easily discarded her after her second album but she didn’t give up. While I do wish she would stop playing and give us Crunk/Trap n’ B like only she can, you have to respect the hustle. We’re tired of these workout songs though. 

Iman is obviously a legend. What more can be said?

Teyana Taylor needs to get some better management. “Fade” came out before Kanye really went off the deep end and that video was buzzing. You can’t tell me there isn’t anything for the spiritual successor of Janet and Ciara to do in music.