FEATURE: THE STYLE ICONS

Passion of Youth

Singapore's rising stars talk music, passion and fashion

IMAN FANDI AHMAD, SINGER/MODEL

THERE'S PLENTY OF TALENT in the gene pool if you're the off spring of a union between a famous footballer and a globe-trotting fashion model. It's especially useful if you grow up wanting to make it on the football pitch, or the pages of a fashion mag.

Iman Fandi Ahmad is the only daughter among the five children of Fandi Ahmad and Wendy Jacobs, and she's no laggard when it comes to living up to the family name. It's perhaps inevitable that the 20-year-old Gen Z model, erstwhile actress and aspiring singer-songwriter grew up playing football - while also excelling as a track athlete - with her siblings Irfan (23), Ikhsan (21), Ilhan (18) and Iryan (14). The older three boys are already full time footballers in various stages of professional development, while Iman has been following in mom's modelling footsteps since she was in her early teens.

Iman graduates from college this month, but she's been pursuing a slew of non-academic goals as well. In addition to modelling (starting when she was 13), she endorses products that project a healthy lifestyle and supports a number of worthy causes, including social justice, body positivity and animal rights. Oh, and the onetime veganturned- pescatarian bakes banana bread in her spare time.

MAKING HER MARK

She's now focusing on a singing career. In February, her debut single Timeframe was released - a musical milestone that gives her bragging rights in the sibling rivalry stakes. The electropop track was composed in 2019 while she was in a taxi heading to town. Inspiration struck as she was looking out the window, with the sun in her eyes, lost in thoughts about friends and family. A special friend had also just left Singapore. ''It's a song about relationships, crushes, family,'' says Iman. ''Most of the songs I write are from personal experience, and it felt meaningful enough so I wanted it to be the fi rst song.''

It was written during a long-distance relationship with Emery Kelly, an American actor and lead singer of boy band Forever in Your Mind. The romance with Kelly lasted a year and she says they're still friends. ''He was my fi rst boyfriend but music is my priority now,'' she says. There's an EP in the works, and another song will be released soon. ''I'm working on myself, my voice, trying diff erent musical genres and collaborations.''

The extended fantasy scene version of the Timeframe video has her nibbling on a bar of chocolate with special properties: it unlocks heartfelt memories of special people in her life. In a voiceover at the end, she says: ''Music has always been my escape, my inspiration and my happy place. It takes me away from reality like a form of storytelling where I can rewrite my own narratives without any limits.'' She also acknowledges that ''growing into myself and my music is a balancing act that I still haven't quite nailed.''

HER INSPIRATION

Her musical infl uences range from pop to R&B and she started composing songs in her head as a hobby while juggling school and modelling gigs. Singalongs around the BBQ were de rigueur whenever she visited relatives in South Africa while at home, she would be awakened by the sounds of Linkin Park and Eminem in the early morning - courtesy of her father. ''Dad likes to sing around the house,'' she laughs.

Not surprisingly, Iman was a bit of a tomboy in a close-knit sporting family, inheriting her father's sense of humour and her mother's strong work ethic along with those superior genes. ''As the only girl, I felt I needed to grow up by myself a bit, learn to be independent and feed my sense of curiosity,'' she says.

''My parents taught us to be humble and they allowed us to do what we wanted, but we had to be aware of the consequences. They told me studies are important, but always have a backup plan or ask for advice if you don't know.

She defi nes her personal style as ''edgy chic. I love experimenting, trying new things, even if it's not that comfortable - if it looks good, it's fi ne.'' She adds, ''I love statement pieces - jackets, boots, bags. When shopping, my mom taught me to look at the sale section fi rst - sometimes they have the best pieces.''

REAL WORLD

As the child of a biracial marriage, Iman says she has experienced her share of bias in the course of her travels, but remains optimistic about the state of the world. ''I love being biracial - my last name is Ahmad - but I think the world is slowly being more welcoming. I don't like confrontation but if it's something I'm passionate about, I'll use my platform to bring awareness to these issues because they're long overdue and every bit counts.''

The exposure that comes with growing up in the age of social media has a fl ip side too. ''It was hard to take criticism sometimes but hey, everyone has their own opinion and you can't control it - just do what you want to do,'' she says. ''We all have ups and downs but luckily, I had the right support system while balancing work and school.''

Music will always be a part of her life says Iman, but she will continue to try her hand at whatever grabs her interest, such as acting. ''My mom once told me that whenever opportunity comes, take it and try,'' she says. ''As I get older, I will continue to be interested in many things but the important thing is to be realistic - whatever happens, happens.'' - GEOFFREY EU

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