Iman Perez talks to Glass about going from billboards to the big screen

French actor and model, Iman Perez, talks to Glass about the joys of working with family, an enduring love of film and how to stay grounded as her career takes off 

From Winter Issue 56

Acting wasn’t always the end goal for Iman Perez. The 24-year-old was meant to dedicate her life to horse riding, with dreams of representing France in showjumping at the 2024 Olympics. But it seems old habits die hard – Perez grew up enchanted by the world of cinema, courtesy of her family.

Her father is the Swiss-born Vincent Perez and her mother is the Senegalese-French Karine Silla – both are actors and directors with illustrious careers in France and abroad. Childhood memories of life on set beckoned Perez back to her roots, and now, the French beauty devotes her days to modelling and acting.

It’s been a big year for her. With two new films coming out and a campaign as the face of Chanel’s fall-winter pre-collection, the Parisian is carving out her own legacy in her family’s natural territory – in front of the lens. As the shutter clicks and the camera rolls, Perez is humble and focused, ever-energised by a childhood fascination that she just can’t seem to shake. 

Photographer: Bojana Tatarska

You grew up around your parents’ sets which must have been lots of fun as a kid. Was there a specific moment you fell in love with the craft? 

I fell in love with cinema at a very young age. One of my first memories was visiting my father on the set of Fanfan la Tulipe

I always wondered how he could be someone different. I think it’s something that interested me at a young age because this craft lets you become characters and forget about yourself, and to deal with feelings and emotions through a scene. 

Photographer: Bojana Tatarska

The year 2011 was one of firsts for your family, marking your acting debut in your mother’s directorial debut, Un baiser papillon. Can you share some of the joys and challenges of your first project?

I will remember this project for the rest of my life – I was so lucky to be able to work with my family. It also developed my passion for dance as I had a lot of physical preparation in ballet. It was, however, challenging, especially at such a young age, because as a 10-year-old you have to learn the difference between professional and personal relationships.

Photographer: Bojana Tatarska

Acting is in your blood but, of course, everything requires work. Can you share more about your formal training and what it’s taught you?

I was looking at going to the Lee Strasberg Institute in New York but ended up doing a course in Paris at Les Ateliers Professionnels De L’Acteur. Lola Cohen [actor and method acting tutor] referred me there as the best equivalent in Paris. I’ve learnt that there is nothing to be ashamed about, and how to work my instrument and get easy access to my emotions with specific exercises. 

Photographer: Bojana Tatarska

You divide your time between Paris, Dakar and New York. How does each city inspire you creatively? 

Each city inspires me a lot. Paris – how the little things can be elegant, how less is more. And, also, to not be ashamed of dealing with emotions like getting mad in the street [laughs]. Dakar – to take the positive out of everything, that there’s joy even in harsher times. And New York – to always work harder. 

Photographer: Bojana Tatarska

Two of your films are coming out this year. First up is Le petit blond de la casbah. I’d love to know more about your part, Josette – what makes her complex and how did you get into character? 

What made Josette complex is that she’s young but full of hope during a very hard time in Algerian history. She grew up with her neighbour, Antoine, who is like the little brother she never had. And when tragedy strikes, it breaks her apart. I got ready to get in character by doing a lot of research on the Algerian war. Alexandre Arcady, the director, also gave me a lot of movies as references.

Photographer: Bojana Tatarska

Next up is Une affaire d’honneur, where you play the role of Anaïs. How would you compare Josette and Anaïs? 

Anaïs is a very different yet similar character. Different as the movie is based in the 1800s so she’s dealing with other problems, especially women’s rights. But she is so bubbly and girly, fun yet strong. I also had a lot more physical preparation for Anaïs, doing fencing and flamenco, which was amazing. And I had to work on the way of speaking because the 1800s were such a different time. 

Photographer: Bojana Tatarska

Modelling keeps you busy too. You were the face and muse of Chanel’s FW23/24 pre-collection. What was it like working with creative director Virginie Viard to bring Chanel’s vision to life? 

It was absolutely amazing. It was such an honour to be able to work with creative people like Virginie. 

As your acting and modelling careers take off, what keeps you grounded? 

Definitely my family and my boyfriend. It’s hard not to be grounded when you have a family that’s had some of the biggest careers in French and international film. You can’t start sitting on your high horse. It would be silly, especially when you’ve done absolutely nothing next to them [laughs]. Of course, with modelling it’s different, but still, it’s nothing. 

by Christiana Alexakis

Photographer: Bojana Tatarska

Stylist: Kanako B Koga

Make up: Tatsu Yamanaka

Hair: Hiromi Kamiyu

Photography assistant: Lione Gasperini

Styling assistant: Ayami Okura

Talent: Iman Perez

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