American Vogue has touted Liya Kebede, as a member of the “New Establishment”. Models.com proclaimed “All Hail Liya!”. Since being featured in their “Of the Minute” section five years ago, she has moved all the way up in rank as their number one choice of “Top 50 Models”. Liya has succeeded in becoming the name on everybody’s lips and is definitely an IMG star on the rise.
This international beauty was born and raised in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. While in school at the French Lycee, a film director spotted the young beauty and introduced her to a French modeling agent. After completing her studies, she moved to France to pursue work through a local Parisian agency. Liya inevitably relocated to the fashion capital of New York City, where she currently resides full-time.
It all came together when the 27 year old stunner appeared on the cover and in 4 out of 6 stories of French Vogue, shot by Ines van Lamsweerde and Vinoodh Matadin, with a headline that proudly states the issue is “All about Liya.” She has since appeared on the covers of Italian, Japanese, Korean & Spanish Vogue, Numero, V, French, Flair, i-D, South African Elle, Harper’s & Queen, Essence, and Time’s Style & Design issue. Liya was also recently featured on the September 2004 cover of American Vogue, where she was named one of the leading faces of “the Return of the Super Model”.
Liya can currently be seen for a second time on the May 2005 cover of American Vogue, with the heading “Cover model with a cause”, profiling her work with the World Health Organization as their Goodwill Ambassador for her tireless efforts in raising awareness for the difficulties that women and children face in the developing world. In the letter from the editor, Anna Wintour states “It’s very gratifying that Kebede, who has long been a model of the highest rank, should come into her own this way. This is her moment, and it has not arrived by virtue of outsize fabulousness. She is beautiful, professional, and substantial, which makes her not just a model but a role model”.
In February of 2003, Liya became the newest face of Esteé Lauder cosmetics – the first woman of color to serve as a representative of its brand’s 59-year history, joining Carolyn Murphy and Elizabeth Hurley as the third member of the model trio. “Liya defines modern beauty,“ says Aerin Lauder. “Her status as an international beauty, runway favorite and designer muse infuses the brand with energy and modernity. Her global appeal connects us with consumers of all ages and cultures in an exciting and unexpected way.”
Kebede has established herself as a leading actress starring in the title role of the film Desert Flower, directed by Sherry Hormann, which was released domestically by National Geographic in March 2011. The film is an adaptation of the best-selling autobiography of the same name chronicling model Waris Dirie’s life. Past film credits include The Good Shepherd and Lord of War.
…ecently wrapped production on Alain Chabat’s Marsupilami alongside Julie Delpy and Gerard Depardieu as well as production on Jean-Jacques Annaud’s next feature Black Gold, the story of which revolves around the rivalry between Arabian rulers in the 1930s just as oil is being discovered, and the rise of a young, dynamic leader who unites the various tribes of the desert kingdoms. Kebede stars alongside Mark Strong, Freida Pinto and Antonio Banderas. Annaud (Enemy at the Gate, Seven Years In Tibet) will direct, based on the screenplay by Menno Meyjes (Empire of the Sun, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade).
Kebede is the founder of the Liya Kebede Foundation, an Advisory Board member for the Mother’s Day Every Day campaign, and was a Goodwill Ambassador for the World Health Organization’s maternal and child health program for the past six years. Liya is dedicated to reducing maternal, newborn and child mortality and to improving the well-being of mothers and children worldwide. In 2005, WHO named her its Goodwill Ambassador for maternal, newborn and child health. During her time as a WHO ambassador, she was a vocal advocate for health, empowerment and development causes impacting women. In 2006, she founded the Liya Kebede Foundation, which raises awareness, promotes proven, low-cost interventions, which reduce maternal and child mortality, and educates health workers. Her Foundation works closely with well-respected organizations such as WHO, UNICEF, the White Ribbon Alliance and the Fistula Foundation, combining international advocacy with on-the-ground work in affected areas.
As a leading model, Liya has been featured multiple times on the cover of American Vogue and has appeared in runway shows and major print campaigns for top designers around the world. Forbes has named her one of the top 15 highest earning models. She was recently named L’Oreal’s latest global brand ambassador in the categories of cosmetics, skincare and hair care. Additionally, in recognition of her body of work as well as her various philanthropic efforts, Kebede was included among Time Magazine’s ‘100 Most Influential People’ of 2010.
In 2007, Liya launched a line of women and children’s clothing called lemlem (meaning “to bloom” in Amharic), which supports Ethiopia’s local weaving traditions. The line debuted its first collection in Spring 2008 featuring clothing handmade in Ethiopia and was picked up by J. Crew in April 2009. Lemlem combines Liya’s interest in fashion with her humanitarian work, creating vital economic opportunities for Ethiopian artisans.