Liya Kebede (born March 1, 1978) is an Ethiopian model and actress who has been featured in ad campaigns for Victoria's Secret. She re-located to New York when she gained fame as an international supermodel.
Liya is from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. The story goes that she was at a French school when a film director decided that she had 'the look' and hooked her up with a modelling agent.
This ultimately led Liya to Paris. After her modelling career took off, Liya followed the well-worn path for models and headed west to New York.
Liya was doing fine as a model, obviously, but even bigger things awaited her. Tom Ford signed her to an exclusive contract to walk in the Fall/Winter 2000 fashion show.
This contract with the Ford Models agency gained Liya all sorts of fame in the business.
|Liya Kebede on the cover of Vogue Paris, May 2002.|
That only gained momentum when she appeared on the cover of the May 2002 Paris Vogue.
Liya has all all sorts of covers to her credit, primarily in Europe and America, but also some in Asia as well.
Just the covers in the United States and the United Kingdom are impressive enough:
- UK: 'i-D' - September 2003; 'Harpers & Queen' - September 2004; 'Harper's Bazaar' - May 2008; 'The Observer Magazine' - June 2010; 'i-D' - Autumn 2010
- US: 'Essence' - September 2004; 'Vogue' - September 2004; 'V Magazine' - July 2000; 'Vogue' - May 2005; 'i-D' - September 2005; 'Cookie' - February 2008; 'Vogue' - May 2009; 'Hamptons' - June 5 2009; 'Essence' - September 2010; 'WSJ.' - May 2013
Liya has all sorts of first to her name, among them becoming the first African model to represent Esteé Lauder cosmetics.
Liya also has branched out into helping the United Nations, becoming a WHO Goodwill Ambassador for Maternal, Newborn and Child Health. Liya promotes this cause by writing articles online and for some magazines, and has her own Liya Kebede foundation for Mothers and Children.
Liya also has branched out into acting.Her first film role was in "Lord of War" in 2005. Since then, she has appeared in a string of films.
Liya's most prominent role to date was her portrayal of supermodel Waris Dirie in the 2009 film "Desert Flower." Other Liya Kebede films include "Black Gold" (2011), "The Best Offer" (2013), "Mogadishu, Minnesota" and "419."
|Liya defining the "big hair" style.|
Liya Kebede is known for her thin frame. This concerns some people, and plays into conspiracy theories about modelling being bad for women and causing them to engage in unhealthy behaviors. However, Liya's build is simply a natural and common trait among Ethiopian women.
Among Liya's many interests is fashion design. Liya has a clothing line, Lemlem," which means "to bloom" in Amharic. The line is sold at many top retailers, including Barney's. It features native craftsmanship from Ethiopia.
Liya has broken many barriers in the modelling world. She was the first Estee Lauder model of color, with a three-year, multi-million dollar contract with them. At last report, Liya still represented Estee Lauder.
|Liya Kebede and her ex-husband.|
Liya was married to Ethiopian money manager Kassy Kebede from 2000 until 2013. They have a son and a daughter.