By: Greta Iori
She is a supermodel, humanitarian, fashion designer, a mother, and a recently successfully transitioned actress. She is known to the world as the gorgeous Liya Kebede. This Ethiopian success story was born and raised in the capital, Addis Ababa. Her life changed when a French film director spotted her while finishing up her last year of high school at the French Lyceé Gebre Mariam. The film director introduced Liya to a French modeling agent and the rest is history.
Her story is an incredible success story that serves as an inpiration to anyone who dares to dream. Starting off rocky; she faced difficulties in Paris, where some of the hardest critics in the fashion world are found. She did not give up and continued to pursue her ultimate passion. Her reward was more than a handful.
Liya Kebede went on to be the first ever black model to represent Estée Lauder. She covered American, Italian, Japanese, French, Spanish Vogue, and countless other magazines. She has graced the runways of top names such as Tom Ford, Gap, Yves Saint-Laurent, Victoria’s Secret, Emanuel Ungaro, Tommy Hilfiger, Revlon, Dolce & Gabbana, Escada and Louis Vuitton.
Liya is happily married and has two beautiful young children. She is one of the only two Ethiopians (other one being Mohammed Al Amoudi) to have been featured in the Forbes richest list – impressively belonging to the top-15 highest paid supermodels worldwide. In the midst of all this success, Liya’s world called for giving back to the less fortunate and hitting close to home. In 2005 the honorable young woman took on the responsibility as World Health Organization’s Goodwill ambassador, and soon to follow was the establishment of her own foundation, the Liya Kebede Foundation, which aims to reduce worldwide maternal and child mortality.
Quite an achievement for a 33-year old young woman, what more could one ask for? It is the same drive that brought her all this success that keeps Liya so hungry for more. She never stops. In 2009 she released her first lead role in a film-adaptation of the bestselling autobiography, Desert Flower, an inspiring story similar to Liya Kebede’s, but based on a young girl’s struggles in life from the arid deserts of Somalia to the catwalk runways of the gods of fashion.
She has broken innumerable stereotypes in the black modeling world alongside icons such as Naomi Campbell, Tyra Banks, and Alek Wek. She has opened the doors to big dreams for colored models worldwide. She is contributing to the health and wellness of women and children in third world countries and is successfully also managing her children’s fashion line ‘Lem Lem’.
More than a success story and a beautiful face, Liya Kebede is an inspiration not only to African’s around the world, but also to everyone with a dream. Proving that anything is possible as long as you are willing to work hard for it.
Here’s to our spotlight person, Liya Kebede!