Liya Kebede is a world renowned fashion supermodel, designer and women’s advocate who has appeared numerous times in several famous fashion magazines such as Vogue, and has been featured in numerous fashion shows by popular fashion brands such as Victoria’s Secret, Dolce & Gabbana, Louis Vuitton, Tommy Hilfiger, Escada, Emanuel Ungaro, and Yves Saint-Laurent.
Liya is also the first woman of color that represented the Estee Lauder brand, a world famous company that manufactures skin care, make-up, fragrance, and hair care products.
Liya’s natural beauty and talent for modelling has allowed her to become a very successful fashion model to the point that she is currently listed as one of the World’s Top Earning Models by Forbes magazine, making Liya only the second Ethiopian to have been included in the Forbes magazine’s Richest List, the first one being Mohammed Al Amoudi.
Many fashion critics have praised Liya for being such a natural in the modelling industry. Whenever Liya steps up to the ramp and walks during a fashion show, she brings such a surprise to the crowd by making her poses seem very effortless for her. Liya has such a talent for modelling that even James Scully, a talent hunter who is responsible for picking the models who would walk on the top runways, keeps getting amazed by Liya. He said of her during an interview:
“An all-time eternal favorite for me — she's an exotic Grace Kelly. Models work for years to develop the poise, grace, and style that she came to the business already equipped with! It still shocks me that I sometimes have to sell her to a client, but every time she walks in the room, she always proves me right.”Liya’s spectacular rise to fame and stardom in the fashion world is an inspiring story in itself because during that time, only the Caucasians dominated the runways. There were many times in her earlier career that Liya was turned down simply because she was of a different color, but she never let the critical voices weigh her down. When she developed her goal and desire of becoming a fashion model, Liya never let the obstacles stop her from reaching the goal – it kept her going on and on, being persistent in spite of all the negative situations and voices that tried to discourage her. In an interview made with her, Liya stated:
“If you don't have a dream in life, I don't know what you have. You have to want something beyond your reach; it's exciting when it works out.”Liya is also a well-known businesswoman, having founded her own company which she named Lemlem. Lemlem, which in her mother tongue means “to bloom”, is Liya’s way of not only preserving and promoting Ethiopian culture, but is also her means of giving jobs to her fellow countrymen by having the clothes made by hand in Ethiopia. Lemlem designs are being sold in many boutique shops around the world today, such as Barney’s, J.Crew and Net-a-Porter.com.
But apart from all the successes that Liya has achieved in her career, what makes her very fascinating is for her to have the time to engage herself in philanthropic work. Liya is an active advocate of maternal welfare, and is a World Health Organization Ambassador for Maternal, New born and Child Health.
Liya has also founded her own charitable organization, the Liya Kebede Foundation, in an effort to reduce the mortality rates of pregnant mothers and newly-born children around the world. In an interview, Liya revealed how she has the desire of helping mothers and children internationally:
“I am driven by the desire to help save the lives of mothers and children worldwide. I was lucky to give birth in New York City, so I didn’t have to worry about whether my child and I would survive. I am grateful to be a maternal health advocate. It’s something that gives me so much back.”Currently, Liya actively engages in her activities as a philanthropist, entrepreneur, and especially as a model. She also exposes herself more in the show business, but she says that she would still put modelling above a show business career. She states:
“Modeling still excites me. It is a great form of expression for me. I have been lucky enough to work with incredibly talented people. I’ll never forget seeing my first French Vogue cover and spread. Seeing all those images of myself in a magazine like that — it gave me such a thrill! Another exciting moment was my first American Vogue shoot. It was a big group shot, of all top models, by Steven Meisel. I was in awe. And smitten with the profession.”