Liya Kebede: Wikis


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Liya Kebede

Kebede at the 2008 Tribeca Film Festival
Date of birth January 3, 1978 (1978-01-03) (age 32)
Place of birth Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
Height 5 ft 10 in (1.78 m)
Hair color Brown
Eye color Brown
Measurements 32.5-23-34 (US)
Dress size 3 (US)
Shoe size 9 (US)
Agency IMG Models New York
Viva Models Paris
D'management Group

Liya Kebede (born January 3, 1978)[1] is an Ethiopian model, maternal health advocate, clothing designer and actress who has appeared on the cover of US Vogue twice. According to Forbes, Kebede was eleventh-highest-paid top model in the world in 2007.[2] Since 2005, Kebede has served as the WHO's Ambassador for Maternal, Newborn and Child Health.[3]



Kebede was born and raised in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.[4] A film director spotted her while she was attending Lycee Guebre Mariam and introduced her to a French modeling agent. After completing her studies, she moved to France to pursue work through a Parisian agency. Kebede later relocated to New York City. She has remarked that the modeling industry in Ethiopia is quite different from the catwalks on which she is now ubiquitous. For example, in Ethiopia she had to provide her own shoes for each runway show.

Modeling career

Feb08 Carolina Herrera fashion show

Kebede's big break came when Tom Ford asked her for an exclusive contract for his Gucci Fall/Winter 2000 fashion show[4]. Kebede's popularity in the fashion industry sky-rocketed when she appeared on the cover the May 2002 edition of Paris Vogue which dedicated the entire issue to her.[5]

Kebede has been seen on the covers of Italian, Japanese, American, French and Spanish Vogue, V, Flair, i-D and Time's Style & Design. Kebede has been featured in ad campaigns including those for Gap, Yves Saint-Laurent[6], Victoria's Secret, Emanuel Ungaro, Tommy Hilfiger[6], Revlon[6], Dolce & Gabbana, Escada and Louis Vuitton. In 2003, Kebede was named the newest face of Estée Lauder cosmetics, the first Ethiopian to serve as their representative in the company's 57-year history[7]. Her contract was rumored to be for $3 million dollars [7].

Kebede is one of a very few African models featured in major fashion photo shoots and runway shows [8]. According to Conor Kennedy, in 2003 a booker at Elite Model Management,

"It's like there's only room for one very successful black model at a time. For the past year it's been Kebede"[8].

In 2005, Kebede was appointed as WHO Goodwill Ambassador for Maternal, Newborn and Child Health[9]. She also appeared in a group montage on a rare (as of recent years) group montage of up and coming supermodels.

In summer of 2006 she was also one of the very few non-white models to have been given a cover of American Vogue, the issue highlighted her humanitarian work.

In July 2007, earning at an estimated total of $2.5 million in the past 12 months, Forbes named her eleventh in the list of the World's 15 Top-Earning Supermodels[10]. In 2008, Kebede was featured on one of the four covers of Vogue Italia's all Black Issue.

In 2009, Kebede starred in the film-adaption of the bestselling autobiography Desert Flower by former supermodel Waris Dirie. The film recounts Dirie's childhood in Somalia, her rise to stardom and subsequent awareness campaign against female circumcision. It premiered at the Venice Film Festival and received a standing ovation.[11] Kebede has also had minor roles in two films: The Good Shepherd and Lord of War.[12]


In 2005, Kebede was appointed WHO Goodwill Ambassador for Maternal, Newborn and Child Health.[13] She then founded the Liya Kebede Foundation, whose mission is to reduce maternal, newborn and child mortality in Ethiopia and around the world. The Foundation funds advocacy and awareness raising projects as well as providing direct support for low-cost technologies, community-based education, and training and medical programs.[14]

Kebede has traveled to Ethiopia to support maternal health projects on multiple occasions. In 2009, she worked with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation as part of their Living Proof Project.[15] Kebede served as a High-Level adviser for the Center for Global Development’s 2009 report "Start with a Girl: A New Agenda for Global Health."[16]

Kebede writes for the Huffington Post[17] about maternal and child health and has been featured in Vogue and on the Daily Beast.[18] She is also part of the Champions for an HIV Free Generation, an organization of African leaders led by former Botswana President Festus Mogae. The Champions advocate for increased HIV prevention and treatment efforts in Africa.[19]


Kebede launched Lemlem, a clothing line, in 2008. Lemlem, which means “to bloom” in Amharic, features hand-spun, woven and embroidered women and children’s clothing.[20] Kebede founded the line to help preserve the art of traditional weaving and bring sustainable economic development to Ethiopia . Lemlem is sold at Barney’s, J.Crew, and numerous boutique shops.[21] Kebede says she hopes this will part a sea of change for her home country. "It's wonderful to be able to donate and help people," she says.[22]

Personal life

Kebede married Ethiopian hedge fund manager Kassy Kebede[4] in 2000 and they have two children together; son Suhul 8 years old born in 2001 and daughter Raee 4 years old born in 2005.[23] As of 2007, the family resides in New York City.


  • "Honestly, I wish I could've lived in their time. They had so much fun." – Liya on the supermodel era, Vogue
  • "Every day we hear about the dangers of cancer, heart disease and AIDS. But how many of us realize that, in much of the world, the act of giving life to a child is still the biggest killer of women of child-bearing age? That over half a million die every year? Or that 3 million babies are stillborn? Or that another 4 million die during the first days and weeks of life?" – during her acceptance of the 2005 UN Day Award.


  1. ^ New York Magazine profile
  2. ^ Forbes Top Fifteen Models. Retrieved on 2007-06-16.
  3. ^ Liya Kebede's Role as Goodwill Ambassador
  4. ^ a b c Wiltz, Teresa. "The Swan." Essence magazine (September 2004).
  5. ^
  6. ^ a b c Sterling, Wayne. "Model Citizen." Savoy Magazine, page 31.
  7. ^ a b Naughton, Julie. "Estee Lauder's New Ethnic Mix." Women's Wear Daily (March 14, 2003).
  8. ^ a b Trebay, Guy. "A Black Model Reaches the Top, a Lonely Spot." New York Times (April 8, 2003), C16
  9. ^ Holgate, Mark. "Role Model". US Vogue (May 2005).
  10. ^ The World's Top-Earning Models
  11. ^ Oakes, Keily "Escaping the Somailian Desert" BBC News (Sept 4, 2009).
  12. ^ Liya Kebede at the Internet Movie Database
  13. ^ Liya Kebede's Role as Goodwill Ambassador
  14. ^ The Liya Kebede Foundation
  15. ^ Gates Foundation Living Proof Project Liya's Diary
  16. ^ Center for Global Development
  17. ^
  18. ^
  19. ^ About Champions for an HIV Free Generation
  20. ^
  21. ^ The Insider, Liya Kebede's Lemlem Children's Clothing Line Debuts
  22. ^ Liya Kebede Celebrity-Parent Profile -
  23. ^ Burke, Meredith Melling. "Cause for Celebration" US Vogue (December 2006).

External links

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