First attracting attention appearing in a show by Gucci creative director Tom Ford, model and actress Liya Kebede rose to supermodel status in 2003 with her lucrative 3 year contract as an Estée Lauder model. She has also been featured in many major publications, most notably “Vogue,” has done ad campaigns for such clients as Yves Saint-Laurent, Revlon, Victoria's Secret and Gap, among others, and strutted down the catwalks for top designers like Calvin Klein, Ralph Lauren, Jean-Paul Gaultier and Oscar de la Renta. In 2007, Kebede ranked No. 11 on the Forbes list of the “15 Top Earning Supermodels in the World.” As an actress, Kebede had roles in the films “Lord of War” (2005), “The Good Shepherd” (2006) and “Desert Flower” (2009). She is scheduled to appear in the upcoming “Houba! Le Marsupilami et l'orchidée de Chicxulub” and “Black Gold” (2011).
“I always wanted to do something to help the garment industry in Africa.” Liya Kebede
Kebede has designed a clothing line called Lemlem, which is made of hand-loomed clothing from Ethiopia. She is the wife of Ethiopian hedge fund manager Kassy Kebede and has two kids with him. In addition, she heads the Liya Kebede foundation Mothers and Children. For her commitment to motherhood, Kebede was chosen by WHO as their Goodwill Ambassador for Maternal, Newborn and Child Health in 2005.
Mother of 2
Childhood and Family:
Liya Kebede was born on January 13, 1980, in Ababa, Ethiopia. She was raised in a middle class family where she was the only girl among four boys. She had no interest in modeling until she was approached by a director while attending Lycee Guebre Mariam and was introduced to a French modeling agent. Upon finishing her studies, she went to France to pursue a modeling career.
Arriving in New York City in 2000, Liya married Kassy Kebede later that same year. Her husband is an Ethiopian hedge fund manager. The couple had a son, Suhul, in 2001 and a daughter, Raee, in August 2005. The family currently resides in New York City.
Spotted by an art director while a student in Ethiopia, Liya Kebede later left her native country to give modeling a try. She relocated to Chicago and then New York City in 2000. Following constant rejection, the relentless, hard-working girl eventually experienced a turning point in her career when Tom Ford offered her an exclusive contract for his Gucci Fall/Winter 2000 fashion show after seeing her in Milan.
After this affiliation, Kebede worked for such big names as Donna Karan, Dolce & Gabbana, and Chanel, and was featured in “Vogue.” In 2002, her budding career was further established when she landed a cover shoot for the May edition of “Paris Vogue.” However, her greatest breakthrough arrived the following year when she signed a multi-million dollar deal with Estée Lauder to be one of their models.
Kebede went on to appear in advertisements for clients like Escada, Revlon, Yves Saint Laurent, Victoria's Secret, Tommy Hilfiger, Tiffany & Co, Vidal Sassoon, Louis Vuitton, Emanuel Ungaro and Lord & Taylor. She also worked for such noted designers as Calvin Klein, Ralph Lauren, Sean John, Oscar de la Renta, Versace, Jean-Paul Gaultier, Valentino, La Perla, Marc Jacobs, Moschino, Nina Ricci, Bill Blass, and Kenneth Cole, to name a few. In addition, her face decorated the covers of such magazines as “Essence,” “V,” “Flair” and international “Vogue” magazines.
“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?” Liya Kebede
At the age of 25, in 2005, the mother of two was named the World Health Organization (WHO) Goodwill Ambassador for Maternal, Newborn and Child Health. She also branched out to acting and made her debut with a small role in the Nicolas Cage vehicle “Lord of War” (2005). She then appeared as Miriam in the Robert De Niro directed “The Good Shepherd” (2006), which starred Matt Damon, Angelina Jolie and Alec Baldwin. In addition, she starred in “Desert Flower” in 2009.
Kebede is currently filming “Houba! Le Marsupilami et l'orchidée de Chicxulub” with actors Gérard Depardieu and Julie Delpy. She will also appear in “Black Gold,” which superstar Antonio Banderas.