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Supermodel Liya Kebede is also an accomplished fashion designer, maternal health advocate, and actress. Kebede, an Ethiopian native, was the first woman of color to represent Estée Lauder in the brand’s sixty-eight-year history. She has also fronted innumerable international covers of Vogue, including three issues (one solo; two group covers) of the publication’s American edition. She is also considered a muse to designers Nicolas Ghesquière (Balenciaga, Louis Vuitton), and Tom Ford, the latter responsible for Kebede’s big break—a series of Yves Saint Laurent, and Gucci advertising campaigns during Ford’s tenure as Creative Director.
As a testament to her universal beauty, she was recently named Global Brand Ambassador for L’Oreal cosmetics, skincare, and haircare lines, and Forbes named her one of the top fifteen highest earning models.
Off-duty, Kebede is a successful, multi-hyphenate entrepreneur. Lemlem, Kebede’s ethically-minded, contemporary clothing line for women and children, is sold at select retailers worldwide—including Barneys New York, and J. Crew; the collection expanded to include a home collection, and Kebede was recently inducted into the prestigious Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA).
While traveling abroad, Kebede discovered thousands of traditional weavers who no longer had a market for their goods. She was inspired and felt compelled to preserve their art form while simultaneously creating new economic opportunities in underserved communities. Lemlem, meaning “to bloom or flourish” in Amharic, is handmade in Ethiopia from natural cotton, and rooted in tradition, yet woven with a modern touch. The collection is intended to add a sense of diversity to the clothing market while fueling prosperity in another.
In 2014, Kebede partnered with fine jewelry designer Monique Pean, a fellow CFDA member and sustainable/cruelty-free advocate, on a limited-edition collection of accessories to benefit the Liya Kebede Foundation; Kebede also stars in its digital, video, and print promotions. The organization focuses its efforts on reducing maternal and newborn mortality in Africa, and improving the health and wellbeing of mothers and children globally through education and other initiatives; Kebede also stars in its digital, video, and print promotions.
In recognition of her body of work, as well as her various philanthropic efforts in support of maternal health and awareness, Kebede was named one of TIME magazine’s 100 Most Influential People. She was also honored as one of Glamour Magazine’s Women of the Year.
Kebede established herself as a leading actress in the title role of the National Geographic Film Desert Flower. She also had a role in Costa-Gavras’s political suspense thriller, Capital—an adaptation of Stephane Osmont’s best-selling novel Le Capital—alongside Gad Elmaleh and Gabriel Byrne.
Kebede also starred in Eric Bartonio’s thriller, 419, as well as the French comedy, Samba pour la France, by Eric Toledano and Olivier Nakache. Previously, she appeared in Hilary Brougher’s Innocence, and Giuseppe Torrnatore’s The Best Offer, opposite Geoffrey Rush and Jim Sturgess, which was shown at The Berlin Film Festival; Additional film credits include The Good Shepherd, Lord Of War, Marsupilami and Jean-Jacques Annaud’s Black Gold.
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Liya Kebede for Celine Fall/Winter 2017 Paris06.03.2017
Liya Kebede for Celine Fall/Winter 2017
Liya Kebede (closed) for Loewe Fall/Winter 2017 Paris03.03.2017
Liya Kebede (closed) for Loewe Fall/Winter 2017
Liya Kebede for InStyle US March 201702.03.2017
Liya Kebede for InStyle US March 2017 by Jonas Bresnan styled by Laura
Liya Kebede, Missy Rayder and Tasha Tilberg for Dries Van Noten Fall/Winter 2017 Paris02.03.2017
Liya Kebede, Missy Rayder and Tasha Tilberg for Dries Van Noten Fall/Winter 2017
Liya Kebede for Calvin Klein Ready to Wear Fall/Winter 2017 New York10.02.2017
Liya Kebede for Calvin Klein Ready to Wear Fall/Winter 2017 New
Liya Kebede and Lily Aldridge for Theory Spring 2017 Campaign06.02.2017
Liya Kebede and Lily Aldridge for Theory Spring 2017 Campaign by Erik Torstensson styled by Clare