INSPIRING WOMAN | Liya Kebede

Model and Philanthropist, Liya Kibede.
Model and Philanthropist, Liya Kebede.

Liya Kebede is a Supermodel, actress, mother and an inspiring woman.  Originally from Ethiopia, the beauty was discovered by a film director who introduced her to a modelling agent.  At the time she was attending Lycee Guebre Mariam, a Franco-Ethiopian school in Addis-Ababa.  It was after graduating that she moved to France and pursued modelling.  Since then she has become one of the most successful and one of the highest paid in the business.  She has appeared on the cover of several editions of Vogue including, American, Japanese,  French, Italian and Spanish.  Kebede has also appeared in numerous ad campaigns for some of the biggest names in the industry; Escada, Gucci,  Louis Vuitton, Gap and many more.  She became the first Black/African model to be the face of Estee Lauder Cosmetics in 2003.

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Kebede is an inspiring woman not just because she is a successful model, but because of her work as an advocate for women and issues surrounding maternal mortality in Ethiopia and around the world.

Recognizing the influence she has Kebede became the World Health Organization’s Goodwill Ambassador for Maternal, Newborn and Child Health.  With a passion for her home country of Ethiopia, she founded the Liya Kebede foundation which focuses on issues of maternal mortality in Ethiopia and other countries.  She even worked with Bill & Melinda Gates on the Living Proof Project where she documented her journey to Ehtiopia and gives account about the state of maternal care in her home country.

Kebede launched her company Lemlem in 2007 with a goal of bringing economic independence to people in her home country.  Initially selling hand-woven scarves, the product line now includes women’s and children’s clothing, home decor and gift items.

In 2009 she starred in the film, Desert Flower, which documented the experiences of fellow model Waris Dirie.  The film was a true story based on the issues of female mutilation and how Waris lived through and is now an advocate against the practice.

Liya Kebede as Waris Dirie in the film, Desert Flower.  (2009)
Liya Kebede as Waris Dirie in the film, Desert Flower. (2009)

Liya Kebede is more than just another pretty face.  She is a woman who inspires, has compassion and is always trying to make an impact in the lives of women around the world.  Kebede lives in New York City with her husband Kassahun (Kassy) Kebede who is the founder of Panton Capital Group, a hedge fund company.  They have two children; son, Suhul and daughter Raee.

Liay Kebede with her husband, Kassy Kebede.
Liya Kebede with her husband, Kassy Kebede.
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