There’s no sarcasm involved when calling Ehtiopian born actress Liya Kebede a “model turned actress.” Kebede has graced the cover of Vogue three times and has been named the 11th highest paid model by Forbes magazine. Her striking beauty has led to an almost fairytailed career as the inspiration to Tom Ford, the face of Gap, Dolce & Gabbana, Revlon, Tommy Hilfiger, Victoria’s Secret, Emanuel Ungaro, Yves Saint-Laurent, Louis Vuitton, and Escada…to name a few.
In 2009, Liya took on the challenging role of Somali born model Waris Dirie in Desert Flower. The film chronicles Dirie’s rise to success despite her traumatic experience of childhood genital mutilation in her home country of Somalia. Kebede’s powerful portrayal garnered critics praise and a standing ovation at the Venice Film Festival. The has received rave reviews at subsequent screenings and is currently playing in select theaters.
A champion for several women’s causes, Kebede is a Goodwill Ambassador for the World Health Organization focusing her efforts on Maternal, Newborn, and Child Health in the developing world. She has also started her own clothing line, Lemlem, which means “to bloom” in Amharic, created to preserve traditional weaving in Ethiopia and supporting local artists.