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Liya Kebede (born January 3, 1978) is an Ethiopianmarker model and occasional 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.


Kebede was born and raised in Addis Ababamarker, Ethiopiamarker. A film director spotted Kebede while she was attending Lycee Guebre Mariam and introduced her to a Frenchmarker modeling agent. After completing her studies, she moved to France to pursue work through a Parisianmarker agency. Kebede later relocated to New York Citymarker. She has remarked that the modeling industry in Ethiopia is quite different from the catwalks on which she is now ubiquitous. In contrast, in Ethiopia she had to provide her own shoes for each runway show.

Modeling career

Kebede's big break came when Tom Ford asked her for an exclusive contract for his Gucci Fall/Winter 2000 fashion show. Kebede was a finalist in the Miss World supermodel contest and later established a place in fashion's elite by modeling on the New York, Milan, London and Paris runway circuit . 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 .She is now in her own independent film called "Desert Flower." It came out on September 24, 2009

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

Kebede is one of a very few African models featured in major fashion photo shoots and runway shows . 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".

In 2005, Kebede was appointed as WHO Goodwill Ambassador for Maternal, Newborn and Child Health. 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.

Kebede has also had minor roles in two films: The Good Shepherd and Lord of War.

In 2008, Kebede was featured on one of the four covers of Vogue Italia's all Black Issue.

In 2009, Kebede stars in the film-adaption of the bestselling autobiography desert flower by former supermodel Waris Dirie.

Personal life

Kebede married Ethiopian hedge fund manager Kassy Kebede 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. As of 2007, the family resides in New York City.

Aside from being a mother of two, a model, an actress, a humanitarian and a goodwill ambassador, Kebede has also designed a children's-wear line that is made in Ethiopia. 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.


  • "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. Wiltz, Teresa. "The Swan." Essence magazine (September 2004).
  4. Liya Kebede Photos on
  5. Sterling, Wayne. "Model Citizen." Savoy Magazine, page 31.
  6. Naughton, Julie. "Estee Lauder's New Ethnic Mix." Women's Wear Daily (March 14, 2003).
  7. Trebay, Guy. "A Black Model Reaches the Top, a Lonely Spot." New York Times (April 8, 2003), C16
  8. Holgate, Mark. "Role Model". US Vogue (May 2005).
  9. The World's Top-Earning Models
  10. Burke, Meredith Melling. "Cause for Celebration" US Vogue (December 2006).
  11. Liya Kebede Celebrity-Parent Profile -

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