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Thursday, 18 September 2014

Ethiopian Supermodel Liya Kibede on Staying Close to Her Roots

Meet Liya Kebede, the Ethiopian Supermodel who was once ranked as the 11th highest-paid top model in the world. She was scouted by a French film director, after which her story changed forever. Born in Addis Ababa, in 1978, Kebede was spotted by a film director while she was attending school, he introduced her to a French modelling agent. After completing her studies, she moved to France to pursue work through a Parisian agency and later relocated to New York. She continues to stay close to her roots through her fashion line and philanthropic work.

In 2000, multi-talented designer Tom Ford hand-picked her to walk the runway for his autumn/winter Gucci collection. At this point Kebede got her big break and a year later, she would sit for prolific photographer Patrick Demarchelier, feature as cover girl on numerous fashion magazines including Vogue and walk the runways for Chanel, Dolce and Gabbana, Burberry and Fendi.

Despite her success, Kebede has never forgotten where she came from. When an opportunity arose to launch her own fashion line, Lemlem  in 2007, Kebede drew inspiration from her native land. She embraced the traditional hand-woven style from back home, in the hope of offering employment and business opportunities for the country's long-established weavers, and hence incorporated it into her collections. "Supporting Ethiopian weavers and their craft has remained our central mission and we're proud we can sell a beautiful product while also helping these artisans thrive."



Kebede is also a maternal health advocate through her philanthropy, The Liya Kebede Foundation, launched in 2005. The foundation supports training, and education about safe birth delivery services with the aim to substantially reduce preventable deaths in communities like the ones she grew up near. As a mother of two, it's a cause close to her heart. "I have always felt committed to women's causes and the maternal health issue in particular spoke to me after I had my 2 children. I was stunned when I first learned that a woman was dying every minute in my home country and other developing nations from complications of pregnancy and childbirth."

On how she juggles being a a supermodel, businesswoman, philanthropist, activist and mother , she said: "I think most women are very good at juggling things, we learn it from our moms! When you love what you do, a busy week isn't a chore -- it's more a question of how to prioritize to put your best effort into each area."

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