Having gained wide success in the world of fashion and modeling, Liya Kebede has transitioned successfully into the world of acting, with the starring role in the independent film, Desert Flower. An adaptation of Waris Dirie’s bestselling autobiography, the story recounts Dirie’s rise from childhood in the Somali desert to the catwalks of the international fashion business.
In 2004, Kebede captured Hollywood’s attention and has since appeared in films including The Good Shepherd with Matt Damon and Angelina Jolie, directed by Robert De Niro, and Andrew Niccols’ Lord of War with Nicolas Cage and Bridget Moynahan. A native of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, Kebede has graced the covers of dozens of magazines including Vogue (American, Italian, Japanese & Spanish), V, Elle, Harper’s Bazaar and Time’s Style & Design issue.
In 2003 Liya became the first woman of color to represent the Estée Lauder brand. Off screen, Kebede is a U.N. Goodwill Ambassador with the World Health Organization, working to raise awareness of the difficulties women and children face in the developing world. In her efforts to make a difference, she founded The Liya Kebede Foundation which aims to improve the health and well-being of mothers and children around the world.
In July 2007, Kebede launched Lemlem, a children’s clothing line hand woven in Ethiopia and sold online as well as in select boutiques in New York, Los Angeles, and Europe. She is currently working on the second collection. Lemlem, which means “to bloom” or “to flourish” in Amharic, embodies African traditions and culture with the hopes to positively impact its economy. Liya resides in New York with her husband, Kassy and their children, Suhul & Raee.