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Tall, dark, and dreamy Liya Kebede swapped her life in Ethiopia at the age of 18 for the bright lights and even brighter opportunities of Paris. After spending her time doing catalogue work, it wasn’t until fashion’s fairy godfather Tom Ford lifted her out of obscurity and sent her down the runway for the Gucci Spring 2000 show. A few years later, and the sylphlike beauty had the entire May 2002 edition of French Vogue dedicated to her, secured campaigns for Yves Saint Laurent, Louis Vuitton, and Dolce & Gabbana, and in 2003, became the first woman of colour to represent cosmetics company Estée Lauder. On top of this, she’s appeared in every publication from Vogue to i-D and become a fixture on the international Fashion Week schedule. Not just a pretty face, in 2005 she was named the Goodwill Ambassador for Maternal, Newborn & Child Health for the World Health Organisation, set up The Liya Kebede Foundation, dedicated to women and children, and launched Lemlem, her handspun, woven and embroidered clothing line. Oh and she also played the Somalian supermodel Waris Dirie in the 2009 film Desert Flower. There’s nothing this girl can’t do.

@liyakebede

Photography Daniele + Iango
Styling Alastair McKimm
[The Define Yourself Issue, No. 309, Fall 2010]

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