African Voices is a weekly show that highlights Africa’s most engaging personalities, exploring the lives and passions of people who rarely open themselves up to the camera. Follow the team on Twitter.
(CNN) — Fashion season is once again upon us. Celebrities, trendsetters and buyers across the world will adorn the front rows of countless runways as the sartorially elite reveal their style edicts for the season ahead.
But what is it like to rub shoulders with fashion’s finest? Over the next week, CNN’s African Voices is teaming up with Ethiopian supermodel, designer and maternal health advocate Liya Kebede to offer an exclusive insight into her multi-faceted world. Kebede will post a daily diary of her life on Instagram showing us mere mortals the events she attends, meetings she’s involved in while reflecting on how her roots have shaped the woman she is today.
Then we’ll gather the diary together and release it in interactive form next week. But if you can’t wait until then, follow Kebede throughout the week via the hashtag #CNNAfrica on Instagram and Twitter.
Who is Liya Kebede?
Born in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia in 1978, Kebede had been attending the French Lycee when she was scouted by a French film director and so began her rise to the top. Upon finishing her education, she joined a Parisian modeling agency before moving to Chicago and then New York. When she hit the Big Apple, there was no turning back.
In the fall of 2000, the multi-talented designer and future director Tom Ford handpicked Kebede to walk the catwalk for his autumn/winter Gucci collection. It was the big break Kebede had been waiting for. A year later, she would sit for prolific photographer Patrick Demarchelier for Harper’s Bazaar, feature as cover girl on numerous fashionista bibles including Vogue and tread the runways for Chanel, Dolce and Gabbana, Burberry and Fendi, to name a few.
Despite the supermodel success, Kebede has never forgotten where she came from. When an opportunity arose to launch her own fashion line, Lemlem — meaning “to flourish or bloom” in Amharic — 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 incorporated it into her collections.
Returning to her roots
Kebede also works tirelessly to put a spotlight on the needs of millions of mothers and newborns in Ethiopia through her philanthropy, The Liya Kebede Foundation, launched in 2005 alongside her appointment as a World Health Organization goodwill ambassador, a role she held until 2011. 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.
“When I went back to Ethiopia, I wanted to do something. I wanted to give back,” Kebede previously told CNN, “Here we are today. But in a hundred years how do you want the world to be? Everybody should get together to make the world a better place.”
A supermodel, businesswoman, philanthropist, activist and mother — that’s a lot of hats and Kebede will show us just how she manages to do it all.