Liya Kebede, Model/Actress


“I really think the less you do, the better it is. Sometimes I get a reaction on my face, and then I start acting immediately with extreme measures, and it makes it worse. It’s just a matter of letting it lie, and just leaving it alone, so I do very little with my skin. Definitely I use a cleanser, and then a toner: for a cleanser, I’ve always used Kiehl’s, and then I use their Rosewater toner as well, or the Intral toner from Darphin. I started using Kiehl’s at the beginning of my fashion career. I always had all this reaction on my forehead, and one makeup artist said, ‘Kiehl’s works, use it for a while, and you’ll see—cleanser, toner and moisturizer.’ That’s the first time I even knew there were three parts to your morning routine. [Laughs] Then I did it, and it worked, so I stuck with it. I can see why toners work, especially for me, because I do have oily skin—but it’s combination skin too, so it’s odd. If I put an oil-free thing on, it doesn’t work, because my skin gets dried out, so it’s always hard to find something that’s really working. But I feel like when I have a good toner, I can see it really cleans. For moisturizers, I go between L’Oréal Youth Code, and a couple from Nuxe: Crème Prodigieuse and Aroma-Vaillance. I also really like the Kiehl’s shaving cream. [Laughs]

I’ve been in the industry for easily ten years. I’m an ambassador for L'Oréal—it’s been about a year now. They appreciate beauty in a very individual way. The spokesmodels are always interesting women—definitely gorgeous women—but also women who are up to something, who are passionate, who are hardworking, who have an opinion about something. I like that they go for the fullness of the women. I’m from Ethiopia, and in addition to modeling and acting, I have a sustainable clothing line for women and kids called Lemlem, and now we’ve branched out into home. It’s all hand-woven in Ethiopia. Ethiopians are known to be beautiful, within the world. There’s this whole myth—well, it’s not a myth—it’s true: I have traveled and seen it’s quite incredible. There is something about Ethiopian beauty. The thing about beauty is that everywhere you go, beauty means something else. And in a way, that’s great, because you don’t want it to mean the same thing everywhere because beauty is not something fixed or solid—it shouldn’t be, and it’s not right now. But the more one the world becomes, the less and less that happens. Everyone starts having the same view of what beautiful is, and that’s not a good thing.

In Ethiopia, we have really great hair salons.You get washed and they put you in the rollers, and then they’ll either blow dry or flat iron it. It’s a thing on Sundays; everybody’s at the hair salon. I grew up always with my hair braided, and I love that. You can be creative with different kinds of braids: all up, all out, sideways. So we kind of play around with it. I actually do that with my daughter as well: we braid her hair, and she’s learned how to braid now, too. We put little shells in hers. And one thing that they do there is they put butter in your hair—real butter. It’s different than butter here because it’s not processed; you make the butter yourself at home, or you buy it, but it’s so organic, and there’s nothing in it. They do it like a treatment, in salons—it’s incredible! Every time I go there, I do it. It really fortifies your hair and makes it really healthy. My hair goes through its phases. I do a lot of Kérastase because I have very curly hair and it’s very tangly. Untangling it is really hard, so I need a really good conditioner, and Kérastase works for me—the orange line, Nutritive. And I’ve been using the new L’Oréal oil—Elseve, which isn’t out yet—and that’s very good. I put that on before the shampoo, and leave it in, and then wash it. If I can, I’ll leave it on overnight; if not, then right before I shampoo. And I think it gives it shine and just a little bit of something.

I don’t wear makeup during the day. If I go out at night, I’ve started wearing eyeliner—it’s a very new thing for me. I was intimidated by doing my own eyeliner because I think it gets really messy, so I never attempted it. Funnily enough, I think I was on a shoot somewhere, and someone put liquid eyeliner on me, and I really liked it. Then I thought, ‘This is a really interesting look to go out in.’ I had newly acquired L’Oréal eyeliner which is very very good—I’m really obsessed with it, actually. It’s called the Super Liner: there’s one that’s a thicker brush, but I like the one with the thinner brush. And for me it’s the perfect size, it doesn’t mess up—I don’t know why—maybe the liquid is very watery. It’s very light, and it dries really quickly. It’s sort of changed my night look: it’s very easy but it makes you look done even though you haven’t done anything else. And I love the Lash Architect 4D mascara: it makes you look like you have lots of lashes immediately. Sometimes I do red lip— it’s easy and pretty, and sometimes I add a pencil on it to make it more intense, or sometimes I'll do the Infallible eye shadow in silver. But that’s pretty much it. I don’t go crazy. I like a fresh looking face. I have learned so much about beauty through fashion: it’s incredible the amount of knowledge you get, and how you notice the little things that make all the difference. In a way, if you have the perfect makeup artist who can do the best skin on you, you don’t need anything else. And I think that’s why I always leave my skin more fresh—because I love that look of pure skin.”

Liya Kebede, wearing Carven (including shoes!), photographed by Emily Weiss at the Hotel Martinez in Cannes, France, May 25th 2012. 

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  • Clau

    very interesting your suggestions
    best regards from germany

  • lineaments

    Sigh. I WISH I had the kind of skin tone that allowed me to forego makeup. If I go without make-up during the day, I look as if I've seen a ghost. Make-up adds a spot of colour to my pasty pale complexion, but it's pain to have to go through the motions every single day without fail lest I look absolutely awful.

    That said, I'm really glad she mentioned brands like Kiehls, Darphin and Nuxe. I use all the three brands as well - though not the selfsame products pictured - and they're brill. It also lends a degree of verisimilitude to the interview, because when stars who have beauty contracts then go on to plug the products they're paid to endorse, then the whole thing comes a bit of a cropper.

    • Kiki

      It's worth mentioning that the L'Oréal group owns Kiehl's and Kérastase. Both brands are amazing, don't get me wrong. But Liya is obviously a very good spokeswoman.

      • lineaments

        Whoops. Totally forgot Kiehl's is owned by L'Oreal. But still, I rate Kiehls much higher than the mainstream L'Oreal brand, akin to how I think Darphin is a far better brand that Estee Lauder or La Mer.

        As for the L'Oreal spokesmodels - while I find many of them to be streets ahead of the pretty faces of Estee Lauder, L'Oreal too has its share of merely pretty women (Doutzen Kroes, Claudia Schiffer, Freida Pinto, Diane Kruger et al) whom it anoints spokesmodels - although Liya clearly is much more than just a pretty face, what with serving as a WHO Ambassador being one of the many strings to her bow.

      • Cay

        But when it gets down to it, almost all beauty brands are owned by a handful of companies (LVMH, L'Oreal, Lauder, P&G, and J&J). You could level that criticism at every person ITG has interviewed who has ever had any sort of involvement in any brand. Scary, but that's just the way the industry works.

        • claire

          @cay . I SWEAR I started to write this same statement as a comment. My sentiments exactly!!!

    • AmyC

      She mentioned other brands but many of them are owned by l'oreal! Kiehls and Kerastase are their luxury products.

  • Jayanthi

    wow!!! what a beauty. Love her simplicity.

  • Anonymous

    What a gorgeous smile!!!

  • Florasbox

    Effortless beauty! Seems like you enjoyed Cannes, great coverage! Sunshiney Greets from Vienna, Marie-Thérèse

  • Lisa

    Liya Kebede!!! Emily, you've made my day - I just LOVE her!

  • claire

    Yes! i've been obsessed with liya since I was a young teen! Thanks emily you're amazing.

  • claire

    She is so right! ethiopians, somalians, etc. are so beautfiul pretty much all of africa contains beautiful women no matter the region.

    • Devi D

      Agreed. Africa has beautiful women all over the continent. Liya is very pretty, but I don't like (or agree) when Ethiopian and Somalian women are considered the most beautiful. People usually say that because they look more European than most other African people.

      That said, I really want to know more about these butter in the hair treatments.

      • claire

        That's very true although I don't see the european features in them? maybe just a more prominent nose somewhat?...In my opinion they have their own distinct look egg shaped head, pear shaped body, big round eyes and beautiful luscious curls. Not saying they all do, but most of the ones i've encountered.

        • Eat.Style.Play

          The European features are there, if you look back in history Italians were there, at least that what I was taught but that traces really far back. My grandfather is part Ethiopian, and my mom looks like she is more Ethi that he is. But i won't get into a history lesson, there is a diverse mixture there though with a lot of European drops here and there.

          • LankyAlpaca

            if you mean ethnic somalis, a vast majority of them don't exhibit european features because they're distantly related to italians, in fact, somali's racial admixture only represents .01 to 1% of the population. and yes, it's mostly Italian, arab, phoenician and indian admixtures, but the rest of our people are pure Somalis. it's just that Africa has a plethora of different people with different looks, shades and colors to them.

          • Eat.Style.Play

            Hmmm. I wasn't, I was speaking of my family, Ethiopians but we are also a diverserfamily of Germans, Ethiopians, East Indian but the Ethi features stand out in my mom. Humans have been around so long, we all get these features from somewhere, but at the end of the day it's all beauty to me and it can all be traced back to Africa.

            I did say drops here and there, which in my mind means small amounts nothing to significant but in some you see it more than others.

  • Anonymous

    Great piece, she is fabulous with amazing skin. I do wonder if she genuinely does love all those L'Oreal products - as she is an ambassador for them? Love all the Kiehl's stuff she mentioned though!

  • Cay

    She's gorgeous!

    I do have to say, though, that sometimes it's tough when people are like "Oh, do nothing to your skin and don't wear makeup!" It's just not an option for those of us who don't have naturally even skin.

  • Marina

    The appeal of Into the Gloss for me is reading word of mouth recommendations from some of the most interesting and beautiful people in the fashion and beauty worlds. I come away feeling inspired and often spend time afterwards reviewing certain items mentioned and even purchasing them (Koh Gen Do foundation is fantastic!).
    However, these L'Oreal posts (which I'm going to assume are the results of your recent trip to Cannes) leave me feeling disconnected.

    I understand that posts like these contribute to building your brand and growing your network associations and I certainly don't mean any disrespect to Liya or Emily as I'm an avid reader of ITG and a big fan of Liya's. In the meantime, I'm going to wait (im)patiently for a fresh Top Shelf post.

  • Madison

    I want to try that hair oil she is talking about!!

    Check out my blog. I just revamped and added new content for summer 2012 ;)

    • Capitalist Pancake

      I suspect that hair oil is just a cheaper version of Kerastase (L'oreal owned) oleo relax serum. I used it for years, but I think at some point they changed the formula as a couple years ago I opened a new bottle and about 10 mins after applying I started breaking out on the scalp and around the hairline. Shame really. They also d/c'd (years ago) my favorite line, can't remember the name but it was in blue packaging. They had a leave in cream that beat just about everything. And they also d/c'd their Nacre Nutri Sculpt wax, which had to be the best wax ever! I still get worked up over that, esp. when I see Ebay sellers selling rare containers for almost £70+! (not that desparate!)

  • Liz Lizo

    Oh dear, this just made my week!

  • AmyC

    I agree. It makes me question their true opinion of the product, because let's be real - no ONE uses all things from only one company (as Mila has led us to believe). Even owners of beauty product companies don't use just their products, as we've seen on ITG before. I think it makes the spokesperson seem more credible and trustworthy when they mention other brands, as well as just being paid for the promotion.

    • Phil

      Agreed. We all know they get large chunks of products for the brand they represent, but that won't mean they only use that one brand. They're just like all the rest of us, mixing & matching products as we go along. Doesn't mean they can't like what they represent, but don't try to fool us.

    • Janet Lee

      At least she mentions Kiehl's and not L'oreal cleanser, toner and moisturiser as well. Not sure about the eyeliner, but I do like some L'oreal mascaras.

  • Ekaterina

    Everyone needs to calm down about the so called "L'Oreal posts" - I don't understand why there is so much backlash. Newsflash: L'Oreal is a very, very large corporation, and over time it has aquired many other brands (for example, it bought Kiehls several years ago - so while yes, Kiehls is now under the L'Oreal umbrella, it didn't start out as a L'Oreal product). And lets remember - L'Oreal didn't become the major beauty brand that it is today without many, many people purchasing their products because - just maybe - they actually like them! So while I understand that it may be shocking to see a drug store brand referenced so frequently on this site, instead of the usual La Mer or Aesop or a French pharmacy brand, we, as readers, really shouldn't be so quick to immediately rule out the fact that these women may actually LIKE L'Oreal products, even if they are paid to talk about them. Remember they're brand AMBASSADORS, which doesn't automatically turn them into a Saks sales associate. And ultimately, if you don't like L'Oreal, don't buy it. These are still lovely posts, regardless of which products they name-drop.

    • Devi D

      I don't think anyone is confused or shocked or believed that the fact that L'Oreal is a major corporation is particularly newsworthy. Long-time readers of this blog are used to people profiled here coming across as more honest or genuine than the brand "ambassadors" do. Sure many people profiled here plug their own companies and those of friends and families from time to time, but it's usually not such blatant selling as it with people who represent large brands.

      Knowing that they're paid to talk about these products, I can't be sure if they like them or not. It's not information I trust. And also it can be boring to hear similar things said on blogs as they say in advertisements. However, ITG has never made claims of being a corporate-free space so I have no problems with them being here. Even though it does make their profiles a little less lovely.

      • Eat.Style.Play

        either way i'll vouch for Khiels, i was using clinique and i thought my skin was great, until I went to the smashbox counter and the guy was like go try this mask . I tried it was earth something, with Gray Clay. Then i went back for a scrub,...and before i knew it I was getting all these compliments. Now i have the oil free wash/toner/moisturizer skin has never been better. my whole cabinet is full of their products. I'm not Liya and I'm definitely not paid to say it lol.

      • Ekaterina

        I think the loveliness, or, lets say quality of the posts on this site has always fluctuated, and what is considered a better or worse probably differs for everyone, just like I apparently didn't dislike the most recent ones as much as other readers have. All I was trying to say, however, is that the corporate aspect has always been a part of this site (all "the MAKEUP" posts, like the ones featuring Arizona in YSL when she also happened to be the model in the YSL campaign..?) Or beauty editors name dropping Joelle products (which I love, by the way, so thank you for that!) But isn't that also what's made this site stand out from all the other beauty blogs out there? The fact that Emily has access to that corporate world? She has access to the editors of the magazines we see on the stands, to the models, to the make up artists who put together the runway looks which we than try to copy in our everyday lives, and she gets all of that straight from the people who set the beauty trends, and isn't all of that just an arms length away from the brands/corporations that produce these products? I suppose there can and probably is a counter argument to that, but nonetheless the appeal of ITG to me has always been that Emily is there, she is in that beauty world, and with that comes the opportunity to interview these brand ambassadors. So why not? I just don't think certain readers should try and shame her for these posts. They may not be as juicy as some of the others have been, but there is a certain aestheticism about them that is still very ITG :)

        • Devi D

          "Shame" is too loaded and emotional of a term for the kind of criticism ITG is receiving for these posts. I don't think anyone is trying to hurt Emily, and, from her response, it doesn't seem as if she's taking that way.

          Also, I did say that I have no problem with brand reps being here. I just don't like the posts as much as the others.

  • S.

    L'Oreal also owns a lot of other makeup highbrands (Armani, for example...) So what? This is all about beauty, not companies.

    • Rebecca Sartrom

      That's my point exactly, there is nothing of discovery, nothing of personal anecdotes, nothing new being shared about personal decisions/philosophies/knowledge learned that people like Eva Chen/Eddie Borgo shared. I miss the days when it was about the beauty, and now it seems to be about companies.

  • David Diaz

    She is so beautiful! :D

    xo - David

  • dana antoria tenant

    A true natural beauty - thanks for another great TOP SHELF!

  • Morganvsmorgan

    I really enjoyed reading this: she seems like a really cool girl & I'll definetly have to try some of the products she recommends.

  • Ivy

    I dun mind ING is getting paid to do some interviews as long as it is said so and we can save time wondering whether it is advertorial or not..

  • Capitalist Pancake

    Sheesh girls, even the gal on the street could have an aunt or cousin or something working at a makeup/skincare counter where they get more than an unbiased share of goods they could be using and getting excited about, I don't necessarily think that makes them untrustworthy - I know I come here because E does a great mix of 'street' and 'celeb'. L'oreal has had a massive presence at Cannes for a good few years - it would be hard, and a bit silly to ignore. You can play 6 degrees of separation with brands and celeb tie-ins anway, so why not do what you would normally do and just take on board the helpful stuff and ignore what isn't working for you rather than bashing someone who is actually turning out a more intelligent and glamourous makeup/skincare blog than I've seen in years? For heaven's sake - she's in the industry, of course as she makes friends/acquaintances who are as excited about this sort of thing as she is, she's going to ask them to share!

    • Sashi

      haha, ouais, as if Emily will find a rare person out there who uses magical unheard of products with gorgeous packaging and results that are untouched by any corporate affiliations. You're right because here, just take in the information, introduction to things that may be interesting to you, and give them a try if you want! If a beauty product gives you good results and you love using it, use it! Maybe I seem naive, but yes, those featured sound like they genuinely are happy with what they are mentioning.
      Thanks for your calm voice of common sense!

  • Capitalist Pancake

    This homemade butter treatment sounds interesting. I started using Leonor Greyl palm oil as a leave in on my hair, and it really makes it fabulously soft. Between that, Phyto 7 and Phytodefrisant it changed my hair. I used to use Moroccanoil, but the silicones just gave me flakes.

  • Anonymous

    Sheesh--tough crowd!

    I've wanted to interview Liya (and Milla) for ages, regardless of her brand affiliation. Into The Gloss is about people's relationships with beauty--what they've grown up with, their life experiences, routines, and, in some cases, their professional associations, collaborations, what have you. I loved hearing their stories. That being said, I definitely hear what you all are saying, and will continue to profile a broad range of women (and men) as I've done from the beginning.


    • AmyC

      Thanks for your comments Emily! I think for me it wasn't so much of an issue that she promotes l'oreal products, but that there isn't some kind of disclaimer. like what do they REALLY have her contracted to do? i always wonder, and might have to because i think a lot of this stuff is hush hush (maybe you don't even know!)

  • Anonymous

    Hi Marcela, readers often ask about what people in ITG pictures are wearing, so I decided to ask the subjects. Emily

  • Schuyler

    Liya is one of my all time favorite models... Thanks so much for this interview!

  • Tamara

    She is such a class act!

  • Elle Beautiful

    I love actress/model posts! I take that back, I love ALL TopShelf posts! But I have to agree with everyone on the L'Oreal skepticism. I do know brand ambassadors get to try all their products for free - and I have definitely gotten hooked on products that people gave me for free, so I can relate! Why buy other stuff you know? But I still take brand ambassador's advice half-hearted because they're required to speak highly of that brand. Either way - I still love TopShelf! Thanks for the great interview!

  • Kerrydiamond

    Correction. I WORKED for Lancome. The Lancome products I mentioned are the ones I continue to use and love. You can work for or represent a brand and actually like the product. The models and actresses who represented Lancome called in Lancome product for themselves and their friends quite often. And most models love Kerastase and Kiehl's. I love Liya and I'm glad she's still in the beauty industry. Bravo to L'Oreal for signing her and ITG for featuring her.

    • Capitalist Pancake

      I think you misread that completely - I wasn't bashing you, I was making the point based on the negative remarks that people are bashing Liya, but didn't to you or the rest...their logic is a bit misplaced, because I don't happen to see a difference between saying you love a product as a spokesmodel, an employee or ex employee like yourself, or just a non industry beauty enthusiast. There seems to be a lot of complaint that working for a company as a spokesmodel somehow makes you a fraud. I'm just saying if people take that line, they should logically apply it to all in the industry, but since they don't, the argument seems to fall apart, imo. I've said it below, if you read my other postings, that just as the average person can have a biased favourable outlook on certain brands if their aunt or cousin or whoever introduces them to a great line, on the flip side there is no reason why someone in the industry who is being profiled and happens to be saying 'X from Y brand is a great product' when they are working for Y brand doesn't somehow make them disingenuous.

    • Capitalist Pancake

      Adding, this is the first time I've seen, to this extent, all this negativity towards a person featured here. All of a sudden with the Mila and Liya posts, these people just aren't 'genuine' or 'real' because they are spokesmodels rather than beauty editors or execs? Ludicrous. No one who has written one of these negative posts has really explained in a logical manner how their role makes them unbelievable. That's why I was trying to extend their logic to you and the other people featured. No one has come forward with an valid argument that explains why they couldn't be telling the truth! And every Liya negative post here seems to gloss over those Nuxe products, the Bioderma. So they've extended it from Mila 'isn't genuine' because she didn't say she uses other products but she must (and somehow is obligated to? to whom? not to me!), to Liya 'isn't genuine' because she is using majority products owned by L'oreal group, but nevermind the Nuxe/Bioderma, we'll ignore it, even though there are great products with every brand! So, yes, I do agree with you, and now I'm just getting riled up!

  • Michelle Lee
  • Fashion-share

    Liya Kebede is one of my favorite models

  • Electrik sheep

    Lovely photo. Thanks for the interesting article.

  • Edie

    I love this Top Shelf! I have been a fan of Liya for a long time and as a fellow Ethiopian I can totally relate to many of things she says. The butter treatment is so good for hair! I just did last week and it does so much for my hair. I completely recommend it but with organic butter only (Trader Joe's/Whole Foods). You part your hair into sections put it on the roots and then massage the left over on your hair. You leave it in for a whole day or two is better! If your hair is dry, it will absorb a lot of it. But I can not emphasize how good its for hair. Not a lot of people know about it, ethiopian hair secret!

    The part about hair salons in Ethiopia is so funny but so true. Ethiopians know how to take care of their hair. I'm only 17 but I spend the most money on hair products when it comes to beauty. In addition to the butter treatment, I highly recommend Moroccan oil (the actual hair oil, shampoo, and conditioner) . Its so good for African hair and it smells great. Its on the expensive side but worth it.

  • Teatodd

    I agree Phil. But maybe she used some of the products and actually really like them.

    Tea Todd

  • Kathleen

    You are beautiful and are dead on about the look of pure skin. So much better

  • zinat fashion

    Love the hair!