“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.