|Birth country: Ethiopia
Having recently snagged the top spot on at least one roster of the hottest models of the moment – leaving Natalia Vodianova as runner-up – there's no question that Liya Kebede is taking the fashion world by storm.
Her rise began when Gucci creative director Tom Ford, who was mesmerised by her during a Milan catwalk show, handpicked the budding model for an Yves Saint Laurent campaign. It was then that she came to Estee Lauder CEO Aerin Lauder's attention. "We were thinking, 'Who is this person?'," the cosmetics boss said later.
In March 2003, the Addis Ababa native signed to the firm alongside Carolyn Murphy and Liz Hurley, making her the 60-year-old company's first-ever black spokesmodel. The $3-million contract helped cement Liya's place in the fashion world, and now she's opening doors for other women of colour. "I'd love it if young girls can see me and say, 'She's done it, and so can I'," she says.