Having graced the cover of Vogue, been the face of Estée Lauder and worked with Victoria's Secret, Dolce & Gabbana and Louis Vuitton, Kebede has also been a dedicated maternal health advocate for more than 10 years.
As founder of The Liya Kebede Foundation, the 37-year-old is committed to reducing maternal, newborn and child mortality in Ethiopia and around the world.
Kebede began work as a maternal health advocate after becoming a mother herself
"I began working as a maternal health advocate after becoming a mother myself," Kebede told HuffPost UK Parents.
"While I had the benefit of incredible support and caregivers I knew that millions of women back home in Ethiopia and around the world did not.
"As a result far too many women were dying from entirely preventable complications."
Kebede was raised in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, but now lives in New York City. She is mother to Suhul, 14, and Raee, 10.
Shortly before the birth of her second child, Kebede visited the Addis Ababa Fistula hospital and the Missionaries of Charity Orphanage in Ethiopia.
For Kebede the visits sparked a desire to make a difference.
Two months later in March 2005, Kebede was appointed as WHO's Goodwill Ambassador for Maternal, Newborn and Child Health.
At the time, she said she had experienced firsthand the huge gap that exists between two very different worlds of mothers, and she wanted to use her global success and visibility to bridge that gap.
Her appointment coincided with the launch of The Liya Kebede Foundation, through which the mother-of-two wanted to not only raise awareness of the difficulties faced by women in childbirth, but also to deliver training and education to ensure safe births in Africa.
"Growing up in Ethiopia there was an old saying that to be pregnant is to have one foot in the grave," she told HuffPost UK Parents.
"The thing that struck me the most is that there is still so much fear around childbirth, because the risks mothers in Africa face are still too high.
"Nothing affects a child and family more deeply than the loss of a mother," Kebede added.
"I believe it is one of the greatest challenges of our time to reach every mother with maternity care."
Liya Kebede raising awareness of maternal health at One Young World in Thailand - November 2015
Kebede worked as the WHO ambassador for six years, calling the time an "incredible experience".
She said: "My aim, during that time and since then, has been to inspire others to feel as passionate about this cause as I do and to lend their support to reach more mums and save more lives."
With the opportunity to learn from top experts in the field, the mother-of-two was able to truly understand how she could make a difference through her own foundation.
The Liya Kebede Foundation is a non-profit foundation that funds awareness-raising projects, as well as providing support for low-cost technologies, community-based education, and training programmes.
The focus is on training the next generation of health workers in best practices in maternity care. In one health centre the foundation works with, Kebede said hospital deliveries rose by 50% in 12 months.
The non-profit foundation funds awareness-raising projects as well as providing support for low-cost technologies, community-based education, and training programmes. In one health centre the foundation works with, Kebede said hospital deliveries rose by 50% in 12 months.
Encouraging mothers to have hospital deliveries is of utmost importance, Kebede explained, as even if women in Ethiopia live within a reasonable distance of a health clinic, the majority give birth alone at home, risking their lives in case of complications.
"Over the past five years we have partnered with an Ethiopian doctors' association to support a maternity clinic in Hawassa, Ethiopia," Kebede explained.
"With regular training and mentoring the medical team there has delivered over 10,000 babies safely and more mothers are seeking out services than ever before.
"One of the biggest surprises was to see how little education is available to young women and new mothers about everything from the necessity of prenatal check ups, to childbirth with assistance, and family planning information."
Antenatal check-up in South Sudan, northeastern Africa
Kebede said one of the biggest problems her foundation is aiming to tackle is to improve the flow of information and education to both mothers and midwives, in order to further reduce maternal deaths.
She added: "Ethiopia is making progress in extending services to women across the country - there are now more health workers assigned to communities throughout the country and as a result more women and children are thriving - but ensuring that skilled caregivers and supplies are at hand in the most remote areas is still a major challenge."
Since committing to improve maternal health more than 10 years ago, one of Kebede's highlights has been the growing commitment from others she has witnessed to improving these mothers' lives.
In July 2015, the World Bank and major donors formally launched a new fund to expand maternal health services beginning in eight countries, including Ethiopia.
The United Nations and the World Bank Group announced that $12 billion (£8 billion) had been aligned to country-led five-year investment plans for women, children and adolescents' health, including in the four countries of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Kenya and Tanzania.
"This was a promising step toward seeing more women get better care," added Kebede.
"Everyone can be a champion for mums - even a simple step like telling a friend about this issue is a beginning toward building a community of supporters.
"This helps our leaders to remain focused on improving maternal health and takes us closer to making deaths during childbirth a thing of the past."
Health workers providing maternity care for moms in remote Ethiopia
Although residing in New York City, Kebede regularly travels to Ethiopia to support maternal health projects.
And it hasn't gone unnoticed.
In 2013, Kebede was named one of Glamour's Women of the Year for her philanthropic work through her foundation.
In November 2015, she addressed the challenge of eliminating preventable maternal deaths, as well as discussing creative solutions, at the 2015 One Young World Summit in Bangkok.
Her latest commitment is the launch of a brand-new partnership with Amref Health Africa - Africa's leading health development organisation in 2016.
She explained: "The Liya Kebede Foundation will help to raise awareness and support for its Stand Up for African Mothers campaign with the goal of training 15,000 midwives across several countries including Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania, Senegal, South Sudan and Uganda.
"Since its launch in 2011, this global campaign has trained and upgraded skills of more than 7,000 African midwives.
"We’re thrilled to partner with them to help more mums have safe and healthy deliveries."
Find out more about Kebede's work at lkfound.org.
Since the 1930s, expectant mothers in Finland have received what amounts to a "welcome to the world, baby!"
Though the practice of requiring women to lay flat on their backs has increasingly come under fire ("These days enlightened practitioners -- and better informed moms-to-be -- aren't taking labor lying down, or even in one place," What To Expect says), it's still the norm in many hospital across the United States, as well as in parts of Europe. Not so in parts of Asia, Africa and Central and South America, the World Health Organization reports. In these countries, women move through various upright positions or squat while in labor. And that's a good thing: According to Rodale, research has shown that sitting, standing and kneeling during labor (or all of the above) can shorten early labor, and also decrease the need for epidural anesthesia.
Though epidural or spinal anesthesia is the most common type of pain medication used by laboring women in the U.S. (CDC data from 2008 showed 61 percent of women from 27 states who gave birth vaginally had epidural or spinal anesthesia), nitrous oxide, or "laughing gas," is far more popular overseas. It's used by roughly 60 percent of women in the United Kingdom, and up to half of laboring women in Australia, Finland and Canada. According to a 2012 review by the Cochrane group, it's a safe and effective option, but experts say it is unlikely to become popular in the U.S. anytime soon, in part because hospitals do not have the correct equipment or ventilation. As Slate reports, women who use laughing gas during childbirth -- inhaling it through a mask -- say it doesn't altogether eliminate the pain, but distracts them from it.
Many cultures have customs dictating what women should and shouldn't eat during pregnancy, childbirth and beyond, but few foods are as closely tied to labor and delivery as miyeokguk, or Korean seaweed soup. Also called "birthday soup," the nutritious, hearty broth continues to be one of the first things women eat after delivery. "In the olden days," women also used to eat it for a month prior to giving birth -- and some still do, the Korea Tourism Organization explains. (The tradition in Korean culture was inspired by whales eating seaweed -- which is high in various vitamins and nutrients -- after giving birth, Time reports.) "Eating [this soup] on birthdays is seen as a way to remind children not to forget the pain of childbirth and to appreciate the care given to them by their mother."
In many places around the world, the umbilical cord and placenta -- which support the baby by providing oxygen and nutrients during pregnancy -- also have strong symbolic significance, and are treated accordingly after birth. In Turkey, for example, it's not uncommon for women to bury babies' umbilical cords at schools or mosques -- in the hope that their children will be devoted to education or religion -- or keep them at home, to ensure devotion to the family. In some parts of Africa, the placenta is buried in an important spot -- often under a tree, at home or in an open field. In the U.S., the placenta is generally discarded by the hospital or birthing center where a woman delivers, although some women save theirs and consume it in pill form, believing it helps boost well-being (a controversial claim).
"Sitting the month,” a custom observed in China and Vietnam, mandates that women stay largely confined to their homes for at least the first few weeks after giving birth. "New mothers are pretty much expected to just sit around in pajamas for a month to recover from childbirth," NPR reports. Moms also follow specific guidelines about what they can and can't eat and drink (nothing too hot or cold) or do (take a shower). As The Daily Beast explained in its takedown of the U.S.'s postpartum practices, "some version of the lie-in is still prevalent all over Asia, Africa, the Middle East and particular parts of Europe; in these places, where women have found the postpartum regimens of their own mothers and grandmothers slightly outdated, they've revised them." Definitely trickier to pull off in the U.S., one of the few countries left with no federally-mandated paid maternity leave.
Postnatal care is pretty robust in France, as writer Claire Lundberg discovered when she delivered abroad, and can include something known as "la rééducation périnéale" -- therapy designed to help strengthen or "re-train" the vagina in the hopes of avoiding the pelvic problems that can plague women after birth. The service has been funded by French social security since 1985.
Here in the U.S., many women get the green light to have sex again at their six week postpartum check-up, but in Papua New Guinea, mothers wait much longer before they have intercourse. It is a common cultural practice for women to remain abstinent until they wean their babies, whether that takes weeks, months or even years.
Unlike their peers in the U.S. -- where, again, there is no federally-mandated paid maternity leave and many women are guaranteed a mere 12 weeks of job protection -- new mothers (and increasingly also fathers) elsewhere in the world are sometimes guaranteed more than a year of paid time off. In Sweden, Germany, Norway and Denmark, parents are offered more than 50 weeks of paid leave, which they can divvy up between mom and dad after birth or adoption, while in the Czech Republic, mothers or fathers are able to take up to 48 months of paid parental leave, according to Mercer, the global consulting firm.