It's not often you walk into a fancy hotel suite and meet the gaze of a gorgeous, gazelle-like model. It's even more unlikely she'll immediately put you at ease. Such was the case when I met Liya Kebede, an Ethiopian-born model named the new face of Calvin Klein's iconic fragrance, Eternity.
We spent a lot of time together, certainly more than the 10 minutes I was allotted for our interview, during which we discussed her love for the scent, grounding self-care advice (which pairs perfectly with our January theme, "Reclaim Yourself"), and a life-changing facial I had gotten hours before (it was a Biologique Recherche facial at Rescue Spa in New York City, by the way). Keep reading for everything she told me.
On the fragrance…
"It's Calvin Klein. It's Eternity! Need I say more? It's an iconic brand, and Eternity is such a timeless fragrance. Everything about it was something I wanted to be a part of—I was happy to do it.
"It's the freshness—the floweriness. [Eternity] has that very feminine, dreamy quality and a lightness to it that I love."
On the different approaches to beauty in Ethiopia versus the U.S.…
"What I remember from living there when I was a kid, is that a lot of 'beauty' is 'natural'—at that time by default. Whenever I'm there, I like to go back to that space. They use a lot of natural Shea butter. It's so great for your hair. Here, it's such an 'industry.' It's harder to have the individual part of it—we're told what to do and what to wear. In Ethiopia, it's a little more up to you. There's more of this feeling of freedom to be an individual and to stay close to who you are.
"But I feel like it's changing here too. People are more and more aware, educating themselves, and feeling comfortable as themselves. We're starting to be able to see beauty as something that enhances who you are instead of something plastered on top. It’s a new consciousness and something I really like."
On her definition of beauty…
"When I was younger, I was more of a sponge—looking at what's out there, what I'm reading, what I'm seeing—and then trying to be that. Now, with age, I'm thinking more about being okay with who I am and trying to emulate me. Now, I can understand that everything out there can help me instead of change me."
On the products she's using right now…
"L'Oreal has this line called Botanicals—it has no parabens, silicone, or sulfates. I'm trying to use less chemicals. My hair is so fragile because of all the stuff that I do to it. And it smells amazing.
"They also have this amazing mud mask—the green one—I love it. After fashion week, I put that on to restore and reset."
On reclaiming herself…
"We have to find ways to come back to ourselves. The world bombards us with so much that we get outside of ourselves a lot and lose that connection. These days, we don't even have time to come back to ourselves because we have so much to do, we're on our phones, and we're so on. It's a lot.
"Taking that time off and spending time with yourself—whether it's meditation, yoga, or whatever you like—and just quieting down is so important. We need to find some sort of balance. We need to recharge like anything else. Then we can go back into the world."
On the advice she'd give to her teenage self…
"Have I changed? I've grown, but other than that, I don't know if I've changed. I think I'm still that kid deep down—except now I have a lot of responsibilities. I'd tell myself 'it's okay. It'll be okay.'"