Gelila Bekele was born in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa. A city steeped both in ancient history and the crossroads of many faiths mixed with ritual knowledge of sage cultures. This young lady first experienced life with her feet directly planted in the soil of Africa. Despite early years on the fringes of western civilization, her youth set a direct course as a future globe-trotter by moving with her family to the citadels of Europe (further fueling her rapidly emerging curiosity for wanderlust). The cobblestones of Europe quickly opened her eyes to many sights and sounds, including tastes for adventure and endeavor. Then one day, after having relocated to the United States to pursue new educational frontiers, Gelila’s life changed when an advertising art director discovered her on the way to school. She signed with Ford Models, launching her career from the runways of New York and Europe to experiencing many far-flung corners of the world as a high fashion international model.
In a few short years Gelila posed for many of the world’s top designers as well as being featured in major advertising campaigns around the world. The almond-skinned beauty is perhaps best known for her distinctive wellspring of curly hair by gracing beauty campaigns for Pantene Pro-V and L’Oreal, as well as an endless spectrum of fashion magazines.
A nomadic sensibility is in her core being; “Modeling is a wonderful platform through which to see the world,” Gelila says, “nurturing a young curious soul to many opportunities.” In the next, post-modeling stage of her life, this Ethiopian dynamo is dedicated to continue pursuing her passion as a documentary filmmaker and multimedia producer to bring it all in to focus.
Gelila is also a humanitarian and social activist. Taking advantage of her status as a celebrated model, she devotes much of her time to helping people in developing countries attain fundamental natural resources. “I have a duty to people on the other side of the world who often have no access to clean water,” she says. Gelila is most passionate about her work with the organization Charity:Water, founded by photographer and entrepreneur Scott Harrison.
She’s always setting her sights on new horizons and challenges; “At this time in my life I’m a real sponge. I’m learning simplicity, and how to carry an embodiment of active consciousness, while also inspiring others to greater good.” In dialogue with close friends Gelila intones and even deeper reflection “I’m enjoying life and trying to be the best me!”
As the African proverb has professed through the ages: “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together” – equally describing the community mindset of a continent; as much as summarizing Gelila’s personal philosophy. From her first years on the red soil of an ancient land, through to her of life in the concrete jungles of today; Gelila lives to seek, learn and collaborate. The keystones to a life journey that embraces altruism to the core.
This is all just the beginning of something substantial for the girl with giant curls and a zest for life that spirals in as many directions as her iconic hair.