A magazine for Africans and friends of Africa...Our Voices, Our Vision, Our Culture

Motherland Model: Gelila Bekele
By Nana Nkweti

Addis-born model Gelila Bekele smiles as she recalls how she slid down a banister into modeling success. The 20-year old mannequin was taking in the Soho sights one sunny day when she happened upon an open call at Ford Model Management. Unsure if her summer look: flip flops, Bob Marley tee with big hair, was go-see friendly- she took a chance and joined the long line of modeling hopefuls. Once inside the hallowed halls, covered with framed supermodel cover shots, she was directed to a lower level office where anagent beckoned to her from the bottom of a stairwell. "I don't know what came over me," she laughs. "But I slid down the rail. After, I was thinking- Oh my God. I can't believe I did that." Yet something about her charming spontaneity worked its magic. She was signed on the spot.

A year and a half later, she supports herself entirely with modeling gigs. She recently shot a commercial in Argentina for Pantene, flashed her pearly whites for a Colgate print ad,and was tapped to audition for a role in the third installmentof the mega-hit Rush Hour action flick franchise. She's come a long way from the eight year girl who left Ethiopia during thelast tumultuous days of the Mengistu regime. Sent by her widowed mother to find refuge, she was reunited with oneof her three older sisters living abroad. A young Gelila lived in Rome before coming to America , graduating from high school in California , and beginning her freshman year of college.

Then she got discovered and was faced with convincing her close knit family that delaying her degree to pursue modeling was a good idea. Ultimately, her sound judgment assured them she could avoid the industry's pitfalls. She credits a strong African work ethic for giving her the professionalism she needs to succeed. "When I work- I am there because I want to work. I'm here and I've started it and I am committed." With her beauty, exuberance and dedication she'll be 'here' for a long time.