These Amazing Mothers Are Changing the World
By Kate Branch
"It's important that my kids are aware of the rest of the world." —Liya Kebede
Ethiopian supermodel Liya Kebede, 37, is—deep breath—an actress, a philanthropist, the designer of the fair-trade clothing line Lemlem, and mother to Suhul, 14, and Raee, nine.
On motherhood: "I want my children to have passions and be compassionate. Having them inspired me to fight for better care for all mothers."
Her cause: The Liya Kebede Foundation aims to reduce maternal and newborn deaths in Africa by providing equipment and training for safe deliveries. "We [Western women] are concerned with how to be the perfect mom," Kebede says. "Moms in other parts of the world worry if they will even make it through their pregnancy. Where I grew up, mothers were dying from infection, hemorrhages, no ambulances. In 2011 we started a maternity center [in Hawassa, Ethiopia]. Since then, we've had over 7,000 safe births. We haven't lost one mom."
"If I knew the joy a child brings, I'd have become a mom earlier!" —Sasha Pivovarova
She's been a muse for Miuccia Prada and has walked runways for every brand from Balenciaga to Chanel. But Russian model Sasha Pivovarova, 30, says her most important work is for kids, particularly her daughter, Mia, age three.
On motherhood: "I hope to pass along my passion for nature and the arts to Mia," she says. "Already she's taught me patience—like how to read her the same book 50 times!"
Her cause: "Kids are our future," says Pivovarova, who is involved with the Russian Children's Welfare Society, especially its Give Beauty Back to the Children project, which benefits a rehabilitation center for children with facial deformities in Russia.
On being a working mom: "When I have to be away for a week or longer, we travel together," she says. "I hope by seeing me work, Mia will learn how to recognize and use her competitive edge."
"I feel a responsibility not to crush their innocence." —Georgina Chapman
On motherhood: "When I was pregnant, I decided how I would do things. But everything I thought I knew was wrong!"
Her cause: "Marchesa is very involved with Magic Bus, which mentors youth in India about the importance of education and safe sex. These communities had a 20 percent high-school graduation rate; [since Magic Bus programs began in 1999] it has risen to 71 percent." She and producer-husband Harvey Weinstein even asked their wedding guests to donate to the organization in lieu of gifts.
On being a working mom: "Once, while walking India to school, she said, 'Mommy, one day I might be walking my baby to school. And then, Mommy, I'm going to have to go in to the office.' I asked her what she was going to do, and she said, 'Mommy, I'm going to be working right beside you.' I wanted to cry."
"We apologize to our kids daily. It teaches them no one's perfect." —Cass and Ali Bird
Photographer Cass Bird, 41, second from top, and her wife, bookings agent Ali Bird, 39, are moms to Leo, seven, and Mae, five.
On motherhood: "Ali and I have a unique experience because our children are both firstborns, in that I birthed Leo and Ali birthed Mae," says Cass. "We have two wombs in a home—get it?"
Their cause: Ali's agency, The Wall Group NY, of which she is a partner and director, teams up with the environmental organization One Percent for the Planet. "Environmental protection is very near and dear to me because without a planet, there's no cause you can support," says Ali.
On being a working mom: "Even if you're a stay-at-home mom, there is never going to be a moment when you don't have mother's guilt," says Ali. "I hope our kids see the value of hard work, in honoring your commitments, loving what you do, and staying your own person."
"Adoption is an emotional roller coaster, not dissimilar to pregnancy." —Isabel Dupré
Fashion stylist Isabel Dupré, who has worked with the likes of Peter Lindbergh and Angelina Jolie, is a single mom to James, 17, whom she adopted when he was one and a half, and Jack Russell terrier Moops, seven.
On motherhood: "James is the gift of my life," she says. "I protect him, and he protects me."
On adoption: "Right when I was supposed to get James, Vietnam closed its adoption process due to corruption. I had to wait another year, which was tough. But when I first held him in my arms, we had this immediate connection."
Her cause: Supporting orphanages is easy, says Dupré: "You don't have to do much. Shoes for Orphan Souls sends shoes to kids all over the world."
On being a working mom: "James is a single kid with a single mother in New York. I gave him a lot of independence because I needed to. Leaving him to travel for work was hard, but it made our relationship stronger. Now we can talk about anything."
"I hope my kids see imagination has power to change everything." —Wangechi Mutu
On top of exhibiting her beautiful, politically charged collages worldwide, the Kenya-born, Brooklyn-based artist Wangechi Mutu, 42, is an activist and mom to Neema, six, and Wathira, two.
On motherhood: "After I came home [from the hospital] with my first daughter, it sunk in that this little individual's entire existence was completely dependent on me. Motherhood is the ultimate call to sacrifice."
Her cause: "Equal rights for women and queer folks!" says Mutu, who founded Africa's Out to fight for the rights of sexual minorities. She'll cohost its inaugural fund-raiser, showcasing over 40 world-renowned artists, including photographer Cindy Sherman, at Manhattan's Gladstone Gallery on June 5.
On being a working mom: "I keep things moving along with a seriously loving, caring, and brilliant man, a fierce group of friends—and really strong coffee."