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Edited by on March 15 2011 at 3:47 PM

Liya Kebede is the latest in a long line of catwalkers to add the foreboding hyphenate “actress” to her title. But unlike so many models before her, she has taken a quieter route towards the big screen. Desert Flower, opening this Friday exclusively at New York’s Angelika and in Los Angeles, is based on the story of Waris Dirie, a victim of female circumcision who was sold into marriage before becoming a model in the late-80s. Heady stuff. Kebede could become a legitimate actress (and thus earn the title, “former model” like Charlize Theron and Uma Thurman), but what about the other model-actresses who have left their own memorable impressions on cinema?

Turning Classic Movies Presents: When Model Turns Actress

Cool As Ice [1991] Starring Naomi Campbell as “Singer at First Club

Tagline: “When a girl has a heart of stone, there’s only one way to melt it. Just add Ice.” [Seriously.]

Before 8 Mile, there was another biopic about a white rapper trying to make his way out of…the ghetto (?). And lucky us, not only were we treated to Naomi’s acting, but her vocal chops as well on the film’s classic composition…wait for it…“Cool as Ice”. Robert Van Winkle’s music and film career fizzled shortly after this cinematic exercise in ego-stroking though Naomi has continued to make the occasional cameo when not dodging a subpoena.

Turning Classic Movies Presents: When Model Turns Actress

Fair Game [1995] Starring Cindy Crawford as Kate McQuean

Tagline: “He’s a cop on the edge. She’s a woman with a dangerous secret. And now they’re both…

Cindy stars as a civil law attorney who seeks the aid of the forgotten Baldwin — poor  Billy – a cop who vows to protect her from some renegade KGB team out to exterminate her. The film proved a huge hit…at the 1996 Razzie Awards where it was nominated for Worst Actress, Worst New Star (both honors for Cindy) and Worst Screen Couple. Unfortunately (or fortunately depending on how you look at it) that year Showgirls swept nearly every category. Liz Berkley has never been the same.

Turning Classic Movies Presents: When Model Turns Actress

Conan the Destroyer [1984] Starring Grace Jones as Zula

Tagline: “The most powerful legend of all is back in a new adventure.”

A childhood favorite of  mine…before I knew that my fondness for Arnold Schwarzenegger in a fur loincloth was anything out of the ordinary, the sequel to Conan the Barbarian features the always terrifying Grace Jones as a scantily clad warrior princess. Apparently Grace’s enthusiasm was a little too much for poor ole muscle-bound Arnold, who complained Jones was “too tough” during filming. Grow a pair, Schwarzenegger…or just borrow Grace’s.

Turning Classic Movies Presents: When Model Turns Actress

The Fifth Element [1997] Starring Milla Jovovich as Leeloo

Tagline: “There is no future without it.”

Jovovich has starred in over 30 films — half of them from the Resident Evil franchise — but her best role to date is still in Luc Besson‘s modern sci-fi classic. As the titular element, Milla yells and grunts and generally kicks ass throughout the entire film and she hasn’t laid down her action hero mantle since. Although the most acting she’s done since then has taken place in L’Oreal commercials.

Turning Classic Movies Presents: When Model Turns Actress

Taxi [2004] Starring Gisele as Vanessa

Tagline: “Take a Ride on the Wild Side.”

Hmm, when your script requires a quartet of sexy Brazilian bank robbers, why not enlist the world’s foremost sexy Brazilian? Gisele tackled the challenging role of the gang’s “cold” and “calculating” leader in her film debut, but with only one other film under her tiny, couture belt (she has a cameo in Devil Wears Prada), it doesn’t look like she’ll be rendered in celluloid any time soon.

Story by Lester Brathwaite

I was center square from 1969 to 1978, during which I perfected the art of the zing as well as a crippling cocaine addiction. Bea Arthur was responsible for both. @LesFabian lester at