Flower Power | Liya Kebede as Waris Dirie

waris Dire and Liya Kebede
December 7, 2010


waris Dire and Liya Kebede

Liya Kebede with Waris Dirie

In “Desert Flower,” the catwalk fixture and “Gifted” subject Liya Kebede stands in for the Somali-born model Waris Dirie. A victim of female genital mutilation, the 13-year-old Dirie escaped an arranged marriage in Somalia and made it to London in the 1980s, where she worked at McDonald’s before being discovered by Terence Donovan. Kebede, 32, grew up in Ethiopia and was discovered by a filmmaker at the French lycée in Addis Ababa. In a recent interview, she was quick to draw a distinction between her own life story and Dirie’s. “On the surface we have parallels,” she said, before explaining how different life seemed in Djibouti, a neighboring country to Somalia, where parts of the film were shot. “This is where she came from. There’s nothing there, there’s no water, there’s nothing. And being in that environment was a new thing for me, and then trying to understand how you go from that to become this incredible woman — [Dirie] was never really a victim of her circumstances.” – Nytimes.com