Waris Dirie: Her Story
Waris Dirie was born to a Somalian nomadic family in 1965. She was circumcised at age 3 and at age 13, fled to London to escape an arranged marriage to a 60 year old man.
While in London, she worked at a local Macdonald’s while taking evening classes to learn English. By chance, she was discovered in the streets by a photographer who helped kick off her modeling career with top brands such as Chanel, Levi’s, L’Oreal and Revlon.
Dirie appeared in the 1987 James Bond movie The Living Daylights. She also appeared on the runways of London, Milan, Paris and New York City, and in fashion magazines such as Elle, Glamour and Vogue.
A Nomad in New York
In 1995, Dirie’s modeling career was featured in a BBC documentary called A Nomad in New York
In 1997, she spoke with Marie Claire’s Laura Ziv about her female genital mutilation, FGM, experience as a child. Since then, she has abandoned her modeling career to focus on the fight against FGM. In 2002, she started the Desert Flower Foundation to fight against FGM around the world.
She was appointed United Nations goodwill ambassador for the Elimination of Female Genital Mutilation by Kofi Annan in 1997, and Peace Ambassador for the Year of Peace and Security by the African Union in 2010.
In January 2009, along with French tycoon François-Henri Pinault (CEO of PPR) and his wife, Hollywood actress Salma Hayek, she founded the PPR Foundation for Women’s Dignity and Rights. Dirie also founded the Desert Dawn Foundation to raise money for schools and clinics in Somalia. She continues to supports the Zeitz Foundation, an organization focused on sustainable development and conservation.