ვარის დირიე (Waris Dirie)
Waris Dirie (Somali: Waris Diiriye, Arabic: واريس ديري) (born in 1965) is a Somali model, author, actress and social activist. From 1997 to 2003, she served as a UN Special Ambassador. Waris was born into a nomadic family in 1965 in Galkayo, Somalia. At the age of thirteen, she fled to Mogadishu in order to escape an arranged marriage to a much older man. There, she briefly lived with an older sister and her family. Waris along with a few relatives later moved to London, where she resided with and worked for an uncle who had been appointed Somali ambassador. When his term in office ended, Waris remained in the city and held a job at a local McDonald’s. She also began evening classes to learn English.
By chance, Waris was discovered by photographer Terence Donovan, who helped secure for her the cover of the 1987 Pirelli Calendar. From there, her modeling career took off, appearing in advertisements for top brands such as Chanel, Levi’s, L’Oréal and Revlon.
In 1987, Waris played a minor role in the 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. This was followed in 1995 by a BBC documentary entitled A Nomad in New York about her modeling career.
In 1997, at the height of her modeling career, Waris spoke for the first time with Laura Ziv of the women’s magazine Marie Claire about the female genital mutilation (FGM) that she had undergone as a child, at the age of three along with her two sisters. That same year, Waris became a UN ambassador for the abolition of FGM. She later paid her mother a visit in her native Somalia.
In 1998, Waris authored her first book, Desert Flower, an autobiography that went on to become an international bestseller. She later released other successful books including Desert Dawn, Letter To My Mother, and Desert Children, the latter of which was launched in tandem with a European campaign against FGM.
In 2010, Waris was appointed Peace Ambassador for the Year of Peace and Security by the African Union.
Fashion is fun, ridiculously fun. But it’s base and it’s wrong. You’re not doing anything good for the world. You’re just saying, ‘Buy it, buy it, buy it.’
I don’t know what a supermodel is. If they call me that, I might have to punch them. It’s just so vain and so unreal.
I’ve never been one to stay still. I was born a nomad, and I still am a nomad and always will be.
Female genital mutilation targets little girls, baby girls – fragile angels who are helpless, who cannot fight back. It’s a crime against a child, a crime against humanity. It’s abuse. It’s absolutely criminal and we have to stop it.