Liya Kebede: A Woman Apart
She’s no ordinary model. In the upcoming Desert Flower, the designer and WHO Goodwill Ambassador tells a tale of triumph the world won’t soon forget.
Desert Flower opens in New York and Los Angeles on March 18, 2011.
By Katie L. Connor
There’s a gravitational pull toward Liya Kebede. The slight frame, the uncertain smile … these are obvious attractions. But it’s her eyes from which there is no escape. Deep, dark, and soulful, they command the attention of all in her orbit. Among her biggest supporters: Tom Ford, whom she credits with her first big break in 2000; Dolce & Gabbana; and Proenza Schouler. In 2003, the Ethiopian native became the first woman of color to represent Estée Lauder. Having walked countless runways and shot a slew of ad campaigns (and had two children), the world-famous model turns her focus toward the big screen. The film Desert Flower—based on the book of the same name—is the true story of Waris Dirie’s journey from tribal Somalia to top model. In the lead role, Kebede takes on Dirie’s every anguish. The most excruciating: Dirie’s crude female circumcision as a child. As Dirie’s confidante, Golden Globe Award winner Sally Hawkins serves as comic relief Marilyn, much needed when Kebede’s eyes, welling with tears, shoot straight into your soul. It’s a tale for all women—and those who love them. Here, Kebede discusses her life’s story thus far.
MC: Have you always wanted to be an actress?
LK: It’s something that I’d always thought about. Since I was a child, watching films has been one of the things that I enjoy the most. That, and reading books. I always found a way to live something else. Five years ago I started taking acting lessons. I enjoyed it so much that it opened up a whole new world for me.
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