Read our exclusive interview with supermodel-actress-maternal health advocate Liya Kebede, who stars as Waris Dirie, a Somalian nomad who escapes her life of poverty to become a supermodel in London, in the new National Geographic Entertainment movie ‘Desert Flower.’ The film, which is based on Dirie’s 1998 best-selling autobiography Desert Flower: The Extraordinary Journey of a Desert Nomad, chronicles her journey as she escaped Somalia at 13 to get out of an arranged marriage. After being homeless, Dirie was discovered by a photographer while working as a cleaning woman in a fast food restaurant. She now uses her fame to and her position as a UN Special ambassador for Women’s Rights in Africa to bring an end to the Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) she herself endured as a child. Kebede discusses with us, among other things, how she prepared to portray Dirie, and why her story inspires so many people.
Shockya (SY): You portrayed Waris in ‘Desert Flower.’ What convinced you to take the role?
SY: How did you prepare for the role?
LK: I used the book a lot. I felt like I had an insight into her through the book. I stuck to the script as much as possible. I did a lot of research on the subject, because I really didn’t know too much about it before. We started shooting in Djibouti for all the African scenes. We had the opportunity to be in a nomadic community with nomads, and that was really insightful as well.
SY: Did your modeling experience help you as you were filming?
LK: Yeah, definitely, for all of the fashion scenes, they were kind of fun to do. Juliet Stevenson, who played the agent (Lucinda), always had a laugh trying to go through scenes, and stuff like that. So yeah, absolutely.
SY: Did you get to meet Waris before you began shooting?
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