Hope in the Desert – Part 1

November 7th, 2012

Her name is Waris and it means, “desert flower…a flower that can bloom even in the roughest climate.”


Unbeknownst to her, ViX designer Paula Hermanny settled in to watch Desert Flower, a film that would touch her heart and move her immensely. The movie reconstructs the story of supermodel Waris Dirie, depicting her childhood in the deserts of Somalia, the nomadic world she lived in and the traumatic crime she suffered at the tender age of three:  female genital mutilation (FGM). 

Scarred both emotionally and physically from this tortuous experience, Waris now seeks to raise awareness against FGM and has founded the Desert Flower Foundation to help her do so.  In this exclusive interview with ViX, Waris tells us more about her vision:


ViX:  Can you tell us a bit about your journey from Somalia to where you are today?

WD:  I grew up as a nomad in the Somali deserts and fled a forced marriage when I was 13 years old.  My uncle helped me get to London where I started as a maid in the Somali embassy and continued on to find work at a McDonald’s restaurant. 

By chance, the famous British photographer Terence Donovan discovered me there and invited me to take some pictures in his studio. From there I started a successful career as a model and made covers of fashion magazines, such as Vogue and shot for companies from Revlon to Chanel, from Versace to Levis.

During an interview with Marie Claire Magazine, I decided to talk about my personal trauma, female genital mutilation (FGM). When I was a little girl at the age of three, an old woman in the Somali desert mutilated me. A lot of people wrote to me after the story was published and I decided to campaign against the cruel practice. Later the UN appointed me as a special ambassador against FGM. I founded my own “Desert Flower Foundation” and wrote my biography “Desert Flower”, which later has been made a major motion picture.     


ViX:  What is something that one person can do to spread awareness, today?

WD: Increasing the awareness, education and the empowerment of women is key to eradicate this crime. The Desert Flower Foundation has campaigned against FGM since 2002 and more than 10 million have visited our website.  Even with a small donation you can help us to spread our work and save girls.   


Moved by compassion and determined to help raise awareness for FGM, Paula Hermanny will be supporting Waris Dirie’s heartfelt project, the Desert Flower Foundation.  For the months of November and December, a curated collection of ViX 2013 African-inspired resortwear will be featured on our site.  Please shop the “Desert Flower” section and for every garment bought from this section, ViX Paula Hermanny will donate 100% of the proceeds to Waris Dirie’s cause. 

This holiday season, stay inspired with us and be sure to check back soon for Part Two of the ViX Q&A with Waris Dirie.