Waris Dirie (whose name means desert flower) was born in Somalia of nomadic parents, one of 12 children. She underwent extreme female circumcision at the age of 5. At 13 her father sold her into marriage with a 60 year old man for five camels. To escape this future she fled across the desert to Mogadishu, in search of her uncle, the Somalian ambassador. With him she travelled to London, where she became the family housekeeper.
Refusing to return with them to Somalia, penniless and with little English, she became a janitor at a McDonald's store until she was discovered by a fashion photographer and then began a modelling career that would take her to London, Paris, Milan and New York.
A famous model, Waris's elegant face has represented Revlon, and been photographed by Richard Avedon and Terence Donovan. She has now become a spokesperson on women's rights in Africa and travels the world on behalf of the UN. Her dramatic and inspirational story is filled with the humour and spirit that has propelled her successfully through an extraordinary life.