The Heroic Beauty of Waris Dirie (1990)


There are those rare occasions in life where you are literally completely arrested by the presence of another human being. The moment I met Waris Dirie I knew she was a live wire, a presence, a spark, a light and a heroine. Anyway whatever the words may be I knew I wasn’t just dealing with someone who was modelling from anything but a place of purpose and intent.


I met Waris at a casting and she just stood out immediately. I noticed she had the most incredible skin, that was soft like satin and a smile that lit up the universe.


Ritz Magazine asked me to do a shoot and I told David Litchfield that I had just met this most amazing Somalian model called Waris. Ritz got these incredible clothes and we worked together.


The shoot was full of laughter, we literally, joked from start to finish. I asked her to assume and number of different shapes and she just got it straight away, she was natural and expressive in front of the camera, humorous and fearless.


It’s hardly surprising that she was so incredible given the difficulties she had over come just to get to the point of standing in front of the camera.


The obstacles she had already faced were huge and for most of us would have been insurmountable.  Despite her own difficult personal experiences, she has gone on to become a great humanitarian campaigner (specifically against female genital mutilation) working as a  UN Ambassador, actress and authoress.

Waris still campaigns and runs The Desert Flower Organisation which works for change and has created anti FGM literature and educational programmes across Africa. I cannot voice the campaign as well as Waris does in the video below so I won’t try. I recommend you support her and listen to her words. It touches me deeply when I see how she has used her voice in the world to remind us of the suffering of others and is leading a path to alleviate that suffering.

  • Clive Arrowsmith is shooting stunning images, staging exhibitions and is as passionate about photography as he was when he first pressed the shutter at The Paris Collections. He is available for global media opportunities related to his work and photography generally. Bespoke prints from Clive’s archive are also available by special request, for any enquiries  (email Eugenie here). Clive’s book Arrowsmith: Fashion, Beauty & Portraits is available here and Lowry at Home: Salford 1966 is available here



Leave a Reply to Clive ArrowsmithCancel reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.