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Movie Review: Desert Flower + Interview with Supermodel Liya Kibede

Every once in a while a movie comes alone that really hits the core of your being, one that makes you question if you were in the same situation what would you do?

Every once in a while a movie comes alone that really hits the core of your being, one that makes you question if you were in the same situation what would you do? For me Desert Flower, was that movie!

If I asked you to tell me about the day that changed your life, what would your answer be??

Last week I told you guys I was going to the Chicago premiere for Desert Flower, now I’m back to provide my thoughts on the movie.

Desert Flower Movie Premiere

Movie Premiere at the Gene Siskel Film Center

Wow, what can I say about Desert Flower? This movie was excellent, it made me laugh, it made me cry but most importantly it made me think! You see many times living in America most of us take for granted the things we have been blessed with! Think about it, what would you do if you didn’t have a place to live or food to eat, for some of us the thought of this is unfathomable.  Desert Flower told the story of Top model  Waris Dirie and her journey as an African nomad to becoming a top Super Model and Author here in the states.

Waris was played by Super Model and actress Liya Kebede. Liya did such an awesome job at times I couldn’t distinguish her from Waris! If Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert were there I’m sure they would’ve given this movie a thumbs up! I enjoyed the movie so much that I can see why 11 million copies of the book were sold (I will definitely be buying Desert Flower on my next visit to the book store)!

See the movies trailer below!



After watching the movie, moviegoers were given the opportunity to meet Liya and ask her questions about the movie…

The next day I headed to the beautiful Drake hotel to chat with Liya about Desert Flower and other things..

I started the interview by telling Liya she was gorgeous and that she’s not at all like what I would’ve expected. I told Liya I fully expected her to arrive at the movie premiere in a full ball gown (Liya laughed and said Oh no), she’s actually the complete opposite as she prefers comfort over being a diva. Funny thing about Liya, I was interested in her story and she was more interested in my blog and asking what I blog about and why I started it. I swear I spent the first 5 minutes of the interview talking about me (rolls eyes).

Swa-Rai: Since you are a model and totally opposite  from the usual model  persona, how do you tolerate all that comes with being a model?

Liya: It’s fun for work, I don’t have to live it, I want to always be comfortable,  I like simplicity and modesty.

Swa-Rai: Do you think  your modesty has anything to do with being from Ethiopia?

Liya: It’s possible! There are so many different problems and people who don’t have the basic need day to day, I don’t feel the need. It’s cool, I love it, it’s work,but you have to do what’s comfortable for you and you have to be good in your own skin and this is how I’m comfortable

**Liya interjects, That’s  interesting nobody’s ever asked me that before, that’s kind of cool**

Swa-Rai: Is your family here or are they still in Ethiopia?

Liya: My parents are still in Ethiopia.

Swa-Rai: So what do your parents think about Liya the model?

Liya: They have the same reaction as you! They just look at me and say you’re funny! People actually don’t believe my parents when they tell them I’m a model since I’m not into the whole glamour thing.

Swa-Rai: About the movie, why did you want to play the role of Waris? You played the role so well I forgot that you were Liya!

Liya: It’s one of those once in a lifetime roles! I read the book and I couldn’t put it down, Waris is so inspiring, I was inspired by her! You know, in life we are all sitting in our little whatever moaning, whining and complaining all this kind of stuff; then being faced with a small obstacle and thinking the world is going to collapse on top of us.  Then you meet people who really have issues to deal with and deal with them in such a way and are not victims of anything.  They chart their life.  Waris charted her life not knowing anything, not knowing the language where she was going, not having a family and sometimes not even having a home. How many of us would’ve handled it that way!

Swa-Rai: How does Waris life and your own life correlate, what are the similiarties?

Liya: We are both from East Africa, we both left home and came West, we both ended up working in the fashion industry and we both ended up working in advocacy.

Swa-Rai: Tell me about your advocacy work?

Liya: I’ve been the World Health Organization’s Ambassador for Maternal, Newborn and Child Health since 2005. I have 2 children, don’t ask me how old they are… You have no idea how many women die because of childbirth, especially in Africa. Women are dying because they are bleeding too much, the babies too big and there’s no surgery.  We are talking about people living in villages  where there’s no basic nothing, there’s no clinic, no doctors, they don’t get checked or anything. Every minute one woman dies because of childbirth and 90% of this is preventable. When you are pregnant in the United States it like the most unbelievable thing, when you are pregnant there {Africa} you know you might die! So we are trying to raise awareness.

Swa-Rai: In closing, why should we see Desert Flower?

Liya: Because you will be moved and inspired and touched! You will laugh, you will cry and it will stay with you! It’s why you go to see movies, sometimes you go to be entertained and sometimes you want to learn something new.

Swa-Rai: Last question,  one of most profound questions Waris was asked in the movie was “Tell me about the day that changed your life” so now I’m asking you “Tell me about the day that changed your life”?

Liya: There has been many but Desert Flower itself was one of those days, when we were filming the director looked over at me and said you know this movie is going to change our lives, right? And it did!

It was great interviewing Liya, I could talk to her for hours when we were done she wished me luck with the things I had going on, she told me that I was cool and this was one of her best interviews to date (Liya had me blushing)!

**Sidenote-Some parts of the interview weren’t included because I didn’t want to ruin it for people who hadn’t seen the movie**

Desert Flower will open here in Chicago April 1 at the River East AMC theater, go see it and support the movie!!

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About the author

Raijean Stroud

Fashion, beauty & lifestyle blogger based in Chicago and founder of, Swa-Rai Media Group and Bleeding Heart Project. Launched in 2010, Swa-Rai discusses a range of topics including: fashion, beauty and lifestyle experiences which includes travel, tech, family, dining and so much more! When not in Chicago, Raijean can be found traveling around the country covering some of the hottest events! She can be spotted in places such as New York for covering events such as Mercedes Benz New York Fashion Week, Las Vegas for CES (Consumer Electronics Show), LA for Lucky FABB and more! When she's not traveling she's in Chicago, interviewing celebrities and covering exclusive events.

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