Mirror, mirror on the wall, who's the reigning sexiest super model of them all? Chances are, the mirror would reveal Neha, The pretty brown girl from Lahore with the gorgeous brown eyes, a perfect ten figure and the pair of lips that can't decide if they want to pout continuously
Let's start with a bit about how you started out?
Around four years ago I got my portfolio done from Ather Shahzad. It turned out to be better than I had expected and it was the first time that I realized that I might have some potential as far as modeling was concerned. Shahzad seemed to agree with me and I showed the portfolio to Tariq Amin. He really liked it and offered me a photo shoot.
But did you get any negative flack from your family?
When I talked to my mother about it, she was absolutely horrified! None of my family members are linked to the fashion industry in any way and she had a lot of apprehensions about the environment and the sort of people I had to deal with. Discouraged by her reaction, I turned down the offer but Shahzad encouraged me to reconcider it by telling me to follow my heart. I went ahead and did the shoot with Tariq Amin and Freiha Altaf for Instep. It was only after the shoot was printed that my mother found out about it! There wasn't much she could do about it then! The rest as they say is history!
There is a prevalent view that there is a lot of politics and big leg pulling involved in entering and establishing yourself in the industry. Did you encounter any such tribulations?
I believe that if you have the talent and the determination no amount of politics or leg pulling can stand in your way. I consider myself to be lucky in the sense that all the people I have interacted with so far have been very co operative. I wont deny that there isn't a lot of politics going on in the industry but I guess it just requires some getting used to! My Problems only arise when you poke your nose in other people's affairs. I give people the respect that they deserve and they reciprocate it.
It's quite common to see that certain models work only with certain photographers or makeup artists. There is also the Godfather system where models will only stick to the people who introduced them How do you feel about this? Do you consider anyone to be your Godfather?
Personally, I have no problems working with anyone. In fact, I prefer working with anyone. In fact, I prefer working with different people as it helps me experiment with my looks. I am not the sort of person who would stick with a certain photographer or make up artist just because they make me look pretty. I am ever grateful to Shahzad and Tariq as they introduced me but I won't go as far as to say they are my godfathers. My second project was for Zubair Ghumman of Nee Punhal. I think he is an excellent photographer and brings out the best in me but I haven't allowed that fact to limit me. Initially I got a lot of projects through Zubair, as people didn't know how to contact me directly. But now I handle all my projects myself.
Ever thought of employing an agent?
I don't consider myself to the agent-type. I like to pick and choose projects on my own. It gives me a certain degree of control over my professional life. It also helps me to develop a direct rapport with the people I work with.
What projects are you working on at the moment?
Mainly shoots and shows. There is a catalogue show in Dubai next month which I'm pretty excited about. I just finished working on two music videos directed by Jawad Bashir. One is for Shiraz Uppal and the other is for Ali Sher. There is also this music video for Ali Haider's new song. This is my second video for Ali Haider. The making of the first one caused quite a stir in the tabloids!
Quite a stir is an understatement… The fashion industry has always been linked with sandals and controversies. It's almost like its part of the package but what was that all about?
Nothing at all really! The whole thong was blown totally out of proportion. I went to Karachi to discuss the video with the director and Ali. Ali, Nomi, my co-model on the video, and I were sitting in Nomi's apartment waiting for the director, when the police burst in. They refused to listen to anything we had to say and insisted we go to the police station with them. We were totally bewildered as none of us had any clue as to what was going on. As it turned out Nomi's neighbour had summoned the police on the basis that some ‘showbiz wallahs' were involved in illegal activities inside the apartment! Nomi had entered into an argument with the person a couple of days earlier and apparently this was his way of seeking revenge! After a medical checkup the police cleared us but the damage had been done. Sure we party but not at twelve in the morning for God's sake! Come to think of it the whole thing was quite hilarious actually!
How do you deal with such controversies?
I have learnt to take it in my stride. Initially such stuff used to upset me a lot but now I've realized that if people talk about you it's only because they think you are important!
You have worked in Lahore as well as Karachi. There is a lot of talk about Lahore-Karachi lobbying. As an insider, how do you iew the situation?
I won't classify it as lobbying. It's more a matter of convenience. The way I see it Karachi photographers and designers are more than willing to work with models from Lahore. It is just the thought of increasing expenses the holds them back. Hiring a model from Lahore for a shoot in Karachi would mean extra expenses in the form of paying for the model's travel, lodging etc. And that's where most people want to save up on the money from. Its quite ironic as it is the models that form the backbone of a shoot or a show and it is they who are made to compromise on payments on the ever-so-convenient reason Budget nahin hai'!
Do you notice any difference in professionalism between Lahore and Karachi?
I think the atmosphere in Lahore is more laid back which suits me just fine!
A lot of models are taking up acting as well; Vinnie, Iman and Tanya Shafi to name a few, Do you see this as a natural progression from modeling?
I have been offered quite a few roles from Ptv and some private producers and I am considering them at the moment. Even though I am confident that I have a lot to look forward to as far as my modeling career is concerned, am I not that naïve either to believe that its going to last a lifetime. I think that modeling serves as a good training platform for acting as it is all about expressions and body language.
Is working in films on the agenda?
I'd love to work in films as long as it is directed towards audience like you and myself. The sort of films that are being churned out these days can only appeal to the mentality of rickshaw and truck drivers. I think the only person benefiting from the way our film industry is working is Shaan; He is minting money for playing the exact same gujjar role over and over again in a zillion movies! Besides, I don't think I can compete with Saima's figure!
What has been your most exciting project so far?
Definitely the show I did for Mahmood Bhatti in Paris last year. I was the only Pakistani model. The fact that I was representing my country combined with presenting myself in front of an international audience was enough to give me a high! I was impressed by the extreme professionalism displayed by everyone from the organizers to the models. The experience also acted as a great motivating force for me. The French fashion scene is huge! Each agency has up to 500 models. It made me realize that carving a niche for your self in an industry such as ours is so much easier!
How did you find Mahmood Bhatti's clothes?
I felt they weren't anything to write home about. I am not the sort who would be impressed by someone just because he enjoys a big name or international reputation.
What do you consider to be your most embarrassing moment?
Just last month I did this show for Rezz Aly at the Serena, Islamabad. The show went quite well and for the finale all the models were supposed to line up on stage. As I walked onstage I stepped right into a puddle of water leaking from one of the fog machines. I was wearing three-inch high heels and I naturally slipped! Thanks God the ramp was crowded and the row of models in front obstructed the audience's view of me! I still have a bruised hip though!
What is the best thing about being a model?
The fact that I get to travel and meet so many creative people is definitely a pro. A lot of women spend oodies of money on getting their hair and makeup done. Not only do I get to sample out the latest trends in hair, makeup and clothes from the best in the business but I also get paid for it! Seeing yourself on the cover of a fashion glossy doesn't hurt either!
And the worst?
Definitely the fact that once you become a public figure you can safely say Au Revoir to any prospects of privacy.
You were also nominated for a Lux Style Award?
I am proud of the fact that I was nominated for the award in such a short while. I have no regrets about not winning. ZQ won because she deserved to win. There is a lot of controversy surrounding the credibility of the LSA but I think it is step in the right direction. There may be a degree of favoritism but just compiling a portfolio gives you a chance to reflect on your own work and brings you in the eyes of the ‘people who matter'. A far as exposure is concerned, channels such as Style Duniya are also doing a great job in taking fashion to the masses.
Your greatest regret?
Two music videos I recently did as a favor to friend. I don't think they are going to do much for my image. I've learnt my lesson though. I'm never going to compromise on quality again even if it means turning down a few friends.
On a personal note, how would you describe your dream man?
Arjun Rampal! Too bad he's already married! Though indo-Pak collaboration on the fashion front should take care of that one!
These days there is an international trend towards cosmetic surgery and liposuction. How do you feel about it?
I think it's great that people themselves. It's good in the sense that it can serve as a confidence booster. I personally, am quite comfortable in my skin. It's not that I consider myself to be the most beautiful creature in God's Green Earth but I do believe in getting in touch with the beauty within you. To me it's more about the body language and the confidence with which you carry yourself.