Shaheen Saeed, who has been in the beauty business for over 17 years. While the trend in the glamourous beauty industry is to be seen, heard and generally become a media darling, Shaheen hasn’t prescribed to this formula despite being well known.
She attributes her success to hard work and perseverance and confesses that she has clients who have been coming to her for 17 years. “With the influx of television channels, it is easier for people to promote themselves, but I never worked on self-promotion. The quality of your work should speak for itself. I am proud that clients come to me because of my work and not because they have seen me on television. Besides, I am very camera shy. Even though in these 17 years I have built up my confidence, the camera still scares me,” she says with a shy smile.
To Shaheen, the notion that a person who beautifies others should also appear impressive sounds superficial: “I am a simple person by nature. After a day of hard work, I am so tired that I hardly notice how I am looking. I don’t socialise much and if I go somewhere, I go the way I am. I dress according to whatever I am comfortable in. Even my clients get surprised to find that I am so simple, but all my effort and work are for the client, not for myself.”
Shaheen started her career as a make-up artist in 1991, her forte being brides. She has also dabbled at doing fashion shoots for various prestigious publications and television commercials. With the sudden media boom over the past few years, today there appears to be a lot of work available for make-up artists, but Shaheen has constrained herself from working with the media. She reveals why: “From 1991 to 2000, I concentrated on working with leading magazines and advertisement (agencies). Though it was a good experience, it was time consuming as well. For me, money wasn’t an issue; there was actually a clash between my appointments that I usually take up six months earlier. To me, my clients are more important so even today, I work with media only if I can manage both. Otherwise I don’t.”
There is little doubt today that the beauty industry is big business with cut throat competition. According to Shaheen, when she started out, although competition was present, it was healthy. “Now jealousies exist. One should pay attention to one’s own work by delivering quality. Today, there is no concept of team work; it is all dirty politics. It is high time that we let go of such feelings and work together as one,” she states in a matter-of-fact manner.
However, she admits that such things are easier said than done: “Even though we have an organisation, the prevailing attitude is to sit back and brag about oneself. I can’t do that; I prefer that my work be talked about. Look at the issues we have: we pay taxes but we do not have any kind of support from the government. They have not recognised us as an industry yet, hence we get no benefits or incentives. We feel we are nowhere because we do not have proper representation. Even if there is an organisation, we do not sincerely work towards a common goal.”
Another practice in the world of glamour is associating oneself with a certain big player in the industry, and it is claimed that Shaheen has also been working with event organiser/fashion guru, Frieha Altaf. Vehemently denying the accusation, she says, “I have been working with Frieha for the past 10 years. We started out with Lux Style Ki Duniya. Last year, I again worked with her after five years for a fashion show by Faiza Samee and Deepak Perwani. I was a bit apprehensive about handling the situation since I like working alone without any assistants, but Frieha had confidence in me and I did it on my own. In short, I don’t specifically ask people or in this case, Frieha that I want to work with them. I never had any problems working with or without Frieha.”
But Frieha has not been working with her old friend, Tariq Amin since she began work with Shaheen. She comments diplomatically: “I have struggled hard to become what I am today; I don’t get into group-bandi or politics. Such rubbish is not work. I have worked with Tariq for five years and I had a great time. As far as Frieha is concerned, she is very organised. When she is working, there is no such thing as favouritism or friendship; work is work for her. Her attitude is the same with everyone.”
The beautician was nominated twice for Lux Style Awards but did not win and ever since, she has been refusing to be a part of the event. Citing her own set of reasons, she says, “There is a lot of politics involved. The Lux team did get upset over my attitude, wondering how things would work out if seniors behaved this way. But then again, if they want us in, they should be fair in their judgment. As to why I refused to participate after the initial two events, well, I had bridal appointments which are my priority. Hence I wasn’t interested. I was also supposed to be a part of the last Lux Style Awards but I just felt that since I hadn’t done any substantial work for the media, I don’t fit the bill. Therefore I chose not to be a part of it.”
Shaheen has spent a lifetime in the beauty industry, but her contemporaries have gone beyond simply beautification, like Mussarat Misbah, who has been helping burn victims through her Depilex Smile Again Foundation. Has she ever thought along those lines? “To tell you the truth, Mussarat Apa has a strong team and support from her family. I do not have that kind of support. In my family I am the only one in this field but whatever I have achieved is good.”
But she reveals that as part of her profession, she has been supporting Dr. Adib Rizvi of SIUT whenever the need arises. “I am there simply because when we meet sick people, we realize that we are living a good life. Who knows their prayers will benefit me one day. I am sure that someone’s prayers have helped me survive the difficult times both personally and professionally,” she says in a positive tone.
Skimming over her perspectives for the next five years, she says, “I do not plan for the future. I am a perfectionist and I believe in working to the best of my capabilities. One can see that I have only one parlour and I haven’t opened another outlet simply because the quality of work suffers. I am perfectly happy with whatever I have. I only want to be a down to earth person who has achievable dreams and expectations.”