Veteran all-rounder Shoaib Malik has completed 23 years in cricket and is still at the top of his game. He has served as the captain of the Pakistan National Cricket Team from 2007 to 2009, and currently plays for the national team, Kashmir Premier League, and Peshawar Zalmi in the Pakistan Super League.
Ayesha Omar has come a long way indeed, from playing Khoobsurat in the super hit TV serial Bulbulay, to becoming one of the top style icons of our country. Her career spans nearly two decades, and she has established herself as a talented and hardworking actress in the industry. She is currently hosting TV shows, working on music projects, and doing several top notch films as a leading lady. In addition, she also regularly shares content about healthy eating, fitness and lifestyle.

You have been wrapping up films one after the other. It’s been a long journey since Yalghaar released. How has the process been? Are you excited about Money Back Guarantee and the new film you are shooting for these days?
Ayesha Omar: Yes, it’s been a while after Yalghaar. Then there was Kaaf Kangana, which also released two to three months before Covid. My other films are ready to be released but then Covid entered our lives, which resulted in cinemas shutting down. The films which were almost about to wrapped up, couldn’t be finished. Everything just came to a standstill.
Alhamdullillah, there are four films that are ready to be released soon InshAllah. Currently I am working on a film about Javed Iqbal, the serial killer, alongside Yasir Hussain. It is based on real events. I am also finishing Rehbarah, which we are wrapping up this week. Then Money Back Guarantee has been ready for a year and is InshAllah ready to be released soon. There’s another film which I did with Kamran Shahid, which is about the partition of East Pakistan and West Pakistan, which is also ready to be released. I play a really intense character where I’m a journalist. Then there is another film that I shot in Quetta about the ongoing crisis in Balochistan called Dhai Chaal. So these are the films that are in the process of being released. I am very excited because all the films have very diverse characters. They are all completely different. I am really grateful and lucky to get a chance to explore my self through these characters and my fans will see me in completely different avatars.

You are known to be a style icon in Pakistan and have received various awards in Pakistan and abroad. What entails a successful red carpet look?
AO: First of all, thank you for calling me a style icon – that is so kind and gracious. I’m very humbled. I’m very blessed that I have gotten awards for my sense of style, which was actually very tom boyish and casual when I was growing up. I was not at all particular about my dressing at the time. Over the years you evolve and your idea of a successful look in a certain moment or at a certain time changes. Presently, I like to create looks and match things.
I think a red carpet look can be anything; there is no one particular look. It could be completely diverse and depend on the kind of red carpet event, whether it was a film premiere, an award show, or a music-related event. It’s a kind of self expression, so it’s also creative and artistic. There are different times in your life where your body is  a different size, so at one point in your life you may be able to be fit into a sleek fitted gown and not feel too conscious, but our weight fluctuates. My weight fluctuates and sometimes I like to wear stuff which is loose and flowy, sometimes I like to wear small stuff which is form fitting, sometimes it could be Eastern and sometimes Western. That being said, I do think that it has to be something unique and original, and not copied from someone else’s look. Of course inspiration can be taken, I mean a black gown can be worn over and over again and it could be similar to many other black outfits or sarees, however, you need to be creative and unique because usually on red carpets, you have to stand for a long period of time, you have to give interviews, walk and even sit. I’ve made a mistake where sometimes I end up wearing stuff which is so fitted that it is difficult to sit comfortably. I think the red carpet is where you can really be extra. So I like being extra on red carpets and I like having that “wow” factor. Rao has been one of my dear friends and one of my favourite stylists to work with. Me and him, we  always try to create that “wow” factor, we try to do something which is a statement, which is noticed and which people look at and start a conversatIon about. So yeah, I like doing that with red carpet looks. I also think one should dress according to the weather and take into consideration whether the event is indoors or outdoors and wear something appropriate. So all that, if it comes together, is a successful red carpet look.

With style comes fitness. What’s your workout regime? How do you stay so fit? Please tell us in detail.
AO: Yes, it is very important to work on your mental fitness and your physical fitness at all times of your life, and it should be a necessary part of everyone’s life. I try to eat healthy whenever I can even if I’m travelling. I scope out places where I can get nutritious food, and by healthy I don’t mean a low calorie meal. I don’t check my weight, I don’t check my calories, I count nutrition. That is something I always say to people as that is what I really believe in. I count nutritious value so if I’m eating something I’ll check if that food is damaging my body or not or how damaging it is. So if one of my meals is a bit unhealthy, the rest of the meals during the day will be healthy. I want to get nutrients from my food, I want to have  a mix of raw and half-cooked food so the nutrition value is there.
I try and take supplements and eat fruits and  vegetables as much as I can. I try and eat a lot of vitamins. If I’m travelling, I’ll walk around as much as I can. I don’t get to work out too much, maybe once or twice a week but I’m trying to make exercise a priority. I also want to fix my sleeping patterns, and start sleeping and waking up early. Right now I think it’s more about my eating habits.

We have seen you munching on fruits rather than a packet of chips on set. Tell us about your eating habits. Do you eat healthy and how do you prepare your meals? Are there any cheat days ?
AO: Like I said, I don’t follow any diets and it’s only when you are following a diet plan that you have cheat days. I have a lifestyle; my diet is my lifestyle and there may be times where I will indulge in something which is not very nutritious, or something unhealthy, like a dessert. And if that’s the case, I’ll take a couple of bites or I’ll have a piece of cake on someone’s birthday or I’ll have a few sips of a beverage which has a lot of sugar in it, but not on a regular basis. Yes, I could have a burger or I could have a slice of pizza at times, that’s cheating but I have no desire to do it, so if I have to I eat just to taste or if there is no other option. I try to eat as healthy as I can and I’m fortunate that I have a lady who cooks for me and I tell her exactly what I want. I use coconut oil to cook my meals. I tell her to make it less spicy because I don’t like spicy food. I try to eat desi chicken, mutton, red meat and fish. I try to keep my gluten levels very low by eating gluten-free bread/chapati and oats. I don’t do much dairy – maybe I’ll eat cheese sometimes but no milk. I try not to have refined sugar. I like munching on fruits, nuts and vegetables.

You have been singing for quite some time now. Any new singles coming up? Who is your inspiration when it comes to singing ?
AO: Yes, singing has been a huge part of my life. There are a lot of inspirations. All my life I’ve grown up listening to a lot of music and if talking about the subcontinent, I’ve learned classical music during my childhood from Ustad Fateh Ali Khan and then from his son Rustam Fateh Ali Khan. Nusrat Fateh Ali was a huge inspiration for me; I love listening to him. Other inspirations have been Abida Parveen, Tina Sani, Nayyara Noor, Iqbal Bano, Shafqat Amanat Ali, Mehdi Hassan, Jagjit Singh and many more. Internationally, I’ve grown up listening to a lot of old Pink Floyd and Dave Mathews. I love Beyoncé and Lady Gaga’s voice. Madonna is another inspiration – there are so many names and so many inspirations.
Yes, I am currently working on music. It is still in the making. I am also working on two to three more music projects and I’m very excited about these.

Bulbulay is running on popular demand – how does it feel? Do you enjoy shooting for it?
AO: Bulbulay is a phenomenon, it’s a miracle, and I am so thankful to Allah for all this. We celebrities can’t take all the credit, the audience helps us grow, helps the drama grow. Bulbulay is a hit show and now it’s been running for almost 12 years. So it feels amazing and I am so grateful for Bulbulay. We’ve been through so much as a family, as a team. We know each other so well, there is no pressure, we work as a team, no one forces anyone, we are a family and we are creating something together which people love, and we are humbled and grateful that we get so much love from all age groups. It gives us a sense of deep gratitude.
Of course, shooting gets a little difficult, especially during the summer heat, because when we are shooting, we have to work without fans and air conditioners. It’s a game of patience, it’s very high energy, sometimes you are down and we are regularly shooting so we help and accommodate each other. The connection is really good between all of us.
We work together as a team, and we have intellectual and spiritual conversations. We talk about religion as well. Everyone in Ramazan fasts on set, we have proper namaz breaks and all around the year everyone prays on set and there is wholesome conversation on set about work and politics.

How was it working wirh Nabeel and Hina Dilpazer? Is it like one big happy family? Also, how was it sharing screen space with Fawad Khan in Money Back Guarantee?
AO: Hina Apa is one of my closest friends and Nabeel as well; I love working with everybody. It is a happy family, so of course we do have arguments on set, but we love and respect each other and we get through it. The solid thing is we have resolved differences over time.
I’ve shared screen space with Fawad Khan in Zindagi Gulzar Hai and before this I’ve worked in Jutt and Bond back in the day. I’ve known Fawad Khan since college. So it’s amazing working with him and Fawad is fantastic. He is one of the best actors in our country and I don’t think there will be anybody like him. There is so much to learn from him. I was also doing Pepsi Battle of the Bands with him for two seasons. He is such a lovely, respectful, gentle human being and it’s lovely being around him.

Shoaib Malik is a fitness freak like you and has had a long successful career over two decades. Do you watch cricket? How was it shooting with him?
AO: I do watch cricket and I used to watch cricket a lot back in the 90’s when Wasim Akram, Waqar Younis, Ramiz Raja, Imran Khan and all these people were in the cricket team. I was a huge fan of Wasim Akram, I still am.
The shoot with Shoaib Malik was really nice. He is a very respectful, gentle human being. He is a fitness freak but I am not and yes he’s had a very long successful career, and we are all very proud of him. He is one of our top cricketers and he is an international icon.

What’s next?
AO: I would like to branch out with my brand Ayesha O Beauty; I plan to go into haircare and other branches, and expand the brand internationally. I also want to focus on music and films, and I want to travel more. So lots of exciting ideas and InshAllah I hope that they are well received, and I hope I am able to have fun while doing them. I hope I am able to do justice to everything.

How have you maintained yourself over the years? You are still so fit and playing so well.
Shoaib Malik: Being a professional athlete for so many years, I try to stay disciplined with my life, including my food intake and following a fitness regime, which I try to stick to as much as possible. It is important to be healthy and maintain moderation in your diet and work out.

We see that a lot of your social media posts revolve around working out. Tell us more about your workout regime.
SM: I love working out and it is a part of who I am. It makes me feel better even if I’m having a bad day at the office. I have a trainer in Karachi who has really helped me elevate my fitness game in the last few months. His name is Bilal and he’s one of the best trainers in Pakistan. I work out five days a week, besides my cricket practice.

Tell us about your eating habits. What do you eat to stay fit and healthy?
SM: When I’m playing I do tend to eat a little bit of healthy carbs, with protein and fibre. During competition days I eat carbs once a day for sustained energy.

How is the Kashmir Premier League (KPL) coming along? Is it different from the Pakistan Premier League?
SM: The KPL was a good experience and for a first-time league it was really nice to play there. It was also organised very well. I think it’s unfair to compare any two leagues as each league has its own charm.

You are currently residing in the UAE but travel around the world to play. How do you prioritise between family and work life?
SM: I live between Dubai and Pakistan, and obviously travel a lot. A lot of our time goes into scheduling and coordinating our travel as my wife travels a lot too. I know my priorities and luckily my family understands them too so we just work hard on communication and find a way to make it work, Alhamdulillah.

You have been endorsing various brands, and we also saw you at Jeeto Pakistan during Ramadan in addition to a cameo in the web series Barwaan Khiladi. Are you  transitioning from cricket to modelling and acting, perhaps?
SM: As of now I don’t have any plans to make that transition as I still believe that I have a few years of cricket left in me InshAllah…but never say never.

How was your experience at Jeeto Pakistan? It’s the most watched show. Do you think you can host shows in the future?
SM: I had a really good time at Jeeto Pakistan and it was a lot of fun. The producers, directors and everyone else who was a part of it made it very enjoyable, especially Fahad Mustafa. Hosting is something that I really enjoy and have tried my hand at it; I wouldn’t mind doing it in the future.

What’s next for you? What do you want to do once you retire from cricket?
SM: As of now I am playing cricket, but I love exploring new things and I am open to many things in the future. Let’s see what life has in store.

How was it working with Ayesha Omar for our cover shoot? You have both set extremely high standards for maintaining a good fit body. What’s the common motivating factor?
SM: It was a fun shoot. She was very easy to work with and she also guided me like a teacher at the shoot, since she’s a pro. I can speak for myself and what motivates me is that I love being fit and healthy – it is a part of who I am.

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