Tell us about yourself – your family, childhood, school and college, friends…
AYESHA OMAR: I was born in Karachi but I moved to Lahore when I was two due to my father’s demise. My childhood was very tough. My mom was a single parent and we really had to struggle to make ends meet.
My brother and I were lucky to get admission in Lahore Grammar School, which is an expensive school, but we got scholarships on compassionate grounds. So our school fee was waived off, but obviously there were other expenses like books, uniforms, transport and all of that. My mother really struggled a lot, and obviously she was dealing with her own trauma and emotional upheaval as well. So it was very hard on us and on her.
We had a lot of independence even in childhood, as we had to do most things ourselves. It made me a very strong and resilient person.
I have a degree in Fine Arts from the National College of Arts. And then I was dabbling with a bit of acting in college and doing some sitcoms while I was still in college and from there I got a lot of acting offers and that’s how I entered this industry.
You were brought up in Lahore – what made you move to Karachi?
AO: I was getting a lot of acting offers in Karachi. So I was back and forth between Karachi and Lahore a lot, and then I started doing long running soaps. It was at this point that I moved to Karachi. I also joined MTV Pakistan as a VJ, and I was there for a good six to seven years.
I still visit Lahore quite often, as my mother lives there.
Has music / acting been your passion from as far back as you can remember?
AO: Yes, it has. Like I said, I was singing and acting in school when I was five years old. I took part in many singing competitions. I was in the school choir, the school band, and then the college band. Later, I was a part of underground bands. While I was in college, we performed on stage many times. I did a lot of theatre in school. Every summer, we would do plays with students from other schools as well.
What is your earliest memory associated with acting / music?
AO: I won a singing competition when I was five years old! And I sang Bol kay Lab Azad on stage at Alhamra in Lahore, I was around eight at the time.
Film, television, studio collaborations, songs, you’ve done it all – as an artist and as an individual, what have you enjoyed the most and why?
AO: I love to sing and I do love to act on stage. I would say theatre – and also films – if done in the right environment, with the right team and the right people.
In singing, I get to express and create a little more. I think I’m also moving towards direction.
What would you define as your dream project?
AO: It would be a Hollywood film with Chris Hemsworth, Bradley Cooper and Kate Winslett as the cast. And it would be about something very powerful and important, a social issue – perhaps domestic violence or sexual harassment.
Any international collaborations / projects in the offing?
AO: Yes, absolutely. A film of mine is releasing in April; it’s called Money Back Guarantee, and it’s going to be released worldwide. I am also working on a couple of music projects so I can’t say much right now. Then there is Saladuddin Ayubi, which is a collaboration between Pakistan and Turkey. The script is being finalised, and we will begin shooting after a month. So that’s in the pipeline as well.
Had you not been a musician, what might have been your alternate calling?
AO: I would have been an artist, a painter.
How do you tackle controversy?
AO: There was a time when I was new in this profession, new to being a public figure, and to being commented on and criticised by all and sundry. I was younger also and probably less mature, so controversy or people talking about me or my privacy being breached would really affect me negatively. It gave me a lot of trauma and pain, and it would really take me down a dark hole. But now, I have developed techniques to pacify myself. I believe in myself a lot more now. I have accepted all parts of myself, and I am true to myself now as much as I can be. I stand by my social philosophy and I align myself according to my own values.
So the gap between my public persona and my private life is smaller now because I want to remain true to myself. And when you know that your intention is pure, when you’re not doing anything which goes against your own values, your family’s values, the boundaries that you’ve set for yourself, then external controversy really does not matter. It’s only between you and God.
So controversies come and go. They follow me everywhere. But I stay on my path and I stay true to myself and my values. And I try to be good to myself and to others. I don’t like to manipulate anybody. I don’t like to take anybody for granted. And I don’t cross my own boundaries. So I take it all in my stride. Yeah, it really doesn’t affect me or bother me at all anymore, because my vibration is higher than that now. I vibrate on a higher plane.
Personally and professionally, what has been your biggest high and your greatest challenge?
AO: Well, continuing my sitcom, Bulbulay for 14 years actually. And that is a huge commitment to any project, especially in Pakistan, because we work in all kinds of conditions. Things are not perfect for us, things are not tailormade for us. It’s not all very comfortable. So to stay committed to something for such a long time is a huge challenge.
Bulbulay is also my biggest high because of the kind of love and respect and appreciation I get all over the world. I mean from Norway to Australia to Africa – wherever there are Pakistanis, the show is loved and all the characters are loved, and I am loved. So that kind of love and appreciation is probably my biggest high.
I also felt great when I won an award for my first film, when I won an award for my first album, and when I performed internationally on stage in Melbourne.
Both as an individual and as an artist: 1) what motivates you to push and raise the bar, 2) what inspires you, 3) what is your motto, 4) your comfort zone, 5) your getaway?
AO: That’s a lot of questions, guys. This is cheating… I really have to think about that. But what motivates me is that I really want to make a positive difference in my own society and the world over. So what pushes me is just to be a better person every day and make a positive impact. For me, it’s not about making money. I don’t run after money. I don’t even run after material possessions. I run after experiences. I run after evolution, growth, peace, and health. I guess constantly evolving is a high for me. I want to just be a better person, a kinder person to others. I want to be an inspiration to others. I want to share my knowledge and my awareness. So, yeah, life inspires me. Health inspires me. People who are doing great things inspire me. People who are spreading knowledge and doing stuff for the betterment of the world inspire me. People who are changing the world without any hidden agendas inspire me. Talented people who are creating art inspire me.
My comfort zone is just my home, my friends, my family, my beautiful home, good food, good books, movies, travelling – all of this is my comfort zone. But I want to break out of it and do things which push me as well.
My getaway within Karachi would be the beach. I try to go to the French Beach whenever I can. And I also like going to Lahore, to visit my mother and my friends.
Outside Pakistan, I would say any place which brings me closer to nature – the beach, mountains or forests.
Top 10 on your Bucket List?
AO: Iceland is on my bucket list. The Amazon Rainforest, going to Peru or South America, all of this is on my bucket list.
Going to Burning Man once again is on my bucket list. So is skydiving, developing a wellness centre, and designing my own home.
Finding a partner who shares my values and my dreams and then eventually living on a farm with my family, that’s on my bucket list. Becoming the epitome of health, cutting all toxic foods, and waking up at seven in the morning, sleeping early, exercising every day – I want to do all of this.
Adopting a child and becoming the best version of myself is on my bucket list.
You have collaborated with a number of artists – which have you thus far enjoyed the most?
AO: I think the best is yet to come. Yeah, there’s a lot of collaboration yet to come.
But I really enjoyed collaborating with Abdullah Siddiki on a song which is yet to be released.
How would you define Ayesha Omar – the individual and the artist?
AO: Ayesha Omar the individual is a work in progress, constantly evolving, constantly putting out her desires and manifesting her dreams into reality. Constantly growing and trying to be a better version of her own self. Just trying to be kinder and better every single day. Trying to adopt better practices. Trying to be a better human. Trying to make a difference in the world. Trying to inspire herself and others. That is Ayesha Omar the individual. I want to be honest and real, and stand up for what’s right and for what I believe in. I want to stand up for the truth. I want to spread positive energy and vibrate on a higher frequency, basically. Ayesha Omar the individual is trying to change her energy into healing energy, into positive energy. I want to make a difference and I want everybody to be attracted and drawn to my energy.
But I also want to protect my energy. I want to help people become better versions of themselves. And that goes for Ayesha Omar the artist. Also, I want to create. I want to stay true to myself. I want to learn more. I want to be particular about details; I don’t want to go with the flow because only dead fish go with the flow. Ayesha Omar the artist wants to go against the current. She wants to create, she wants to inspire. She wants to step into areas which are not comfortable, step out of her comfort zone and do big things, work on issues and subjects that need to be highlighted. Ayesha Omar wants to live in the moment and create her own future.
I also want to be somebody who helps others see things that they’re not aware of. Like maybe how to take care of their health better, how to eat better. I love taking care of people, I love feeding people, and I am very maternal that way. So I would define myself as someone who likes to take care of other people and make a difference in someone else’s life. Leave my mark that way.
What’s next for Ayesha Omar?
AO: Oh, lots and lots of things. I’m working on my own line of perfumes and will be launching it soon In sha Allah. I’m also working on a food concept with someone. Then I’m busy with my makeup and hair care line.
Two of my films are going to be released soon – Dhai Chal in March, and Money back Guarantee in April. Plus, I’m working on another film. Yeah. So there’s lots to look forward to.
INTERVIEW: OK! PAKISTAN
OUTFITS : ATELIER ZUHRA
SHOT BY : ALTAMASH UROOJ
MUA : LARAH HAMZEH
HAIR : HAIR BY SAMIR
STYLING AND COORDINATION: RAO ALI KHAN