“Becoming a mother put me on track and matured me”
Cybil Chowdhry’s sweet 16th birthday present from her mother happened to be the reason for a great model like herself to enter the modelling world. Having started her career over 18 years ago by a mere coincidence, Cybil is now a household name – she is recognised for her poise, beauty and elegance on the ramp. Her calm and composed demeanour has earned her the respect of not just her colleagues but also photographers and designers who are full of nothing but praise for her. Owing to her German roots, Cybil has the perfect foreign charm, light features and alluring smile that never fails to enthrall her audience.
She is one of the few models that have struck the perfect balance between accomplishing her career goals and being a devoted mother of two. Having been in the fashion industry for a considerable amount of time has taught Cybil how to conduct herself with utmost serenity while being comfortable in her own skin and steering away from the negativity every competitive career comes with. The stunner has made a name in the Pakistani fashion industry having earned herself several prestigious awards for her significant achievements in the field of modelling, including the LUX Style Award 2010 and 2014 in the category of Model of the Year, and Best Model Female at the 3rd HUM Awards 2014. Cybil has also been highly acclaimed for her acting abilities on screen in HUM TV’s drama serial, Firaaq – making a statement that her talent stretches beyond just the field of modelling.
Cybil, how did you step into modelling?
Cybil Chowdhry: Believe it or not, I got into modelling completely by chance! At the age of 15, I went to Ather Shahzad to get my portfolio done – it was a sweet 16 birthday present from my mother. I still remember Shahzad and Ather’s expressions while we were shooting the portfolio. I could tell they weren’t very impressed with me; they seemed very confused as to how the photographs would turn out but luckily as the shoot continued, I got more and more comfortable and till date, Shahzad and I believe that my portfolio is my best work yet!
Modelling must be your passion. How long has it been for you in this industry?
CC: Yes! I’ve loved my career as a model, host, and an actor. I actually got my portfolio done for my 16th birthday and I will be 35-years-old in February. So I can say I have happily and successfully been a part of Pakistan’s fashion industry for 20 years now.
Tell us about your childhood and education.
CC: Well, I have quite an international family. We’ve moved around a lot between Pakistan and USA. My mother is German and my father is Pakistani. I was born in Karachi and at the age of four we moved to the USA. Before that my parents and my two elder brothers had lived in Germany and the USA. I moved to Lahore from the US at the age of nine. My father commissioned Shaukat Khanum Cancer Hospital for Imran Khan, that’s why we moved back. I finished my high school here in Lahore and got my degree in Early Childhood Education in North Carolina, USA.
How do you balance your work and family life?
CC: It’s always a difficult task, I travel a lot all over the world. One just has to be good at time management and sometimes you have to just do what’s right for yourself and your family. My relationship with my children is very honest and we are very close. They understand my travelling and my work. My mother is my biggest supporter, and without her and my brother Fabian, I wouldn’t be able to do all that I do!
Do you feel the fashion industry is superficial or over-rated?
CC: Isn’t every fashion industry? [Laughs] I’ve made some of my oldest and closest friends in this industry. But yes, it has changed a lot since I started, to be honest. I just hope it keeps growing and getting better with every day that passes.
In your opinion, which newcomer has the most potential?
CC: There are quite a few new girls now; I just hope they all get equal opportunities.
What is the one thing that you’d like to change about the industry?
CC: The fakeness, the competition people have with one another and the dirtiness about the industry! But then every industry in the world has all of that. But I do wish we would all try and work together as a team to take our industry further.
Tell us about some of your most memorable moments as a model.
CC: Actually I have a few very memorable shoots. I’ve climbed Kallar Kahar wearing an Umer Sayeed jora and heels while I was in the early stages of my pregnancy with my first son. I’ve shivered and turned blue during a Sobia Nazir lawn shoot at Bahria Town, and let’s not forget the time I stood on the edge of a roof two stories above the ground, posing in a Khaadi outfit! I’ve also melted in the Lahori heat for numerous lawn shoots! There are many, many more crazy stories.
“We all need to be more encouraging towards one another instead of constantly trying to rip each other apart! Spread love, not hate!”
You’ve also been acting on the side – why the jump? And are you enjoying it?
CC: I have done one play so far but I am definitely interested in taking up more acting projects in the future. Acting is more difficult than modelling any day. And why the jump? Well, why not?
You have German roots; has language been a barrier for you in Pakistan? How often do you visit Germany?
CC: My first languages are Urdu and German but I do have a slight American accent, which I think scares directors away. I don’t visit Germany as much as I would like to.
What kind of a mother are you? Do you spoil your kids?
CC: I am a very chilled out person in general but a strict mother. My rule is that once all your responsibilities are fulfilled, you can play. My eldest son Kevaan is now 16 and the younger one, Esa is 11. I must say, I have two amazing children. They are my pride and joy!
How has motherhood changed you? Has it taken a toll on your modelling career?
CC: No, being a model has never interfered with me being a mother. It’s all about time management. I got married and had my children at quite a young age, so becoming a mother put me on track and matured me.
One quote that you live by?
CC: I like to think that I am a good person and I care and see the best in all people. What they do in their personal lives isn’t my problem as long as it doesn’t harm me. If you’re good to me, I’ll be good to you!
“I have happily and successfully been a part of Pakistan’s fashion industry for 20 years now.”
What are some of your other hobbies and interests? Do you cook?
CC: I love cooking! My secret dream is to go to a culinary school.
Have you ever tried a crazy diet that you regret?
CC: Never! I love my food too much. But I do try a lot of cleanses; I’ve done the master cleanse and that is a tough one. I’ve also been a vegan for six weeks. I’m planning to start the ‘Forks over Knives’ meal plan but these aren’t exactly diets they are more about adopting a healthy lifestyle so basically new ways to feed and nurture your body.
Are you brand conscious or someone who will wear anything as long as it is your style? What are some of your favourite brands?
CC: I am absolutely not brand conscious. I don’t believe in spending thousands of dollars on a pair of shoes or clothing that I’ll wear once. I’ve got kids; I’d rather take them to Disney with that money!
Favourite travel destination or vacation spot?
CC: I loved Disney Orlando with my boys. But I’m still on the hunt for a wonderful vacation getaway spot.
You were selected as one of the mentors on Veet Miss Super Model, how was your experience being a part of the show?
CC: I have been a part of Veet for two seasons now. I love working with the HUM TV team!
“I like to think that I am a good person. I care and see the best in all people.”
How has the modelling industry evolved since the time you started out?
CC: It has evolved in good and bad ways both. I love all the new models, male and female, all the new designers, photographers [even though I don’t work with everyone] and make-up artists! I just feel we all need to take a sweet pill instead of a bitter one. We all need to learn to be more encouraging towards one another instead of constantly trying to rip each other apart! Spread love, not hate!
The biggest sacrifice you had to make in your career to get to where you are?
CC: By the grace of Allah, I have never had to sacrifice anything to get to where I am.
MORE ON THE GORGEROUS CYBIL
Most outrageous expenditure…
CC: Celine bag.
Have you ever used fame to jump a line?
What are you most passionate about?
CC: My children and cooking.
A confidante in the fashion industry…
CC: No one in the industry.
Favourite local designer?
CC: Too many to name!
Favourite international designer?
CC: Elie Saab.
Favourite local model?
Being a mom or being a model…
CC: Mom, any day.
Current make-up obsession…
Three things you never leave the house without…
CC: My phone, brain and a smile!
Describe yourself in three words.
CC: Shy, gullible and strong.
The best advice you have ever received?
CC: You know what you’re doing, keep doing it.
What annoys you most?
Which international model would you compare yourself to?
On a scale of one to ten, how excited are you about life right now?
Who should everyone be following on social media right now?
What is your favourite thing about yourself?
A sport you wish you could play…
CC: Formula One car racing.
Scary film or happy endings?
CC: Scary film.
Rolling Stones or the Beatles?
CC: Rolling Stones.
Three people alive or dead that you would like to have dinner with?
CC: My grandparents .
INTERVIEW: FIZZA FURQAN & AREESHA CHAUDHRY
STYLING & COORDINATION: AREESHA CHAUDHRY @arshcgram
PHOTOGRAPHY: ABDULLAH HARRIS
MAKE-UP: NAUMAN AT TONI & GUY
WARDROBE: NATASHA KAMAL