Nadia Hussain has become unstoppable. She is relentless when it comes to achieving her dreams and ‘settling’ is a word that doesn’t exist in her dictionary. She is always on the look out for something novel and she doesn’t believe in mediocrity. She ruled the runway for over a decade – while keeping up with her acting hobby on the side – and her presence in the entertainment realm is only increasing. Her versatility, insatiable desire to outdo herself every time and extensive list of aspirations leave us with only one question: what is this multi-talented model up to next? OK! visits her home and finds out…
While she may seem cold and arrogant, Nadia is easily the opposite. She may be a go-getter and picky when it comes to choosing her friends, but she is welcoming and kindhearted. Why then does the general perception that she is uptight and hostile exist? “I don’t mind people thinking that. It keeps a lot of crap away from me. People I don’t want to meet, it keeps them away. When I need to be arrogant, I will be arrogant,” she laughs. “And it works in my favour. All those creepy men at fashion weeks, the attitude keeps them away!”
You’ve studied dentistry, how did you dabble into modelling? Tell us about your first project.
Nadia Hussain: I am actually a dentist by qualification and not by profession, as I never really pursued it. Modelling started even before I was studying dentistry. I was free after my A Levels and had some time on my hands. It was during that time that I got an offer to do a campaign for Lakhani Mills. It was basically a studio shoot. After that Shamaeel Ansari, who is also a family friend, was having a fashion show and she found out that I was also modelling on the side, so she told my parents that they should let me do it for her. I just did one outfit for her on the ramp and it was my first fashion show ever. I was only 20 when I started off which was at the end of 1999, I think.
You attracted a lot of attention in your early days. How did you balance work and education?
NH: It was literally within a couple of months that I had gotten so popular. Then I was approached to do the millennium cover of SHE magazine which was a really big deal as there weren’t a lot of magazines back then, around 15 years ago. And since then, there has been no looking back. Even though I didn’t feel like I wanted to continue this for the rest of my life, it just so happened that I did. I refused a lot of projects too because I was working as well as studying at the same time. I constantly had exams over my head, but I just couldn’t help it. I mean I had shows that were happening in Lahore and people would be like, “We don’t care, come to Lahore in the afternoon and do the show,” and then I would go back the same night and then college in the morning. At times, I would attend my classes, rush to the airport, take the four o’clock flight, land in Lahore at six o’clock, get my make-up done, do the show without rehearsal and then take the late night flight back.
Modelling isn’t the most conventional career choice in our society. Did you have your parents support from the beginning?
NH: There wasn’t support from my mother at all initially. She was like Nadia’s education will suffer. So it became a challenge for me to prove myself in this field as well as in my studies. Consequently, I had to work extra hard on both. I got distinctions in my studies. My dad, on the other hand, was a lot more supportive. He was like, “Let her do it, it’s extra pocket money for her, it’s not a big deal.” Then my mother started accompanying me and met some of the people I was working with. She met people like Bibi, Iraj, Vinnie [Vaneeza Ahmad], Tania Shafi, ZQ [Zainab Qayyum], Frieha Altaf, Deepak Perwani, Mubashir Khan and Tapu Javeri. She realised that they were all educated, decent, down-to-earth and professional and there was no hanky panky whatsoever. All the girls were educated and my mom became more accepting of it. She realised it was an extended part of my friend circle. As long as she knew who I was with, she became more and more comfortable with the idea. And I’ve been lucky too because the first time I travelled, it was with Maheen Khan – a family friend of ours – for a fashion event in Sri Lanka, so my dad was like, “Let her go, she’s going with Maheen” and he was the one who convinced my mom.
Have there been any memorable or life-changing moments in your exciting career?
NH: There haven’t really been any life-changing incidents particularly but memorable yeah – I mean there have been loads. Every time I’ve travelled, there have been some amazing moments. We all went to Cologne in Germany once for a fashion show; there were about 12 girls and ten boys. Vinnie, Sofia and Nomi Qamar were there as well as Imran Qureshi as the choreographer. I remember we had such a blast. We weren’t allowed to step out after a certain time and we sneaked out and ended up God knows where. It was snowing and we were there till four in the morning. We were just snow fighting and doing such crazy things. Then the people back at the hotel realised we weren’t there and we had no phones either so they couldn’t even call us. When we got back, we got a scolding and a half but it was so much fun.
What major differences do you see in today’s modelling world compared to when you started? There are so many girls that have jumped into this profession over the past few years – is it that easy?
NH: It’s definitely easier to step in nowadays but it’s difficult to make a name for yourself. If you want to stand out, then you need to be really good at what you do. All the photographers, designers, models and people should be well aware of you and it’s very difficult to be able to achieve that. And what’s really lacking these days is the education factor when it comes to most of the girls; maybe not the designers but definitely the models. For example, Ayaan is just a pretty face, that’s it. There’s nothing more to her.
Do you feel ‘being educated’ is a requisite in this industry? Can anyone with the right body do it?
NH: It definitely is – that’s what sets you apart from others. Perhaps that is what’s going to help you go that one step further and get you differentiated from others. You will always get projects but it’s about maintaining that which will be difficult. People might even get famous as models but it’s important to be known as a personality, and that is of course shaped by your education, family background, etc.
Are you saying people in this industry don’t like working/interacting with those who aren’t educated?
NH: These people do work with everyone because at the end of the day if you are a photographer then you don’t want your work to become stagnant. If you keep working with one specific person, then your work does become stagnant, so you have to work with everyone and keep your portfolio diverse. But as far as being friends with them is concerned, then that factor doesn’t remain. It’ll just be more of a professional relationship. You might be called to a party just because you look hot or dress sexily but that’s about it. I mean how many times will a person be able to have an intellectual conversation with such girls? They won’t.
Most of these new models are called just to dress up and look good at parties?
NH: They want to come themselves (laughs)! The sad part is they don’t even have to be invited! They are so desperate to get into these parties they’ll even go uninvited. And just to grab attention, they wear such skimpy clothes. I mean we never did any of that. I feel it’s one of those things that have just become part of what the industry has become. It’s really quite sickening actually.
How would you compare the girls today with those you started your career with?
NH: There is a clear difference I mean back in the day there was Vinnie, Iraj, ZQ, Tania Shafi, Nadia Jamula, Aaminah Haq, Sonia Mehnaz, Sunita and Tuba and they were all educated and came from good families. They weren’t desperate. Today, it has become an easy avenue to earn extra cash. Most of all, these new girls just lack personality and I don’t want to associate with any of them. I actually force myself to talk to them at times.
Who is your all-time favourite designer and why?
NH: There are so many. I can’t name one because they’re all so different in their own right. But one designer who is also a very close friend of mine is Ayesha Hashwani. I love her stuff. She hasn’t been working for too long, roughly five years now, but I love wearing her clothes. Also, if I have to name one person who I’ve been working with from the very beginning then it has to be Deepak [Perwani]. And even Sheru [HSY] – I’ve known him for so long I mean even before he had stepped into fashion design and was only choreographing shows. Nomi Ansari as well.
You’ve been acting on the side as well. Can you tell us a little about your first project and how the experience was.
NH: I’ve been acting from the very beginning actually along with hosting shows on fashion, music and even competitions. And the funny thing is, I wasn’t really into acting but since I stepped into modelling, the offers started coming. I was forced by this director, who really wanted me to do a project for him. He was like, “I don’t care, you have to this project and I’ll work around your routine and I’ll do this and that.” So I finally gave in literally after like six months. It was a play on Indus Vision called Sarmaya. The cast was huge: Faisal Rahman, Talat Hussain and a lot of very known names. It was so daunting for me to work with Talat Hussain – I was the lead next to him but it was a great experience. I would think to myself, “He’s such a seasoned actor and here I am as a newbie just next to him.” No one made me feel awkward, we were all from decent family backgrounds so the environment was nice and we’d all be chilling in our breaks. And after that, there’s been no looking back in terms of acting.
Did your marriage affect your acting/modelling career?
NH: I got married really early so I couldn’t do much. My plan initially was to just get a lot of acting and modelling projects, save lots of money and go to college in Australia to pursue further studies. But then I met my husband in my final year and everything went haywire from there [laughs], so I couldn’t do much. Then after I got married, I still continued with acting on the side but then I had the baby and then the second. I’ve tried to maintain a balance when it comes to my work and personal life, but I never really stopped acting.
Has there been a role that you’ve loved playing?
NH: Honestly, there hasn’t really been one yet. The roles I’ve been getting are the kinds where I didn’t really have to put much effort in. It would normally be a rich, beautiful, spoiled girl who is rebellious and obnoxious. I don’t even want to do these roles anymore, I’ve been telling people for a long time and I’ve been refusing a lot of work too because of this. I don’t want to get typecasted. There was one role that I remember doing though which was fun. We had gone to interior Sindh and stayed in juggis. We stayed there for about two weeks. I was opposite Imran Abbas. I was this Indian girl and he was Pakistani and we fell in love. I was one of those typical desi girls wearing bangles, a dupatta and ghagra choli. I mean I enjoy these kind of characters a lot more. I’m also currently doing another role in this show called Mittu and Apa. The role is of a girl who belongs to a very low income family; she’s married, very loud and flirts with all the men around her to get her work done.
Do you feel these kind of roles are a lot more challenging and adventurous for you?
NH: Definitely. I mean compared to roles people think I will fit into better, I would rather do these – a poor, submissive girl for example. I want to experiment and take risks. But the funny thing is people ask me how I will be able to pull off a poor girl role. They’re like, “How can you even look poor?” And I think that’s not the nicest thing to say. If you have the right make-up and get-up then you can look like one. The only issue is, directors and producers don’t want to make an effort and do such stuff. They would rather just pick a person who they feel fits the role because they feel the actor has done the role before, so he or she can do it again. And I feel that’s wrong. It would definitely add interest from the viewers if actors take up varied roles. For example, if I have always played negative roles and I suddenly play a different kind of role, then they would be surprised at the end you know that wow this is actually a positive role. Till the very end, they would expect some villainous act to come up, but it wont.
What is the worst role you’ve ever been offered?
NH: There was this one script that came my way and I can’t even begin to tell you how atrocious it was. I was supposed to be some bureaucrat’s wife and he’s hiding the fact that he’s married to me, a model, because he comes from a very influential background. And I got so furious when I read the script. I was like, “How dare you even think I would do this role?” Whatever role you portray, it does in a way reflect your personality too. You feel very close to the character you play. And in this script, the husband keeps taunting the girl, throwing random insults here and there and in the end the girl commits suicide or maybe just disappears randomly I don’t know. I was like why would I even want to do this role. Why would I put someone who is in this field in that kind of light? Why would I demean my own profession? If the girl actually has a significant role and changes his perception then that would’ve been fine, otherwise, there was no substance to the character.
You’ve worked with so many actors and directors. Can you name a few you’ve enjoyed working with most.
NH: If there’s someone who has been a lot of fun to work with, it has to be Hina Dilpazir. I worked with her in this play called Ladies Park. I mean the things she’d be doing on the set, you’d just be laughing the whole time. She’s also an amazing human being. There are so many others, I mean I can’t compare and single one out. I’ve had a great time working with Adnan Siddiqui, Aijaz Aslam, Noman Ejaz, Faisal Qureshi, Maria Wasti, Arjumand Amin, Samina Ahmed – there are so many more. They all have something different to offer.
What’s next for Nadia Hussain?
NH: My salon and clothing line are definitely next on my agenda.
A LITTLE MORE…
A model who needs to stop modelling?
NH:There’s this girl Fizzy who’s supposed to be a model. You probably haven’t even heard of her
Most photogenic model?
NH:In the past, it has definitely been Aaminah Haq and now, it’s Ayaan
A confidante in the fashion industry?
Most promising model?
NH:There was this girl called Anum Ahmed. She’s tall, pretty and comes from a good family, but she isn’t modelling anymore
NH:Tapu Javeri and Deevees – no matter how terrible the clothes are, Deevees will still make me look beautiful
Ramp or studio shoot?
If your daughter wanted to follow in your footsteps and become a model, would you encourage her?
NH:I will encourage her but when I was growing up, the most important thing for my parents was my education. So it will be the same for her. As long as she’s doing it alongside her studies, then there’s no harm
Do you get more excited when you get a modelling project or acting?
What are you best at?
NH:Perhaps, I’m better as a model but I really love acting. It challenges me
FEATURE: EIMAN MASROOR
PHOTOGRAPHY: NADIR TOOSY I 18% GREY
CONCEPT, STYLING AND COORDINATION: ANAN KHAN
WARDROBE, HAIR AND MAKE-UP: NADIA HUSSAIN/NH SALON