With his sharp features, intense gaze and long eyelashes, Hasnain Lehri is easily one of the most handsome men in the Pakistani fashion industry. He has an infectious smile and is one of the fittest men around. His washboard abs can give his contemporaries a run for their money and his chiseled face just adds to the package. Hasnain has won the Lux style award for Best Male Model two years in row. OK! speaks to the model exclusively to find out what’s beyond the good looking exterior.
You’ve been in this industry for four years now. How have you evolved and grown in these years as an artist?
Hasnain Lehri: From day one, I’ve been very fortunate. I’ve been surrounded by the best designers and photographers Pakistan has to offer; their presence and experience has provided me with a place to learn and grow as an artist and as an individual. Over the last four years, I learned to think from a broader perspective. Every picture I take reflects bits and pieces of my personality and more than just the physical “me.” I’m proud of the fact that I put my own input into the concept, story and theme of every shoot that I do. I believe that has always been the greatest strength of my work. On the other side of the lens, I have two talented artists Abdullah Harris and Rizwan ul Haq, with whom I collaborate and share my ideas with. Together we have been able to come up with fantastic work.
As a man from a proud Baluchi family, how has your success and respect in this industry as a model inspired other boys to follow your lead?
HL: I’m very proud of my work and very dedicated towards it. I come from a Sardar family, and for me a career in modeling was a hard decision but my determination and passion overcame every obstacle. I’m proud that I have a name for myself purely based on my hard work. I’m a torchbearer for the people of Baluchistan who want to pursue a career in this creative field. By changing the perception of the fashion industry in Baluchistan, I’m excited there can be more who follow my lead.
You come across as someone with defining style and forward thinking. How do you plan to change the industry?
HL: Even before I joined the industry, I was always a follower of fashion. I always enjoyed roaming the streets of London during my student years; it developed my style of street fashion. My interest in high fashion came from my trips to Italy and following Italian designers. All models have an eye for style.
What inspires you as an artist? How do you channel this into a single picture?
HL: Nature and cinema have always been my long-time inspirations. I’m in a constant state of observation and I’m inspired by the world around me.
How much work goes into making one still from your shoots?
HL: The majority of my work is editorials. There is a team of hard working individuals that make a shoot a success and every aspect is taken into consideration. From my hair, to the intensity of the lighting, to creating a story line, and placing the clothes is only the last bit. My goal is always to make a picture that is more than visual – a picture that evokes feelings and speaks to you too.
What makes a great picture – the photographer, the clothes, or the model?
HL: The photographer is the backbone of the shoot. The model is just the face and the clothes are the paint.
What is the greatest extent you have put your body through to getting the right shot?
HL: This has always depended on the story or the plot. My body is a tool. I’ve gained and dropped over 10kgs to fit the character of my shoot.
How would you define the real you? You persona is that of someone who is detached, alone and aloof. Is this the real you?
HL: I’m a sensitive guy. I walk blindly and wear my heart on my sleeve. My close friends know this about me; they can describe it as my greatest strength and also my greatest weakness. I’m not a superhero with super powers.
Your posts come across as someone who is surrounded by wealth and fame. Have you always had this or did you go through a struggle? Tell us about your times as a junior artist.
HL: I was very fortunate to have been born into a wealthy family that was able to provide me with more than I needed. I was a spoiled child but this was something I knew I had to abandon if I wanted success and my own gratification. As an artist, the road to success is rough and bumpy and by the grace of God today I am able to stand on my own two feet and say “I did it”.
Did your family support you while you were struggling? How do they feel about your success now?
HL: In the beginning they were concerned because my career choice does not promise glory to everyone. I wore my hard times with a smile to disguise the troubles I faced, as I did not want my family to feel my struggle. It was all worth it after winning my first award as a model, which I presented to my father in the early ours of the morning. His acceptance and his tears of joy made every struggle worth it.
Have you ever been heart broken? Does your personal life reflect in your work?
HL: I take a portion of love from all of the loved ones around me. I am lucky to have always been surrounded by love and support. My support system has always brought me up in any trouble I faced. My personal and professional life is one. What I create is what I am.
What has been the most defining moment of your career so far?
HL: The day I came across my two mentors. I have walked my journey side by side with my mentor Abdullah Harris who I love like my own dad; I have learned a lot from him. Then I met Rizwan ul Haq who showed me and taught me a different side of art and fashion. They have both guided and directed me to be the artist I am today.
In Bollywood, the top male models often go into acting. What is your goal? Can we expect you in a movie?
HL: I feel Pakistan lacks real theater actors; I’m taking my time and learning my craft and been learning about theater. I plan to use these skills towards any project that may come up in the future. But yes, you certainly can.
What advice would you give to those wanting to improve their style?
HL: Strength is taken from the ground; swag comes from within not from the clothes. Personal style is not about what you wear but how you feel when you wear it.
Interview: Rao Ali Khan
Photographs: Abdullah Harris