Momina Sibtain is a talented Journalist, fashionista and founder of the popular YouTube channel, Momina’s Mixed Plate. Momina has created a name for herself in the world of journalism as one of the most entertaining and upcoming hosts in the country. OK! Pakistan talks to the fashion and lifestyle journalist about Momina’s Mixed Plate, how it all started and so much more.
Briefly tell us about your education and professional background.
Momina Sibtain: I have a degree in Acting and in Politics from Franklin & Marshall College. I also did a semester in UCL in London, where I studied Public Policy and Art History. After that I came back to Pakistan and started working at Tribune -though I wanted to become a lawyer all my life, I guess I started taking life as it came along, and just took opportunities that were coming my way at that time. That’s how I got into journalism and into fashion and lifestyle reporting. I started with Tribune, I went to Sunday Times for a very short period of time, Tribune then called me back and I started working on T-Edit, which I launched and designed. To date there are still a lot of the features used that we used back in the day. In 2017 I left and started working on Momina’s Mixed Plate (MMP). It took about a year to set the whole thing up, which included giving it direction and where I wanted to go with it, what exactly I wanted to do, and coming up with the name – this was the hardest part of the whole thing as it was going to become the identity of the portal. In 2018, I took the plunge, I invested my own money into it, and set up a studio – I think that’s how we are here today.
How did you get started with Momina’s Mixed Plate?
MS: Like I said earlier, I had been working with content for about 10 years and obviously, moving with the time and seeing what is required, I honestly got bored of the content I was seeing coming out, whether it was TV, whether it was original content, whether it was a magazine or Instagram. Most Instagram portals and blogs were reposting apps and putting up memes; it was like a rat race and there was no quality content coming out. So I wanted out my own voice in MMP and not be dictated, actually I didn’t mind being dictated for what I am doing as long as I have the leverage to work with the brands I want to work with, the people I want to work with, the kind of content I want to create. It kind of started from there. I think any business or any venture takes shape over time, but because of my background in acting and because I love public speaking (I love to talk and my favourite thing to do is talking), it kind of all fell into place. For years my friends were like “you should have a talk show” but you know you never pay much attention to what your friends say to you, and then one day I got a stint with Lux Style Awards (LSA) and I was on camera, and I really loved it. I actually have to give credit to two people one is HSY and the other is my best friend’s sister Mehrbano Querishi. They were both part of the LSA that year and they called me and told me that they wanted me to be a part of it. I initially said no as I wasn’t sure I wanted to do it. In all honestly I wouldn’t be here today if they hadn’t pushed me at that time to take the plunge and do that segment. Doing that segment brought a shift in my career and my life, so I think these two people need to be mentioned. They played a very big role and I don’t even think they know what a big role they’ve played to get me where I am today and to kind of get me to start off, or to even get me thinking about this very seriously. If Mehrbano hadn’t pushed me to take it on and Sheru hadn’t called me personally to tell me I’d be awesome at it, I would not have done it, and I wouldn’t have done it for anyone else. So they are really responsible in getting the ball rolling for me. We all started brainstorming, everyone wanted to be involved and help out, and it kind of became a narrative between our friends as well. I was sitting with Mira and Ali Sethi and they insisted that I had to have my name in the title. I can’t take full credit for this myself; it was a lot of people supporting me and there was so much love around the project and there were so many people rooting for me that I was motivated to make sure it was good and it was something I was proud of. Then the first episode came out and there was a lot of feedback. I started incorporating all the feedback, I still am, and I think in the next year you will see MMP take another shift. That’s the beauty of content, you can’t be static, you can’t say “I’ve come up with a formula and this is what I am going to work with”, you have to keep changing it. Right now I am in the process of revamping things, reimagining MMP, I think it’s really important to keep mixing it up.
How did you promote your channel when you first started?
MS: So when I first started Lotus PR played a very big role and a lot of friends played a very big role. We kind of made a teaser and the team at Lotus PR sent it across Pakistan, like to everyone. Even If people weren’t posting it, there was a buzz around it – that it was coming out. It was the first English channel that dealt with fashion, lifestyle and entertainment; it was a proper portal coming out on YouTube. It was exciting and very daunting. So it was initially obviously word of mouth and friends were putting it up everywhere. After that it was just organic. A few magazines contacted me and I did a feature with a couple of them, after which it started organically going and gaining traction on its own. Obviously a lot of hard work went into it. So basically like I mentioned, initially it was Lotus who sent it all out, I then sent it to my friends and they sent it to theirs – this went on for a few days and then soon our MMP teaser was all over Instagram and social media, and with everyone sharing and re-sharing it, it really was something.
Who was your first guest and how was the experience?
MS: There were two people who I started with and both were my friends who were used as guinea pigs. One was a sit-down interview with Jimmy Khan and it was awesome as he’s my friend. I wanted someone who I was comfortable with because even if I messed up or fumbled, it would be ok. Jimmy was the ideal person; he agreed in a minute and was very supportive –we actually had a lot of fun. And then my other recording was with Amna Babar who again is a friend of mine, and I was very comfortable with her. So my first two guests were a lot of fun and I understood the fact that some people would want a bigger name like Mahira Khan but I just thought it was easier to get my hands dirty with my friends. And once I eased into it, I started getting all the bigger people and people I didn’t know.
Your YouTube channel has over 41.5k subscribers with a great number of video views. When you started out did you ever imagine your audience would become so large?
MS: We are talking digital where nothing is ever enough, and you don’t know how something will take off. As a journalist you are on the other side, you are the one criticising, talking and starting a narrative. But if you are going beyond that and putting yourself out there like I am, it is a very different thing. It was a complete shift for me, from judging someone to being judged.
You are put on the spot, you have to build thick skin, because a lot feedback came in – some was positive and some was constructive criticism. Some pointers were coming in where I was like “Ok I agree and I need to take this in”. As far as the views go I think they should be greater and there’s a long way to go. With digital and YouTube you are constantly wanting more; it’s a vicious cycle of greed.
What keeps you going? What are challenges that you are facing as a YouTuber?
MS: My challenges are very different as my channel is in Minglish. I knew when I was going on that my channel wouldn’t be as popular in the masses as the other channels that are mostly all in Urdu. But the vision I came with was that I need to hit the diaspora – the content that comes out needs to show what universally happens in Pakistan so it’s not just about Urdu or just Punjabi-Urdu and Punjabi, which are a part of my channel but it’s so much more than that and it’s how I converse with people. I thing the biggest challenge is to accept yourself and understand yourself as a person and I think that is always a challenge – in YouTube and in life. It’s like you have to have your own identity. You have to be so comfortable with your identity and who you are, and accept the fact that not everyone will like it. Some people will love you and some people will not resonate with you. I think that is not a challenge but more of a work in progress where you are kind of finding your tribe – it’s like picking a needle from a haystack and that’s your tribe. You kind of make that and the kind of people that are watching MMP makes me really happy. There are loads of accomplished people who come up to me and say “We love what you’re doing” and that to me is more rewarding than having a million subscribers for the time being. The right people are watching me and it might be small right now but it’s hitting the people I want it to hit.
How do you keep up with social media?
MS: I don’t. I am not one to follow trends and lots of times I will find out things a day later and I am ok with it. I don’t think I am any less smarter or any less informed just because I am not up to date with almost everything that is happening and I think that in the world we live in it’s ok to sometimes take a step up. I like a few things and I want to be informed about these things and that’s ok. I am not one of those people who will be like “There’s a new trend and I must follow it”. I’m not like that at all. I have my own way of doing things, I’ve always done it my way, sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t and I think that’s life. You can’t constantly keep up with people and how other people are doing things because you need to carve your own path. I do keep up with social media to a certain extent and I do post a lot, I put up stuff I really want to put out, and I don’t put out stuff just for the sake of it. There will be times where only my videos will be going up on Instagram and I don’t have any pictures going up that week and to me that’s really okay, because that week I didn’t really have anything worthwhile to share with anybody and I didn’t think I had anything that would be adding to any narrative or anything consequential to my own page for that matter. I love Insta-storying; I love showing people what I am doing just generally, even if I am just sitting in a casual look or if I’m huffing and puffing at the gym. It’s not regimented that I should constantly be on social media – I can take a break, be away from it and then come back to it.
How do you keep coming up with new ideas for videos?
MS: I think that’s life, right? It’s like what you are getting from your environment – like when you’re travelling or sitting and having a conversation – ideas will keep popping up. Ideas come with how you are viewing the people and the world more so than sitting and brainstorming and thinking that this what I have to do. It’s a very organic process; I don’t think there’s a set rule or formula that I use. Obviously for the interviews we have a format but like I said in 2020 we will be changing that as well. I will come with newer stuff that could work and could not work, but that is the beauty of life, not everything will work. Sometimes it’s most unexpected and I think you should always follow your gut. If I have a good feeling about something, I will go with it, and if in the moment it’s not doing well, overtime it does so I think your gut really guides you with what to do and how to do it. Also, since my channel has a lot to do with me interacting with people, that interaction varies from person to person. For instance, my interaction with Mahira will be very different to my interaction with Aima Baig or Yasir Hussain or Adeel Hussain. Also, if I am doing a look book it will be all about my interaction with the clothes and how I am feeling in those clothes. So each video is a very one-on-one thing, offering a different experience based on who I’m interacting with or what I’m interacting with if it’s merchandise.
We see a lot of celebrities on your channel. Who would you to kill to have in your chair, who hasn’t been a part of MMP?
MS: I am not that kind of person who would wish for that one person to be there – I think you kind of have to make do with what you have. With MMP I have been very blessed because pretty much all our celebrities have been on it. That being said, we are just a year and a half into it, and there are so many people in Pakistan that are still left. If I had to pick, I would love to have Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic on the show together.
Which of your videos has been your most favourite and why?
MS: That’s like asking someone who your favourite child is. I really enjoyed the videos I did for the LSAs. I did this integration into the rehearsals which I really enjoyed and I made a really fun video and it did well online as well.
What is one thing that annoys you the most?
MS: People not being there on time.
Describe yourself in three words.
MS: Quirky, self aware, not everyone’s cup of tea.
MS: No one.
Your go-to label?
MS: It’s more about the item and not the label.
Coffee or tea?
MS: Neither – I don’t caffeine.
Last movie you watched?
MS: Night Out.
MS: New York.
PHOTOGRAPH COURTESY OF MOMINA SIBTAIN