A list model Zhalay Sarhadi would set the ramp ablaze as soon as she would setfoot on the runway! She was the tops! She could be seen sashaying down the runway in beautiful creations of some or the other designers or gracing covers of leading glossies till a few years back – and then she disappeared. Soon we heard Zhalay had tied the knot and before we knew it, good news in the form of a beautiful baby girl was heard. After having stayed away from the limelight for quite a few years, Zhalay recently staged a comeback in showbusiness and is at it once again! Acting!
Pakistan Today caught up with the zany girl to find out what’s up her sleeve this time. Here are excerpts of the interview.
Q: Actor, wife and a mom… how do you do it all?
A: Juggling has always been my forte. I am very clear about the tasks on hand and prioritise things accordingly. I adore being a mum, wife and an actor and manage to divide time between the three successfully. But most importantly since my husband is so supportive of my work, things somehow fall into place beautifully.
Q: How do you manage to stay on top of the game?
A: Like I said, I know my priorities, I’m a hard worker and don’t shirk from going an extra mile… hence I make it work. I’m still a bit short of being top of the game though!
Q: How’s life after marriage and a kid? How does that affect your work?
A: Life is awesome after marriage career-wise… It was a setback after my baby came into our lives but now I have reached a point where I can work and be a good mom at the same time. It takes a little practice and conditioning but ‘where there’s a will there’s a way!
Q: In Pakistan the general conception is that post marriage your career as a celebrity ends. Your take on that!
A: It’s not just a conception but a fact of life and not just inPakistanbut all over the world. Having said that, I feel this is more a cause of concern for film actors rather than ones working on the small screen. From experience I have learned that in fact people relate more with married women with children than with single females. At least I have been very lucky… For me it has been the other way around. My career is going strong even post marriage, so I have no complaints really.
Q: What’s happening on the work front? What’s taking up most of your time these days?
A: Acting has been taking up my time currently. I am doing serials for various channels and I’m enjoying the variety of characters I have and will be portraying in upcoming projects. Some of the projects I am involved in are SISKIAN, KAHI UNKAHI, MADIHA MALIHA and AKS.Also, as my little one is growing up real fast, al the time not spent working is devoted and dedicated to her. I feel blessed.
Q: What are you concentrating on currently – modelling, acting or entrepreneurship?
A: Acting has been and will always be my first love – modelling is restricted to occasional print shoots and commercial films. And through my work, I have also become an entrepreneur.
A: Leaving modelling was a conscious decision on my part and it had nothing to do with my marriage. I did not enjoy the peer pressures of a certain body image and of plastic looks. It was making me highly insecure with my own self and I am a confident person.Thus did not return to ramp modeling after I made a comeback in showbiz.
Q: Do you think our models have the capacity of matching the best in this business elsewhere in the world or even our neighbours India?
A: Well, yes and no! There are a lot of subdivisionings in modelling. To be on the ramp you have to be above 5ft 9”. We have very few models inPakistanwho can meet the criterion. If you move towards the looks department, we are as beautiful as anyone else. So it can safely be said that as far as print media and commercials go we are confident about ourselves. Another area where we lag behind is grooming or more appropriately, the lack of it. Our models only learn the ropes after tons of experience. At the time when we step in this field, we are not taught the art of carrying ourselves.
Q: Do you think our industry or market is big enough to give our models the opportunity to do that?
A: Definitely yes! Our industry is sufficiently big and is steadily widening its horizons. We are getting more and more professionals on board who are helping it prosper. Especially with the launch of Fashion TV inPakistanthe opportunities for people related to the fashion industry have doubled. Modelling is now being recognised as a profession, owing also to the exposure people are getting through the cable television.
Q: Is modelling a lucrative business? What’s the commercial aspect of modelling besides the fame and glamour factor?
A: Modelling does pay but not as well as it should, primarily because we have lesser fashion shows, and secondly because our media does not give models their due respect and hype which is why we have no stars. It’s the same in the showbiz circle. It is growing though, and so I think the monetary aspect would improve too. Let’s keep our fingers crossed and make a plea to all our media kings to please support our artists as we have to compete with the world as a joined force and not an embittered one.
Q: How important is a model in the marketing of a brand?
A: A model plays an important role in the presentation of a brand because we are the ones on screen. We are the link between the clientele and the product. If the link is weak and a model is unimpressive the effect of the product is lost on the people. That is exactly the reason that the larger the brand the more they emphsise on using a top class model to promote the product. Take the example of Lux, Pepsi, Coke, etc. all have notable stars as their ambassadors.
Q: What has been the contribution of models in the success of brands?
A: Lending their personalities, grace and power of conviction have been the models’ contributions in an advertisement campaign or a fashion shoot. Fashion is all about visual play of beauty and expression, with creativity brought in by designers and make-up artists. If all of this works in sync, then there is nothing but success. Most importantly, the product should be up to the mark and deliver whatever it promises.
Q: What in your opinion is the average life of a model/actor?
A: There is no fixed age limit for a model – we have models in their early forties! For an actor the lines are even more hazy.
Q: What do you feel about the latest crop of young actors. Are they serious enough about their work?
A: I feel that the latest crop of actors have entered a world of cut-throat-competition so the going is really tough – they are more dedicated, hard working and focused than our earlier lot!
Q: Your favourite model locally and internationally…
A: Rabia Butt locally; and even though she is now ancient Emaan was regal on the catwalk!
Q: People you adore working with?
A: Imran Abbas, Zainab Qayoom and Juvaria Abassi.
Interview by Semeha Khalid for Lounge