It’s been more than 11 years since I interviewed Nadia Hussain in probably her first interview, when she was still navigating how to balance practicing dentistry and showing up for fashion shoots and shows. I remember how excited the then ingénue supernova model was whose full angular Eurasian face photographer Tapu Javeri once said was very difficult to photograph.
I meet Nadia on a breezy Sunday afternoon at the home she shares with husband Atif, an investment banker whom she has been married to for nine years and their three children; eight-year-old son Shadal, daughter Shanzay (six) and seven-and-a-half month old Sasha.
Fresh-faced and dressed in black boot-leg jeans, a loose black blouse and chappals while straddling Sasha on her hip, Nadia displays easy domesticity, far from the high-voltage glamour she exudes on the catwalk, in fashion pictorials and in her public life as a career-driven Amazon.
Nadia’s latest career foray is Radiance, the aesthetic medicine clinic in the basement floor of Saba Ansari’s salon. “This is the first serious sole venture which I entered proactively and with a vision rather than it being offered to me via branded lawn (by Shariq Textiles and which will preview a new collection in February/March) or the brand of bejewelled slippers whose contract with the Flitz company has expired but which I want to continue.”
Is she herself a walking advertisement for her aesthetician practice? “Absolutely!” she says. “Clients always ask me what I have had done,” says the 33-year-old, fresh-faced beauty. She admits to having self-injected Botox, derma-fillers and undergone skin glow mesotherapy as well as recently using fillers to render her über-pouty lips. She reveals that fashion industry insiders including young female models usually request fillers for pouty lips while men are more concerned with acne scars and pigmentation with the odd Botox request.
Is Nadia fearful of aging and losing her physical appeal and hence at least a half of her career’s bulwark? “I am not fearful of aging,” she says resignedly. “I will carefully have as many procedures as I can manage and deem suitable for my age,” she adds sensibly. “I haven’t come to that advanced stage.”
Nadia has hosted extensively for television and recently finished recording a fashion-themed show called Know Fashion with Nadia Hussain for the Indus TV network. She also continues to host Eid transmissions on Style360. Is all this work well paid? Nadia reflects stoically, “I do projects that benefit and work out the best for me. At times I look at the channel. If the channel is good I may work for a lesser fee but the fee can’t be so low that it becomes demeaning. It sometimes really irritates me when some producers try to coax me to work for less.
One of Nadia’s currently on-air plays is Sitamgar from Hum TV. The serial stars Faisal Rehman, Angeline Malik, Ali Afzal, Azfar Rehman, Sunita Marshal and newcomer Sajjal. In it, Nadia portrays Zeba, a girlfriend of Ali Afzal’s character who plays Sajjal’s neglectful but well-meaning father, reprising the typecasting of previous devious, spoilt and demanding “negative” characters she has played in the past. The plot involves themes such as lack of paternal responsibility, sacrificial spouses, star-crossed lovers and misguided love.
If such a term existed, some might term Nadia as an Alpha female or at least Everywoman. Where does this drive and focus to delve into so many spheres emanate from? Does she never feel scattered and over-exposed, one of the criticisms leveled against her? “If I get an opportunity to do something new and different that I want to do, then I go for it. People have told me to get into jewellery as the baubles I wear are quite innovative. Even Ayesha Tammy Haq has told me that she would buy from me if I ever ventured into jewellery design.”
Nadia says she has also always designed her own clothes, “I might take a nice trendy tunic top from Century 21 and replicate it in chiffon, add length and tweak it so making jewellery and designing clothes are definitely optional mini-careers in the near future.”
Certain publications have dubbed her as the Queen of Bling. How does she feel about the moniker? “I love bling,” she exclaims.
“I like my own hands looking a certain way. While I was at college I wore silver bangles or plastic bands all the way up to my arms. I’ve always loved and worn chunky rings. I don’t spend on branded shoes and bags. I don’t own a single pair of Louboutins or Blahniks. And forget about Hèrmes bags! I’d rather spend money on jewellery as an investment.”
Nadia admits that her personal style is very chilled. “I like wearing clothes which are comfortable and which I can wear the whole day. That’s why I tend to wear western outfits which are more hassle-free and which can take me from going shopping to picking up the kids to going on a shoot, attending a product launch; something I can wear for the whole day.” Among the younger breed of designers Nadia says she likes Zaheer Abbas, Mohsin Ali and Akif Mahmood and takes pains to remember anyone else.
They say women can have it all but not all of it at once. “That type of success involves a lot of compromise,” Nadia says sensibly. “Firstly, one needs to learn to do that and then make one’s way towards working on one’s dreams and ambitions. Compromise entails changing oneself a little, altering one’s plans. After receiving my BDS degree I had a grand plan. That was the time Atif also entered the picture. He declared that he was not going to wait around for the two years I would be away in Australia. He was 32 and I was 24. He told me that if we didn’t get married then he would not wait. There went my grand plan!”