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!”
Having taken stock of one’s career and literally gotten her act together must have involved guidance and mentorship. Has Nadia had strong role models and mentors within and outside the entertainment and fashion industries? “When I was younger I was influenced by glamorous and successful women. I can’t pinpoint just one name. There were so many of them,” she reminisces. “Even now if I see a woman who stands out or looks a certain way I might be influenced and it doesn’t necessarily have to be an older woman. I recognise innate style and a positive aura and am not averse to taking a certain part of someone’s vibe and imbibing it. I am quite adaptable.”
Nadia admits that there have always been mentors and cites Vaneeza Ahmed and Iraj Manzoor as industry allies. “Vinny always warned all of us (other models) about tax issues and to be careful. She had herself got into a muddle and implored us all to get our tax issues sorted and offered us contacts to help us. Iraj was always there as far as the fashion aspect helping me with posing and walking on the runway, etc.”
Who is the real Nadia Hussain?
What does Nadia believe is the perception of her persona? And who is the authentic Nadia Hussain? “I have been told that the perception about me is that I must have a huge attitude, that I must be extremely rude and unapproachable but honestly I’m quite the opposite. I don’t think I am haughty. I’m friendly, helpful and very down-to-earth. I’m not simple and don’t want to be simple. But I do want to do things my way.”
In 2012, devoid of any supermodel nakhras, Nadia’s schedule was chock-a-block with myriad fashion shoots and she appeared as the face of Art Deco, the make-up brand, and other fashion pictorials as well as walking as a showstopper for designers Deepak Perwani and Nomi Ansari during Fashion Pakistan Week 3 while eight months’ pregnant.
Nadia says she would like to dispel the oft-repeated perception of women in the media being “floozies” and not good homemakers. She says that earlier that morning she had washed her kids’ clothes as the maid was on holiday, changed them and also fed everyone breakfast as the house help was also away. “I am very hands-on at home. Even when the help is there I am there to monitor their progress.”
She sees herself as a relaxed mother who is practical and sensible and doesn’t freak out like some of the “anally retentive” mothers who become paranoid when their kids become sick. “If my child gets sick I don’t worry about why he or she fell sick but rather what’s the next step to manage the situation.”
And what is Nadia’s new year’s resolution for 2013? “To lose those last 10 pounds,” she quickly ripostes. “Even before I began modelling I always wanted to remain fit,” she says.” That’s just the way I’ve always wanted to be.”
The next evening I meet Nadia and Atif at a new year’s ball and see the lithe and statuesque Amazon towering over everyone in three inch non-branded heels making her about 6’1”, and ask her incredulously about the 10 pounds she claims to want to lose, she pats her non-existent tummy and gives me an Alpha female smirk before getting lost in the crowd.