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And then there was Zara

Updated August 03, 2014


One of the most iconic designers to have ever walked this earth, Karl Langerfeld once said, “The secret to modeling is not being perfect. What one needs is a face that people can identify in a second. You have to be given what’s needed by nature, and what’s needed is to bring something new.”

Zara Peerzada, one of the newer entrants in the fashion industry, embodies all of these qualities.

I have known Zara since the time I used to assist her father Salmaan Peerzada on a film project. On the day of the interview she arrived wearing a white vintage lace robe with an outfit by The House of Kamiar Rokni and accessories by Aldo Wedges.

  Photography: Tariq Mahmood / WhiteStar
Photography: Tariq Mahmood / WhiteStar

But Zara isn’t just a pretty face, the clothes and accessories are not the only things that make her beautiful, the savviness in her personality contributes to the overall attractiveness as well.

So what’s her take on modeling?

“I was very academic and didn’t want to model as I was aware of people’s opinions about models,” she said, “things like ‘oh, she is so dumb and superficial’. I did not want people to take me less seriously because there is a lot that I want to do. But then when I started in the profession, I realised there’s so much more to it than just that. I have a love for history and fashion, and when you read about both you can see how one has a been part of the other. Fashion has been a part of all these great movements throughout history, and that’s what it really is all about — politics, arts and life.”

Do she look at modeling as a stepping stone?

“Absolutely,” she responded, “Anything you do in life is a stepping stone to something else. It’s a constant process. I’ve wanted to do a whole lot of things since childhood. Mainly, I’d like to do development work in Pakistan — social and educational. My aim is to introduce creative art forms in education because there is a severe lack of the same. Our curriculums aren’t based around developing characters or individuals, they are there to give you very basic education that isn’t going to get you anywhere in today’s world. Apart from that, my dream is to act in a film as well.”

She’s got well-established roots in Pakistan’s tinseltown but is intent on taking her own road to stardom. As the latest model to breakthrough in the fashion industry, Zara Peerzada is adamant that she’s more than just a ‘pretty face’

Some model because they want the social acceptance and recognition that comes with it. Others do it for the money. What about her?

“I won’t lie, it’s really good money,” she said, “But when I started off I was embarrassed about it because people were like ‘oh, ha ha, look at her, she is on that billboard’ and I wasn’t sure of what I was doing. So I didn’t tell people what I did, and if someone asked me I’d say it wasn’t me they saw. But all that has changed now. I’ve always tried to be financially independent even before I began modeling, so that was a big reason. Also, once I started in the profession I realised it can be so much more than that. I don’t want to just be a pretty face, I want to be a personality.”

Zara says she has always had a very strong individual sense of style.

“I always looked different in a crowd, I didn’t always wear the ‘appropriate’ thing as I was always mixing things up. School main mujhe kafi jhar bhi parti thi for wearing strange things. I used to write on my shoes and make shirts. But back then I didn’t have the understanding of fashion I do now. People have always called me weird and I’ve never had a problem with it!”

She then spoke about how her foray into modeling began.

“Khawar Riaz saw me at a fashion show and asked me to visit him for a portfolio shoot,” she said. “Soon after, he booked me for my first fashion shoot,” she added, “Later, Mehreen Syed took me under her wing. She was a very good friend of my uncle Faizaan, and she took me to see Ather Shahzad. Shahzad bhai and I clicked instantly.”

Beyond just looking pretty for photos and walking the ramp, Zara claims to love food which she says “is a very, very big part of my life. I like different tastes and textures so I call myself a food enthusiast. I like trying everything, and I spend on food with an open heart.”

“When you are a part of this industry, people assume that you are a party animal and that you have a billion friends. I’m actually incredibly socially awkward. Sometimes I say things that unnerve those around me so I play the dumb blonde because it’s easier to get you through.”

  Zara Peerzada with Ali Xeeshan - courtesy
Zara Peerzada with Ali Xeeshan - courtesy

Acutely conscious of the stereotypes that exist in the industry she’s a part of, she added, “Also, when you are a part of this industry, people assume that you are a party animal and that you have a billion friends. I’m actually incredibly socially awkward. Sometimes I say things that unnerve those around me so I play the dumb blonde because it’s easier to get you through. I have a few good friends and family and that is pretty much my life.”

So what irritates her the most about her work?

“At fashion shows it’s definitely got to be the music,” she said, “I wish they would play something other than Baby Doll! People also ask me why I don’t like getting all dolled up for shows. The truth is it’s not easy and a really painful process. Wearing contact lenses also kinda bothers me. Often, there is a lot of waiting involved in fashion shoots. It doesn’t happen with Athar Shahzad, but sometimes when I am working with new people, there are huge delays. Lahoris, in general, are very slow. Dressing up for a shoot is another painfully long process, so by the end of it you need huge reserves of energy.”

What kind of a response does she get from her family when they see her as a model?

“My family has always been supportive no matter what I do,” she said, “Initially, my parents used to accompany me to shoots and they would come to pick me if it was past midnight. My mum is happy while my dad is always sharing my photos on social media. So, it’s nice."

  Zara Peerzada wearing SanaSafinaz - courtesy
Zara Peerzada wearing SanaSafinaz - courtesy

Being a model requires having a very thick skin.

“There is a lot of self-doubt in modeling, it’s a difficult industry to be in because each and every aspect of yours is analysed and criticized,” related Zara, “So it’s very easy to become a person you think you need to be to please others. Family support is necessary to keep you grounded, to remember where you come from and what you like and what you don’t like.”

Does she still get the jitters before going on the ramp?

“I’ve had a couple of bad experiences on the ramp,” she responded, “For fashion shoots the key is good music, for me. It puts me in the right frame of mind and my body naturally reacts to it. And I keep a full stomach!”

Zara recently posted a photo of a girl standing beside a giraffe and captioned it ‘My life in fashion ... and in general.’ Does it genuinely bother her that she is not the ideal height required for most fashion models?

“No, I don’t think I have been conscious of my height for most of my life,” she said, “I have never felt small, as people might see me. If I see a picture of myself next to somebody who is like 10-foot taller than I am, I realise ‘haan, main to kafi chohti hoon.’ I guess being short and petite makes me who I am. I feel I spend my life looking up to people rather than looking down at them. And I prefer that. I need it.”

Zara’s message to young girls who aspire to be models is:

“Remember what your interests and passions are, they can be separate from your job, all of that comes together to make you what you are and they can only enhance your personality. Supermodels like Nadia Hussain and Mehreen Syed have proved modeling is a serious profession. But, like them, it shouldn’t be the only part of your personality.”

Published in Dawn, Sunday Magazine, August 3rd, 2014