She has an instantly recognisable face that has graced many a billboard in her long career in the fashion industry. After spending 20 years as a model in an industry where, by the time you are in your late 20s you are considered ‘too old’, she can walk the runway and outshine any working model today. Glamourous on the catwalk, Vaneeza has always preferred to tone her appearance down in person.
Between when she started and now, Vaneeza has gone to heights no model in Pakistan has so far, kick-started the trend of designer lawn, headed a fashion channel, got married, has a toddler and now manages her own prêt wear line. Personal or professional, she juggles both sides like a pro.
Vaneeza Ahmad on what it takes to go from an ordinary model to a supermodel
How is it that she’s been able to sustain a successful career in modelling, being a popular model among the masses and the fashion elite alike, whereas the same cannot be said for a lot of working models nowadays? “Not every model can become a supermodel,” she responded, “There’s only one Naomi Campbell, Christy Turlington etc. After Gisele, I don’t recognise anyone now. You have to have personality for people to say ‘This is Naomi Campbell or Vaneeza Ahmed or Iman Ali etc’. Otherwise you’ll just be another pretty face. If you don’t have a strong personality, nobody will remember you.”
Another major problem currently plaguing the fashion industry is the lack of training a new model receives. “When I was at Style 360, I used to train girls for the Bridal Couture Week,” said Vaneeza, “I would urge them to rehearse because our reputation was at stake. I started this and now no one is doing it. People don’t understand that it’s not a choreographer’s or a producer’s job to tell a model how to walk.”
“During my time, there weren’t many girls so we would train ourselves, guide each other about our walks,” she related, “Iraj would tell me what to do and I’d tell someone else. It’s very commendable that the lot after me, Fouzia, Neha etc have worked really hard. I still remember we were in Kuwait for a show and Neha would ask me in the restroom to tell her what she was doing wrong and then rehearse there. That’s why now they’re shining: they look good and walk well because they’ve worked hard. The newer lot thinks they’ve done it all. One picture of yours gets up on a billboard and you think you have fame and know it all.”
“Your photo on a billboard doesn’t make you a supermodel. Being a supermodel means you’re doing good commercials, your photo shoots are great and you’re great on the ramp and nobody can replace you. You have to be a complete package. Otherwise you’re either a print model or a ramp model, not a supermodel.”
“Some girls naturally walk really well like Amna Ilyas and two or three others,” she continued, “I really like this new girl Rubab; she’s very pretty but she needs to work just a little on her ramp walk. Amna Babar has improved a lot. And if she works a little harder like she does in her shoots she will become a supermodel.”
|Photography: Faisal Farooqui@Dragonfly Styling: Qasim@Sabs Salon|
Who is a supermodel? We ask the original diva herself.
“Your photo on a billboard doesn’t make you a supermodel,” said Vaneeza, “Being a supermodel means you’re doing good commercials, your photo shoots are great and you’re great on the ramp and nobody can replace you. You have to be a complete package.
Otherwise you’re either a print model or a ramp model, not a supermodel. I consider Cybil a supermodel because she does everything great. Iman Ali was a supermodel because she would do loads of everything: shoots, commercials, editorials. That’s a supermodel; someone who does her best in every aspect of modelling.”
Nevertheless the question still remains: why do we have untrained and amateur girls walking on the ramp, representing the leading designers in town?
"There’s a dearth of good models but they’re not ramp models. They’re print ones who are asked to do ramp because maybe they look good in print. This is happening across the world.
We need people to train—these days, our models don’t make an effort themselves as well; they don’t have that urge. Yet there are some of the girls who have worked really hard.
Although Mehreen (Syed) maintained herself throughout her career, she was one of the models, who was determined and worked hard to improve and reach the top. Similarly Neha, Mehreen—these girls had relentless focus and drive. I quote their examples to others— now Mehreen stands out amongst others because of her work and grooming."
Shows like Veet Miss Supermodel provide platforms to aspiring models but do these contests help in selection as well as training of future models?
“For sure, it gives new girls a platform. Someone hailing from Hyderabad might not have an agency or a trainer so at least there is a platform for them to get some exposure.”
The super model also holds the opinion that collaboration from different corporate agencies is needed for these venture, rather she’d be more than happy to assist, if asked.
Having acted in quite a few plays, Vaneeza Ahmad was also behind the renowned annual fixture Bridal Couture Week (BCW) organised by HUM Network. Chances are that we might see her soon either on the fore front or behind the camera.
“TV is more exciting and fun to work with. I loved doing BCW and I had produced a play before that so yes TV is something I do miss. I often tell people: Mujhe TV bohat zor ka aata hai—so I might get back to it from next year.
I want to produce and my brother and I are planning something as well. The kind of person I am, I will remain active and would be doing something or the other.
Now that my daughter goes to school, the shop is open and given that I’ve settled in Lahore, I can focus on work.”
Published in Dawn, Sunday Magazine, February 8th, 2015