Multi-talented star Amna Ilyas had been one of the most prominent faces in the Pakistani fashion world before transitioning towards the silver screen. Sana Zehra sits down to have a candid conversation with this model-turned-actress on her journey thus far
â€œStereotyping models as non-actors is a fallacy. Of course they can act and anyone who claims otherwise has been proven wrong globallyâ€
Thereâ€™s a common misconception that models donâ€™t make good actors. Did you feel any pressure trying to prove your craft?
Stereotyping models as non-actors is a fallacy. Of course they can act and anyone who claims otherwise has been proven wrong globally. Acting is a skill anyone can acquire. You just need to be passionate and dedicated to the craft.
When I first transitioned into acting, I donâ€™t believe I was good at all, but I remained committed to my job and started exploring the layers my characters had. I started picking up more work and gave each performance my all. I learn new things every day and feel my understanding of drama improve.
How do you think your modelling career prepared you for films?
Changing multiple looks every day means being in different character each time. From eastern wear to western wear and from wearing tons of makeup to being barefaced, I did it all as a model. This routine taught me how to build a character visually; just a slight change of lip colour can make a huge difference on camera. Modelling also taught me how to face the lens, a long with other aspects of direction.
The trailer for your movie â€œReady Steady Noâ€ is out. How would you say itâ€™s different from typical rom-coms?
â€œReady Steady Noâ€ is a comedy and itâ€™s very easy for people to label lighthearted content as clichÃ©. Weâ€™ve tried to keep our performances as close to reality as possible. Having said that, the audience is the best judge, so Iâ€™ll let them decide for themselves.
â€œWorking with Meera was like a dreamâ€
Another upcoming movie of yours, â€œBaaji,â€ has fans excited. Tell us more about your role and your experience working with Meera.
â€œBaajiâ€ revolves around a girl who works at a beauty salon. Just like every other working woman, she has many dreams and aspirations. She wants to provide a life of comfort for her family and grabs every opportunity that comes her way to fulfill that goal. The big turn in her life comes when she meets a popular star called Shamira. To see how their relationship evolves, youâ€™ll have to see the film.
Working with Meera was like a dream. Sharing screen space with a senior artist like her, who has done over 200 films has to be a great learning experience. Sheâ€™s truly an icon.
When choosing scripts, are you mindful of the impact your character may have on the audience?
I donâ€™t necessarily choose to play a character based on what the audience may think of it. My priority is assessing what I can bring to the table and whether or not I can leave people with some sort of awareness.
In 2015, you lifted the Lux Style Awards trophy for Best Female Model, with an acceptance speech on the lack of inclusivity in the fashion industry. Do you think things have changed since then?
Conversations on inclusivity are definitely gaining momentum on social media, so Iâ€™d say thereâ€™s been improvement since then. However, thereâ€™s still a long way to go.
â€œMy priority is assessing what I can bring to the table and whether or not I can leave people with some sort of awarenessâ€
What is Amna Ilyas like at home? Tell us about your childhood and family.
Iâ€™m super chilled out. At home, youâ€™ll always find me in my pajamas, with a cup of coffee in my hand, spending time with family, or catching up on a good show.
Iâ€™m the youngest of five siblings. As a child, I remember being shy and liked keeping to myself most of the time. The one person who enriched my childhood with her unconditional love and support was my mother. She taught me the importance of hard work and faith. I truly believe thatâ€™s whatâ€™s kept me going throughout my career.
â€œGrowing up, I had a very clear vision for my life and it always revolved around the artsâ€
Your sisters Uzma and Salma were both successful models. Did growing up in their shadow leave you intrigued by the media?
Growing up, I had a very clear vision for my life and it always revolved around the arts. Iâ€™m grateful for having my sisters as inspiring role models. They influenced my decision to foray into the industry and excel at what I do.
What does the future hold for you?
Hopefully many fruitful ventures for my career. I pray the coming years are kind to those I love and they remain happy and healthy. I canâ€™t be certain of where life will take me, but I sure hope the journey is exciting.
SHORT & SWEET
Film screens or fashion runways?
Biggest pet peeve?
What should every woman do at least once in her life?
Take a solo trip to an exotic land she hasn’t explored before
What’s the best advice you’ve been given?
“Keep quiet and speak only when it matters”
Favourite Pakistani celebs to follow on Instagram?
Mehwish Hayat and Mahira Khan
What irks you most about social media?
How time consuming and addictive it is
What are the last three items on your credit card statement?
A few things from the grocery store
What was the last photo you took?
It was a shot of my salad
What’s the biggest fashion faux pas you’ve committed?
This is quite embarrassing, but I tripped on the red carpet recently. I hope nobody noticed
Who would be on your guest list for an ideal dinner party?
Drake, Rihanna and Meena Kumari
What was the last lie you told?
I told my sister I returned home at 9PM, when in reality, it was much later
One habit you have that annoys your family?
The fact that I don’t make it to family affairs because of my hectic schedule
Do you have a nickname?
What one thing would you like to change about the entertainment industry?
Favouring light skin over dark skin
What’s your favorite movie quote?
“I’ll make him an offer he can’t refuse.”
Interview: Sana Zehra
Coordination: Umer Mushtaq
Styling: Aneela Murtaza
Hair & makeup: N-Pro
Wardrobe: Deepak Perwani
Photography: The Rohail
PR: Catalyst & Mindmap Communications