Gt Magazine – 01-15-2021


The 12th anniversary of the Dawood Foundation’s LadiesFund Award was held at Sindh Governor House to award 12 female front-line workers, who risked their lives to save others during the ongoing  COVID-19 pandemic. We are indebted to all frontline workers.


The team at GT has had so much fun putting together issue after issue every fortnight for its readers. Despite the challenges faced and a huge change with WFH, we’re proud of the many collaborations and star-studded pages we’ve worked on. Here’s a quick look at our covers in 2020, as we gear up for a fabulous year ahead.

Ayesha Omar is many things: an actress, a style icon, an activist and an artist. This fortnight she speaks to Mehek Raza Rizvi about fame, fortune and family

It wouldn’t be wrong to say you’re one of Pakistan’s most coveted style stars. Do you feel that’s helped you in your profession? Or on the contrary, have you ever feared that might take away from people taking you seriously as an actress?  

Thank you so much for your kind words. I was always a tomboy growing up and not really concerned about what I was wearing. My wardrobe was simple and functional; I never followed fashion icons or magazines. In fact, even when I first joined the industry, I wasn’t too fussed about my style statement. It’s only in the last six to seven years that I’ve started to have fun with fashion, by figuring out what my preferences are.

I’m an artist; I’ve studied painting, so I use my outfits as a sense of creative expression. Keeping that in mind, yes, I’d say fashion does give me a medium to translate my artistic sensibilities into a tangible form. It allows me to express what I’m trying to say without actually having to say it. It also helps me bring the characters I portray to life, because I style them myself.

“I’m an artist; I’ve studied painting, so I use my outfits as a sense of creative expression”
—on her style

On the other hand, though, it’s true that sometimes when a lot of stress is put on how an actor is dressing, it can take away from them being taken seriously for their craft. I wouldn’t say this is a fear of mine, but I want to be remembered as a hardworking actor, host and activist, not just a style icon. There’s way too much focus on external appearances, which also becomes a point of comparison between contemporaries. An actor’s sense of style does matter to some extent as it’s part of one’s image, but it should be a secondary concern.

You mentioned in one of your interviews that your accident was a defining moment in your life. How did it change your perspective? 

Sometimes in life you experience something that alters your perspective on things completely—my accident did that for me. When you witness death so closely and see your whole life flash in front of you, it makes you rethink a lot of things and reassess your priorities. I’ve definitely started valuing life more, particularly the little things in life, like small acts of kindness. I feel I’ve now become a lot more empathetic to the struggles of other people and have realised the importance of being there for people in their time of need. More importantly, I’ve understood how to be there and when to give space to someone coping with pain.

This experience also gave me a lot of clarity regarding who my real friends are. It was a real eye opener in that sense. Above all, I felt a deep sense of gratitude as my connection with my creator and my belief in His divine plan became much stronger.

“I’m very fortunate to have grown up with my friends who’re my sisters and have really compensated for the lack of support from relatives”
—on friends like family

The fame and influence celebrities enjoy puts immense responsibility on them to use it wisely. Do you ever feel burdened by the constant spotlight?

Yes, of course I do, as do all other public figures. There’s this constant pressure of behaving the way people want you to. The criticism we receive isn’t limited to just our work, but extends to personal preferences as well: from what we eat, to our relationships, our choice of clothing, etc. One’s life does change once you’re in the public eye; anonymity allows you to live your life the way you want, but you don’t have that privilege as a public figure.

Despite being human, there’s very less room to make mistakes, because people are extremely unforgiving and sometimes it can take a toll on you. Having said that, I also enjoy the responsibility and feel very thankful that I have a voice that enables me to talk about issues that concern me. There are so many people, young people in particular, that look up to us for direction and also various occasions where we get to be representatives of our country. It’s a duty I take seriously and feel immense gratitude for.

One of the reasons we love you the most is for being outspoken and never being afraid to stand up for issues close to your heart. How do you deal with the inevitable backlash though? Especially on social media. 

You’re very kind. It does take a lot to be that way because many things aren’t received well. In the end, you just have to stay true to yourself regardless of any backlash. As long as your intentions are right and you aren’t hurting anyone, you should stand by what you believe in. Eventually people understand your point of view as well.

It’s true that you do need thick skin to survive the negativity. Social media in particular can be such a dark place, but then there’s also light and love. Where there are haters, there are also people who show support and faith in you.

Have you experienced any prejudice as a woman in your line of work?

When I first joined the industry, I was fresh out of college—very young, trusting and friendly. I dressed a certain way, because I grew up in a progressive household. I studied with boys in college and went to a school where there was freedom of decision-making and confidence building, so I was forward-thinking as well I guess. All of this led to a lot of preconceived notions and prejudice against me.

People thought that because I was new so they could say and do whatever they wanted. I feel I was judged for my pleasant nature and the way I dressed; I was stereotyped. I’ve faced both, sexual and verbal harassment. Nothing has come easy to me and I’ve had to learn things the hard way. I’ve had to build a hard exterior and keep people at a distance to be able to be taken seriously.

Also, because I moved away from Lahore and didn’t have family in Karachi, I didn’t have any backing or anyone to protect me. Knowing this, multiple people have been unfair and unprofessional with me—with full knowledge of me being the sole breadwinner for my family. I’ve had to face delayed payments many times; many of them still owe me money.

People who’re close to me know that things haven’t been so smooth for me and I’ve worked very hard to get where I am. I’m extremely committed and professional and have developed strong a work ethic. Despite that, people have so many assumptions about me and there’ve definitely been times when I had to prove them wrong.

With the conversation on gender equality and feminism on the rise, how important is it for female actors to choose their roles carefully and avoid playing the damsel in distress?

I find conversations about gender equality and feminism heartening. In an environment where so much is being said and done to protect and empower women, it’s extremely important for female actors to choose their projects wisely. The stereotypes created by society are validated by our content, so we must make sure we aren’t responsible for carrying such ideas forward, as this affects the women in our society on a daily basis.

The media plays a very crucial role in influencing people’s minds. Female actors should avoid opting for characters that’re detrimental to the role of women in society and that glorify injustices against them, whether it’s enabling domestic abuse, rape culture or victim shaming. This is the reason why you see me in such limited projects; I don’t agree with plots where you see women surrendering to their circumstances.

“When you witness death so closely and see your whole life flash in front of you, it makes you rethink a lot of things and reassess your priorities. I’ve definitely started valuing life more, particularly the little things in life, like small acts of kindness”
—on her brush with death

Out of all the characters you’ve portrayed, which one do you relate to most and why?

It’s always tough to choose, as there’re lots of them with different shades to their personalities. But if I had to pick, it would be my character in the serial “Kaisa Yeh Junoon.” I played the lead role, who was a very strong and principled girl who grew up to be a determined, solid individual with a lot of integrity and self-respect. She was also studying to be an artist, so I really related to her. We shot this project in London, Mumbai and Karachi, so we travelled to three different cities and I worked really hard on it.

What is Ayesha Omar like at home? Tell us about your childhood and family?

I was born in Karachi, but after my father passed away when I was only a year and a half old, my mother, brother and I moved to Lahore. My mother was a young widow, who’d only been married a few years. She had no emotional or financial support from the rest of our family, so she raised us singlehandedly. I saw her working very hard to provide us with an education; she started teaching at a school, gave tuitions and also drove a school van that she bought with the help of a friend.  My mother did everything she could to make ends meet; she’s sacrificed her life for us, but of course there was a lot of financial insecurity and anxiety related to that. It was very hard for me, as a child, to see my mother going through this. But, today I feel that I get my sense of independence and strength from her. I’m very self-sufficient, just like her.

My brother and I went to an expensive school that we may never have been able to afford without our merit scholarships. But this also meant that we had to work very hard on our grades. We were studying with rich kids but couldn’t afford to be spoilt the way they were. My mother also encouraged us to participate in extra-curricular activities, so I was very active in the school choir, theatre group and art workshops. Growing up surrounded with such cultural experiences makes me who I am today.

Despite the difficulties, I feel my childhood was full of love and warmth from my six best friends and their families. Of course, sometimes I did complain to God when I saw all other kids had two parents, but I’m very fortunate to have grown up with my friends who’re my sisters and have really compensated for the lack of support from relatives.

After graduating from college, I started supporting my family and became the sole breadwinner and have been since then. My brother is doing his PHD in Denmark right now, so he still has a few years to go. It makes me really happy to see him doing what he’s doing and also to see my mother enjoying retired life and taking care of herself. The three of us have always been very very close. I hope my mother is proud of me today.

“Female actors should avoid opting for characters that’re detrimental to the role of women in society and that glorify injustices against them, whether it’s enabling domestic abuse, rape culture or victim shaming”  —on choosing roles wisely

At home, I’m very domesticated. When I moved to Karachi, I shared an apartment with flat mates and continued doing so for thirteen years. It’s only been a year and a half since I started renting my own apartment. I never thought I’d be able to live alone, but I’m honestly loving it! I love doing up my space and creating this zen haven for myself that I love coming back to. I enjoy hosting and feeding people as well. I’ve surrounded myself with a lot of plants, since nature calms me and I try to stay clean as much as I can with my eating habits. I’m gearing towards a more holistic lifestyle and staying away from artificial and synthetic products—that applies to people as well. I’m beginning to realise that more and more every day and try to be around wholesome, positive energy only.


Pakistani actresses whose style you admire? 

Meesha Shafi, Kiran Malik and Mahira Khan

Favourite co-stars?

Hina Dilpazeer, Sanam Saeed, Saba Hameed, Sawera Nadeem, Azfar Rahman, Adnan Siddiqui, Ali Rahman, Mikaal, Ahsan Khan—there are so many!                            

Theater, film or TV? 

Film, theatre and TV—in that order

Your biggest strength? 

My resilience, self-sufficiency and ability to balance things

And weakness?

Being unable to say no

Favorite ‘90s jam?

Michael Jackson and The Cranberries all the way!

What was the last lie you told?

I lied to someone about working today when I actually just wanted to be by myself

Last impulsive buy?

A pair of shoes

One habit of yours that annoys your family?

My sleeping pattern

Do you have a nickname?

Some of my friends call me Jacks, while others call me AO

A decision you really regret?

There’re quite a few work decisions I regret, along with some personal decisions

Favourite movie quote?

“May the force be with you”
—Star Wars

“After all, tomorrow is another day”

—Gone with the Wind

“You make me want to be a better man”

—As Good as it Gets

Photography:  Najam Mahmood
Wardrobe: Saira Shakira
Coordination: Centaur One
Jewellery: The Jewel Company
Styling: Arbaqan Changezi
Hair & Makeup: Sonia Nazir

Sarah Anjum launched the biggest art house of Pakistan, Revivers Galleria, on Main Boulevard Gulberg. The event was attended by art enthusiasts and social personalites alike.


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