Zara Tareen tells us about her life and journey in the modeling and media industry!
How would you describe yourself as a person professionally and personally?
Both personally and professionally I am an extremely passionate person. I always try to evolve the best I can without compromising on my core values.
At what point did you realize that you wanted to become a model and how did it all start?
I was drawn to anything involving any kind of art since I was a child. I used to paint, draw, sculpt, and even write. I knew I wanted to be an actor very early on, I think when I was about 7 or 8. But modeling happened by chance when I was only 15 visiting Pakistan. I had sent in a few photos to a national competition for a chance to win a modeling contract from Frieha Altaf of Catwalk and to appear on a fashion magazine show. I only had a few months remaining in my trip but low and behold I got the call that I had been selected. Catwalk was the only agency of its kind actively recruiting a certain standard of talent at that time and really working passionately to change the stereotype and reputation of the industry. From there for the next 6 months it was like a whirlwind. My portfolio was shot by the great Tariq Amin; I was flown to Lahore for a fashion show where my first walk was for Maheen Khan; had my first shoot with Ather Shahzad; walked in various more shows and appeared on various magazine covers and did a multitude of shoots. It was bitter sweet as there were brilliant opportunities lined up for me but because I was only 15, that all had to abruptly come to an end and I had to return to the States with my family. I will never forget that time. I realize that I was really blessed to have done all that in less than 6 months and with all those people that are now the pioneers of our industry.
What made you come back?
A few years after my return to the US, I couldn’t really shake off what could’ve been. So this time I sat my parents down and asked for permission to return and pursue what I felt I had left unfinished. I am sure this must’ve been a very hard decision for them as I had graduated high school with flying colours and my academic future was quite bright including some scholarships. I was asking to leave university to do this, not to mention moving to Pakistan not having grown up here. I will always be grateful to my parents for having that kind of faith and trust in me and giving me the permission to do so and with that, I returned yet again.
This time around in addition to modeling, I added VJing, live show hosting and finally acting to my resume. I was blessed to work with great visionary institutions like Ghazanfar Sahab’s Indus TV that has launched many of our superstars we see today. This was the early 2000’s; those were good times for the entertainment industry. Music was also at its height again and there was just an air of harmony and creativity everywhere. I was part of the starting lineup of shows when GeoTV launched, I was part of the opening act of the first ever Lux Style Awards and in those days, everyone used to work like family for the same goal: great content through hard work and understood professionalism and shared passion. There was no other way about it. It was a level playing field. This time I was around for longer and those three years were even better than the last few years I had remembered. I felt like I was coming into my own and this is where I belonged. But as they say, life always has something else planned for you. Yet again, for some unforeseen circumstances, I had to return to the US.
Tell us about your journey up till now in the media industry?
I can simply answer by saying it’s been great, it’s been tough, it’s been emotional, it’s felt unfair, it’s felt unreal, it’s made me feel like I’m on top of the world one day and down in the pits another day and it has made me question repeatedly even if I belong here or not or anywhere. But my journey has been one that has had a very unique vantage point. I’ve been like a fly on the wall and have seen this industry go through its different stages since I started at the mere age of 15. Life somehow kept bringing me back here for some reason or the other. I have evolved as a person and this industry has also changed. With expansion and growth comes great responsibility to never forget why we are all in this in the first place and that is the journey we must always be on. We have to respect this industry. We have to respect everyone’s journey in keeping the fight alive to really appreciate how lucky we are to be a part of this and get to call it work. We see faces, we see celebrities, we make snarky comments, we reduce things to nothing in one second by a careless passing judgment, but we don’t see the journey that may have led that person to persevere and be where they’re standing right now. I have been very blessed to have received nothing but love and respect from everyone I have encountered. In addition to my own perseverance, it’s this love, appreciation and respect that has made my journey that much more motivating and keeps me going even in times where its hard to find any desire or drive.
What are some of the challenges you’ve faced in Pakistan?
I, just like everyone else, have faced many challenges. My upbringing and my childhood, spent in two different places, living two very different lives, gives me a perspective that I feel is, a lot of the times, beyond some people’s understanding here. That is not to say that they are wrong, its how we are as humans, to us our apparent differences will stand out first but for me since I’m well acclimated to both, there are no differences as such. The only one thing that I will say stands out is the over all lack of work ethic, I’m slowly seeing it change but that is a big problem here and it’s tentacles creep into every other area of anything we do. It doesn’t just change how we work, it changes how we think and our approach to work, and that takes a long time to reverse.
What do you feel about the belief that one should focus on one thing?
When I finally moved back here this time in 2012, I added photography and theater to the list of things I do and that left some people confused like it somehow implied that I have quit everything else and have switched careers. It’s sometimes hard for people to grasp the fact that one person can in fact do multiple things especially in the creative field. There is a lot of crossover there. All these are ways for me to exercise my creativity in the way I choose is cathartic for me to do at that given time. It’s always a selfish decision when I take a break from one to do the other, or do all, or think about adding a fourth or a fifth thing to do, or not do any of them at all for some time. For example, I’ve been drawn towards music for the past few years and it’s a strong feeling coming from somewhere, I may find a way to combine it with things I already do. I think you can think in one specific creative space but maybe express or create in another. It has always been about expression, seldom about money and never about fame because that is not a challenge. The driving force is always to raise my own standard bit by bit with everything that I do and what my soul feels the need to do at that particular moment. I want to focus on all the things that will contribute to my overall happiness and well-being, which is exactly what we all are searching for perpetually anyway. This time around I have been here for 7 years now and it seems like it’s for the long haul but what I do and where I go are all my own decisions now and I’ve never been the one to say forever or never, which is not up to us…ever.
Who is your inspiration and why?
My inspiration is anyone who isn’t scared to be raw and real because I think it is very important to keep reminding yourself and others of who you are as an individual. This industry or this world for that matter, will take you on a roller coaster of a ride. That raw and real you will be your seatbelt.
Has Hira played any role into seducing you into this field or was it something you always wanted to do?
I actually started first, Hira got into it the second time I came back, she came with me and the rest was history. Although she may not have played a role in getting me into this field, but she has kept inspiring me to stay in it. She has always been a trailblazer and a trendsetter. She has this unique ability to know where trends in any field are headed so she always stays ahead of the game. By the time someone does it, Hira Tareen has already done it first. I really wish I had her tenacity and drive. She is another example of how you can in fact excel in multiple things. She amazes me with everything she does from her acting, modeling, DJing, designing, vlogging and now she has become a mother and I am just blown away by how brilliant she is at everything she touches. Her creativity and dedication to anything she does is endless. Lucky for me she is my brain twin (if there is such a thing) and we share the exact same aesthetic. Without a doubt I can say that anything Hira and I have done together has been the best work that we have both put out there. #DreamTeam !
If there would be a book about you, what would the title of that book be?
Jo Baat Hai
What is your greatest weakness?
I find that one of the greatest challenges we face personally or professionally is that we end up focusing on our weaknesses more. One day we turn around and realize that there was more strength there all along anyway. So, in recent times, I’ve been trying to really break out of that and focus more on my strengths but it’s hard ya’ll.
How do you tackle stress and workload?
I have been horrible with stress management all my life without even knowing it. I am a chronic thinker and it takes a toll on you quietly. I have been recently, consciously trying to really prioritize what deserves my stress and what doesn’t and I like where it’s going. It’s impossible in the world we live in to be totally stress free but most of the killer stress we face is our own pressures on ourselves. Everyone has a To Do list of a thousand things that should’ve been done by like yesterday. I am learning to just breathe. As far as workload goes, I’ve learned to take it easy on myself so I space things out. I need to enjoy my work and I’m no longer taking stress for work that I don’t feel my heart is in. That being said, I know I’m forgetting something right now that I was supposed to do.
How do you balance your personal and professional life?
My work is as such that it’s not like a 9-5 job so that balance works out pretty okay. But if I was working 24/7 then my guess is that my personal life would be the one to take the hit.
Does the Pakistani showbiz industry welcome new comer easily?
Yes I believe so. Every few years we have an influx of new talent on TV and in Fashion, they get swift recognition and in a short time manage to land some major work, so if you look at it that way then yes it is very welcoming to newcomers. Now if that newcomer stays welcomed or not, that’s an entirely different story. It’s like a busy intersection but I think the real question is, what’s happening to the existing traffic? Pakistani showbiz industry needs to first welcome new ideas and trash their cookie cutter approach; they are wasting a lot of time and talent. With the new wave I’m seeing some of the big dogs waver and they should, I think the audience and the talent has had enough, we want to grow and we cannot with the same standards of what we actually call content.
Your ‘First Ever’ Round:
Your first foreign country you ever vacationed?
Your first make-up item that you ever tried?
Your first Celebrity crush?
George Michael…heyyy I was too young to know!
Your first hobby that you adopted?
Taking apart my brothers remote controlled cars for the motors and wheels to make other things and drawing.
Your first pay cheque?
I think it was for my first photo shoot like about Rs.5000 I’m not sure. I do remember my first paycheck from my first job in the US. I worked part time at an athletic store, it was less than $175.00 I think for two weeks.
Your first designer dress?
I was gifted a Shamaeel Ansari angharka.
Your first mobile phone?
Sony Ericsson flip phone
Your first nickname by your family?