ISLAMABAD: How often does one get to interview an anonymous starlet? Well… never. Instagram page Swinery has had a fleeting rise to success, so much so that the social media platform blocked the account from posting for a week.
As I type this to the time it gets published, Swinery will most possibly have a couple of thousands more followers. As her bio reads, “Exploring the enigmatic and incredible complexities of the human mind,” Swinery has a struck a chord with everyone within weeks and there is no stopping her.
Having created hysterical characters through iPhone XS’s newest feature of creating talking emojis called animojis, Swinery comprises a wide range of roles which she voices, the most prominent of them being a foul-mouthed pig, an overtly-dramatic ‘blue’ molvi, an elitist aunty after Shazia’s Daughter (read Dauttah) and of course, an alien living under grim circumstances on Mars.
Talking to The Express Tribune, the Karachi-based Instagrammer asks me to call her Swinery — and, that’s what I refer to her as throught our conversation. Despite her hidden identity, she is forthcoming, full of candor, realness and humour.
Having started off the page with no real aspirations, the anonymous comedian of sorts initially created these short clips on her friend’s phone until, of course, she bought the phone herself. Now, she’s created a bit of a cult as one discovers her characters are being used for school elections and designed into keychains, while her dialect and some quintessential dialogues are being picked up by teenagers in their day-to-day lives.
The sl*t-shamed Shazia’s daughter made headlines at the recently held Aurat March too. The pig questioning why he’s haram was the first video to come out of Swinery.
“I didn’t see this coming at all and when I say this, I really mean it,” the artist said, about the overwhelming response she has received. “I didn’t want to build a comedy page to begin with. I would keep making videos for my friends and I, and so they asked me to put it out for us so we could watch it. When I hit 100 followers, I remember asking my friends what was even happening; I mean who was even watching it. And in my head, I always thought of it as a room with 100 people in there. But I guess I got it because it was funny because people don’t have to know me personally to enjoy the kind of humour I post. It’s insane to me, over 40,000 people in a room now blows my mind.”
Even though she happily remains undercover, she’s still easily approachable, which makes her fan following a lot more loyal, including the likes of celebrities such as Osman Khalid Butt, the cast of Laal Kabootar, Ahmed Ali, Mansha Pasha, Hania Aamir, Asim Azhar, Fatima Bhutto and even Malala Yousafzai! Ali and Pasha even recorded a video while mimicking one of her voices.
I, for one got a hold of her by leaving a message on Instagram and similarly, she says she frequently interacts with her followers and responds to messages. However, one wonders if it ever gets too overwhelming?
“I totally get it, not to say I’m just somebody everybody wants to know, but when they see somebody just being ridiculous and fun, I get people wanting to be around that energy. The comedy that I like, I feel that connection with them too,” the comedian stated.
“So many times, people have asked me to hang out with them, in fact, when I had about 200 followers or something, they would invite me to their birthdays and they would tell me to just show up and not tell my name. I do want to create that relationship with my audiences. Even when I put up something sad, people check up on me and I love that.”
Albeit subliminally, her characters have also been a reflection of society, in the way she has addressed a number of societal taboos. From women putting down each other in the name of good-ol’ gossip to religious extremism, there’s a certain social commentary that’s evidently embedded in her humour. On her Instagram stories, she also puts out screenshots of her phone notes, adding them to a highlight called ‘High Thots’, talking about life and all that it entails.
Does she plan on using her platform for the greater good?
“I think my priority is to create something funny and relatable, and I don’t want to change that. I do care about all the social issues that surround us and I do use my Instagram stories to spread awareness. For instance, I really want to promote animal shelters, but I don’t want to narrow it down to social commentary," she went on.
"Most of my initial characters were just silly and goofy with nothing really to them and I want to continue doing that as well, but I don’t mind if the issues come in with the humour. People have messaged me telling me they’re really down and in a bad place, but watching Swinery cheers them up. Making them laugh is what I want to do.”
Despite the fact that Swinery came through by a fluke, she has been a stand-up comic for a couple of years. Having performed in the US as well, she’s been a part of lineups in shows that have been organised in Karachi with the recent stand-up culture rising over the past two-and-a-half years. Nobody, however, has been able to uncover her identity as Swinery through her shows. “I think that’s because I don’t do it very often. My humour isn’t completely clean, so there are a lot of shows I can’t perform at and I have to be mindful of that.”
Nonetheless, somewhere down the line, does she plan on revealing herself through a live performance?
“I never thought I’d do comedy on Instagram, but stand-up comedy and acting have been my things for a while now. I don’t think it’s necessary for something that’s funny on your phone to translate the same onto the stage. My stand-up comedy material and the set overall are very different from Swinery, nobody can tell,” she quips.
“There are a lot of people who suggested I perform wearing a mask, but I think the essence of my page is the expression and I just don’t know if it would work. Maybe in the future, when I feel it’s reached some kind of statuary point, I might dress up as my characters and do that.”
Currently hunting for a job, she is working as a freelancer on script-writing for now. But with the rapid increase in her following, she now has the option of monetising her account as well, collaborating with the corporate sector on promotions and campaigns.
“Everybody thinks or what I’ve been told is that I’m now a social media influencer who could just somehow have followers increasing by the day. But honestly, I kid you not, I didn’t know about the insights feature on Instagram until two weeks ago, and it’s insane,” she says.
“I don’t have a job right now and I don’t want to go back to a nine-to-five job, I want to be able to do something that’s creative. My friends tell me I should stop doing free shoutouts or putting brands on my stories, but so far I haven’t charged anything. I know it’s a possibility and it would be nice to somehow get an income off it, but I don’t want to make it a business account yet.”
On a parting note, one couldn’t help but inquire why she’s kept her brainchild limited to voices and expressions.
“I think firstly, its fun for people to not know who is making all these random videos as it adds the mystery to the page. But of course, safety is most definitely something I consider. There’s this freedom I have being anonymous that I would think twice about if my face was attached to it. Or maybe if I want to say something and people aren’t okay with it, it just gives me a shield of using my freedom-of-expression to the fullest,” she concludes, promising nothing but more of her nonsensically amusing offerings.
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