Cybil Chowdhry started off her career about 15 years back and it was just by a mere coincidence. Way back in 1999, she had her first portfolio done for Athar Shahzad as a pre-sixteen birthday present from her mother. A week later, Shahzad called her up for a photo shoot for them — and the rest is history.
“It was more of a coincidence than anything else,” the 30 year old tells The Express Tribune. “I was a tomboy. Modelling was something that was going on, on the side and I was just doing it for fun.”
Today, having established herself as a supermodel and a star on the runway, she doesn’t feel there is anyone who can compete with her in the fashion indsurty. “There is no direct competition for me in this industry. I have been doing it for a long time now and established models like myself, Nadia Hussain, Iman Ali and Mehreen Syed, have no competition at all,” she says. “When we started years ago, we were just a handful of girls. Now, as time has progressed, we are all mothers and have our own businesses as well. The newcomers probably want to get somewhere, but we have already done that.”
Having reached new heights of fame and glory in Pakistan, Chowdhry doesn’t believe in a certain criterion that Pakistani models have to fit in to be counted. “Do we have a criterion for models in Pakistan?” she asks rhetorically. “I believe, here in Pakistan, a model is an all-rounder. Fame can come easily and quickly but how long does that last? To become famous and to be a celebrity are two different things.”
Cybil, who is a single mother of two boys, reveals that she is choosy about the work she does and the people she works with. “I am not here for fame; I am here to do my work and thoroughly enjoy doing it. Fame comes and goes, but celebrity status lasts longer.” With so many years of experience under her belt, one wonders how different does she find the modelling world in Pakistan from what happens around the globe. Is it as lucrative to be a model here or is it just a façade that gets the layman’s attention from below the ramp and in front of the screen? “Yes and no, both!” says Chowdhry. “A lot of people want more than what they pay for,” she says. With time she has learnt that the bigger the company, the better the timing of the payments.
On the contrary, she doesn’t think that society’s understanding of a model has changed over the time; they are still looked down upon and not seen as the best people in town. “I have had a clean career for 15 years, so I know I have earned my respect. Whether you are a teacher, journalist, lawyer or model, how you carry yourself determines how much respect you get.”
On a final note, she shares valuable tips for young girls entering the profession, advising them to not lose themselves in this career and to remember that nobody is their friend. “Don’t forget yourself. Always remember what you want to get from this field. You need to be emotionally strong, take rejection and dejection in a stride. One day, you may be the queen of the world and another day, it won’t be so. You need to have nerves of steel.”
Published in The Express Tribune, August 11th, 2014.
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