It’s been five long years since Umair Butt left home to try his fortune abroad and now he’s back with a bang (even if it is temporarily). Fashion designers have been rolling out the red carpet, and why not? After all, Umair Butt was the first male supermodel of the Pakistani fashion industry. Undoubtedly this model has a lot going for him: besides his devastating good looks, he has the sort of casual confidence that only maturity and experience can bring. But perhaps the greatest edge that he has over his would-be rivals is that he is a truly professional by Khawar’s standards. It cannot be denied that in his time, Umair made waves in the fashion world. And if he has returned it is only to garner more honors. So we have Umair Butt, who has eloquently expatiated on everything from Khawar to today’s male model heartthrob Abdullah and marriage.
Have you made a comeback only because you were unsuccessful in Canada and repent for having left the fashion industry?
It was five years ago that I left the industry and I left to explore other frontiers. It has been an extraordinary five years, with tremendous ups and downs, but I have never regretted it because I have learned a lot in the process. Of course, I have had my share of problems and anguish, in that when you go to another country you have to start from scratch. Starting in Canada was an extremely humbling experience because there you are competing with a lot of people for the same jobs and being rejected. Learning how to get rejected is also an experience considering that in Pakistan it is very easy to get into things. But let me make it clear that I am not here to rejoin this industry. This is just a personal visit.
So did you again request Khawar Riaz to do some shoots with you?
Khawar is my mentor and my guide. He just rang me up and asked if I wanted to do some shoots and I agreed. I own a gas station and doing very well professionally in Canada, and I am doing these shoots out of strength and not out of weakness. And the reaction within the industry has been warm and welcoming. If I were to come back it would be a major comeback. However, looking at the difference and interesting projects that I’m being offered, I see that there is opportunity to do some really good work. I have the added advantage of having some free time on my hands at the moment.
Do you think it was right for Khawar’s other protégés to disown him and leave for greener pastures? They say he doesn’t pay them and is a slave driver.
Well I was Khawar’s discovery and I didn’t leave him for others, though I worked with everybody. I think the new people who Khawar promoted were not worthy of the success that they got. It was too much too soon. The other factor is that your background also counts. If you are basically an upstart then you would show it at some stage. Take Ahmed Butt and Zara’s example for instance. What they were before KR took them under his wings and where do they stand without him now? The answer is nowhere. Yes, I agree, Khawar drives people crazy, but then just see what he does with these people. He grooms them, spends his time and money on them. Tell me, in today’s selfish world, who would do these things for you? I guess it is justified.
What are the vibes like between you and Abdullah, Khawar’s new blue-eyed boy? Does he resent your presence here?
I am not aware of any resentment and hostility. If there is any resentment at any point then I am sure it would go away and would not color my relationship with him. I am on cordial terms with him and have the highest regard for him as a model.
How do you rate yourself in the fashion industry now considering that we have a lot of competition now? Do you consider yourself a threat to the current lot of male models?
I don’t know. I really don’t see myself as competition to anybody. If I were to start today I would be competition for myself- to excel and to do the best I can. I would not dislodge anybody. Everyone rises and falls according to his/her own fate. As far as work is concerned, I am sure we are all part of the brotherhood and there is more than enough space for everyone to flourish. Competition in this industry has always been very tough. Every year there are new people entering fashion. Competition should not scare people; it makes you work harder. Every field of work is very competitive; it’s not just the fashion world.
Do you think that having a godfather is essential to making it big in fashion?
To some extent, yes. Having a godfather can help you in the initial stages of your career, but in the long run what helps you is your commitment and hard work. I had a good entry and I have seen the nicer side of the industry. I was lucky to have KR as my shield from failure.
Would you be affected if anyone called you a bad model?
Nope, I wouldn’t have done so well for so many years if I weren’t a good model. After the string of different shoots I did, no one can say that I wasn’t a good model. I had all the prerequisites of a good model. I was focused; I concentrated and created magic. I might not have been a good model but seriously I was a hard working model. Farooq had the boy next-door looks, Urooj was marvelous. Technically, I am not a perfect model but that what makes me different. Either you have a tall, dark and handsome model or you have a tall, fair, well-sculpted model. I came in between.
But they say that all of Khawar’s models want to be like Umair Butt. Do you take it as a compliment?
That must be because they want to have a certain image and work with the best. That’s why they want to be Umair Butt; certainly not because they want to look like me. I take it as a compliment that they’d like to do what I have done. But they’d have to be true to their salt.
How would you describe yourself to someone who didn’t know you?
Some years ago I’d have said that I am a nice guy who’s very hard working. Now I don’t know what to say. I don’t know how to describe myself in one line. I think I am a role model, a loyal protégé, husband, son, et al. I would like to believe that I am a regular guy doing a regular job.
What do you like most about yourself?
I like the fact that I have a great sense of justice. I hate injustice. I also enjoy the company of kids. I enjoy that fact that I am what I am. I am the most job-satisfied employee in the world. I am a happy guy and I pray to God that I always remain so.
If you could be someone else, who would it be?
Someone who is taller, patient, active, politically correct, flexible and emotionally in control, otherwise it wouldn’t be worthy exchanging.
What about your face?
I don’t think I want to change that. I have quite chiseled features.
What offends you as a person?
I like everyone. I enjoy all personalities. What I can’t stand are overbearing people. I don’t like people who encroach into my space. I squirm when I am asked personal questions. I am complex. I can’t share my emotions. My feelings are my own.
You, one of our most eligible bachelors, are happily married. You repeatedly say it’s the best thing that happened to you. Is it true?
Have you changed as a person after marriage?
I think I have become a lot more mature. I have lived the carefree life of a bachelor but now I have responsibilities. Touch wood, my better half is the most ideal wife I could have ever gotten.
Are you planning to start a family soon?
Now that’s a very obvious question to ask a man who is married and who doesn’t have a child till now. I want to be a father. Obviously I want to have a child now. And obviously when I get a kid the whole world will get to know about it.
Are you implying that your wife is in the family way?
Now don’t start getting any ideas! I would like to reserve my comments on that. It’s too private to talk about.