Some women are determined to write their own fate. Like Helen of Troy or Marilyn Monre or Cleopatra or our very own Rani. Controversy dogs beauty and no one knows better than Vaneeza Ahmed. Her erratic lifestyle, her clandestine affairs, her phenomenal asking price, her politically correct mantra, her highly professional antics have all brought her more than her share of flak. When inquired she held head high… like all beautiful women do and took every query chin-up. And gave scathing replies of her own. In inimitable Vinny-style.
Rumours were rife that you were under the weather. Some reported meningitis while some called it cancer. Had you really come down with something?
I jetted off to Sri Lanka with Karma to do a fashion week where I was bitten by a mosquito and caught meningitis. People saw me going to the oncology department at the hospital and presumed cancer. It wasn’t. It was a severe case of meningitis. That’s where the infectious fluid of a person’s spinal cord surrounds the brain.
There’s a hell of a lot of difference between the two. How could meningitis be mistaken for cancer?
Maybe because it’s more fashionable to have cancer than to have meningitis.(Laughs.)
A local Urdu tabloid even reported that you were HIV positive.
That is even more thrilling than the two, isn’t it?
Anything but thrilling! It’s rather scary. Don’t you think it would have damaged your reputation?
People talk and you just can’t help it. They want gossip. They want masala. Just because cancer doesn’t sound too cool and meningitis is not electrifying enough they came up with HIV positive. It was just a garden tor bukhar and that’s it.
Has it been cured?
So how are you feeling?
Just the way I used to feel before. Great!
You have a thing for traveling and it’s no secret that last year you were barely found in the country. Don’t you get tired of being away from home and work?
I am a travel buff. Being the daughter of a diplomat father I traveled like nobody’s business. After this illness I realized there are a lot of places that I haven’t seen and decided to look in on them.
I heard of you being the favourite travel guide abroad for Pakistani fashion troupes.
You know all, don’t you? Yes! Whenever we go abroad I make sure everybody sees the prominent places if not the whole city. Like when we went to Greece I made everybody see Mykonos, and when we were in the States I took everybody to Disneyland.
You have done a few shoots abroad as well. Did anything out of the ordinary ever come about?
Yes. We were caught at Qutab Minar by Indian cops.
“We” as in?
Me, Ather and Shazad.
Very interesting. Care to tell us the whole story?
As the rules go you are not allowed to shoot at historical places until and unless you have permission. As Qutab Minar is a public place we didn’t ask for permission and were caught by the Indian police.
So what did they do? Put you guys behind bars?
No, because I fabricated this story of me and Shahzad being a newly married couple who had came to India on their honeymoon and Ather was my brother who was taking our pictures.
And they believed you?
Very much! All they did was ask us to hand over the reel, which I had already put in my bra and replaced with the new one in the camera. Then we were also caught outside the Taj Mahal. We paid off the cops to save ourselves.
You are known to be inflexible when it comes to money and are known for charging astronomical amount for shoots. Commercials usually have sky-scraping budgets and it makes sense to charge a lot for them. But do you think it is feasible for a model to charge soaring rates for fashion shoots?
If I were getting ten commercials a year then I wouldn’t then been charging for fashion shoots either. You want to be exclusive and not do every ad that comes you way. You don’t want Shahra-e-Faisal to look like Shahra-e-Vaneeza, which did happen with me when I did three major campaigns (Pepsi,Lux and Insta) last year. Earlier I never used to charge as much as I do no. But then if designers can charge a lac or a lac and a half for one outfit, give me merely 18-20 thousand bucks and get orders worth 6 to 7 lacs, it’s fair enough for me to charge that much. We models help them sell their products. They don’t have to put in any extra effort. They pay for our professionalism, our image and our name.
Do you slash down your price if the designer is struggling and worth a favour?
I do but that too one, not every time. If I have to buy a jora the designer will charge less once but the next time he/she won’t. Would you write for free? You won’t. You want to be paid for your hard slog. Modeling is no charity and I am not Bilqis Edhi. I don’t know about the others but at this stage I don’t get excited about seeing myself on covers or on life-sized billboards, what excites me is the paycheck. Why? Because is mahinay ka kharcha chal jaye ga.
But unlike you other models do adjust their rates.
If you want to buy a Toyota you have to pay for a Toyota. You can’t expect to get a Toyota for a Suzuki’s price. You just can’t because Toyota is expensive.
And you are a Toyota?
No, I am a VTI.
It is reported that you took one of the multinationals to court for using your image on a billboard without your consent.
I haven’t sued anyone so far but yes I do put my foot down if someone tries to act smart with me. If I have a shoot for a magazine, I have been paid for it, then I won’t let anyone use those pictures in shops, on their brochures or on billboards without my permission.
It reminds me that you raised hell when designer Ayesha Varsi used your picture on her fashion show’s invitation card without your notice and then you were paid heavily to make up for that.
Yes. In that case I didn’t want to be on the invitation cards with my bare midriff. That invitation went to all and sundry and that’s what irritated me. Call me a bitch or a thorough professional, but that’s how I am. I try to do things the right way. I feel I am being violated that way. Like Ather Shahzad, despite being my best friends, had the decency to call me and ask for my permission to put my pictures in their studio. Ditto with Saba and Huma. Laikin chalaakiyan nahi chalanain gi.
There is this general complaint that you, Iraj and Aaminah are over the hill and should pack your bags and leave the fashion world. What is your take on that?
Why should we? People want us. I am not coming to you and forcing you to have me or have me replaced with some new girl, am I? Mein kisi ki rozi roti to nahin maar rahi. Till it’s working, till I don’t feel that my skin is sagging, I am going to do it. Why say no to work? I feel we Asian women are like wine: as we get older we get better.
I agree. And I admit that your beauty is beyond description. You may look beautiful in every image but not different, unlike your archrivals Aaminah Haq and Iraj who fit into every concept like the proverbial glove.
There are a lot of images you want to be associated with and some you don’t. I don’t want to be tagged a sex bomb or a sex symbol because I am not. The kind of people that hire me, hire me for a certain look, which is elegant and sophisticated, and I deliver that look. And I am happy that way. May features can’t be altered because I have not gone under the knife or had collagen done. Some girls have but I haven’t.
But you always whine about your broken nose. Why don’t you have it fixed?
I just joke about it. I am happy the way it is. If I have survived in this industry and have made a name for myself for so many years with it so why years with it so why now? If stylists have no issue, designers and even the camera doesn’t have an issue, why change it?
Of course why change it when Digital improvisation is the new in thing. But don’t you think it is the real menace. Now photographers cover up their slipups smartly with Photoshop. It might be good for you and them but it is wiping out originality.
There is nothing better than photography, which is done with a normal lens and Photoshop-and this is where natural talent comes in. But digital improvisation is just what the doctor ordered. It’s happening all over the world. If you have a facility why not avail it? It’s just like you have an oven and you cook your food on a stove.
Iman Ali recently worked with a Karachi-based photographer and beautician with you and Iraj in tow. It created quite a stir in the fashion circle as Iman had, till then, restricted herself to Ather Shahzad, and was proud of being loyal to her mentors. The grapevine has it that it was you who forced her to do the shoot. Did you do it deliberately?
I think Iman is old enough to say no and professional enough to know what she is doing. And I don’t think she is so naïve that she would be forced into doing something that she didn’t want to. I’ll tell you the whole story. Iman was in Karachi and spent the whole Sunday all alone at home while I was out. The other day I was going for a shoot and I asked if she would come along and she agreed. We went to SABS. I started getting my makeup done while she had her manicure done. Saba Ansari, the owner, came to me and asked if Iman would do the shoot. I replied that if you’re asking me I would love to have her in the shoot. I have no issues, but if you want her speak to her directly. And Iman agreed with her terms and conditions.
But I believe it has cracked the walls of Ather Shahzad’s domain.
It’s a false piece of information. Shahzad has never stopped Aminah or me working with others. She ha not wanted to work with Abid but decided to work with him. It wasn’t about working with SABS or Abid. It was about working with Iraj and me on a cover together.
“Vinny is very manipulative. She asked me if I could do the short in a way that I just couldn’t say no to her,” uttered Iman when she was inquired about this hullabaloo. Doesn’t this quote make you the culprit?
That’s her thing. I didn’t get anything out of it. It should be the other way round. I got paid what I was getting paid and this is the end of it.
You are known to be the ultimate definition of political correctness. Being politically correct is definitely the order of the day but it has its pros and corns too. It certainly isn’t easy to be nice to everyone.
I am not nice to everyone. I am the eldest of the family and being the eldest made me more accommodating. I always see the flip side of everything. If you are here and this is your problem. I will not react beforehand. After keeping in my mind what kind of a person you are, I will explain it to you in a way you will best understand. It is acceptable for everyone. But if someone rubs me the wrong way I do get back at6 that person-but in my own way.
Showbiz they say is a shallow world and nobody is anybody’s friend. Have you made any friends through work?
I have made some really good friends through work, namely, Ather Shahzad, Iffat Raheem, and Umar Sayeed; and we have come a long way together. And why? Because we don’t mix our work with friendship. Like I have never stopped them from working with others and vise versa. Either we work or we don’t but we stay genuine with each other. But it doesn’t mean I have issue with others. To me everybody is a good acquaintance.
Have your friends ever disappointed you?
Yes, some of them. But I didn’t hold that against them. I understand their limitations because I too have my limitations. There are certain things which I can do and certain things I can’t. But that doesn’t make me a bad person or a bad friend. So I leave them aside and just move on. You will lead a happy life this way. I have expectations from very few people, and they bear the brunt of it all because when I expect, I expect a lot and when I get disappointed that’s the end of the party.
But they too have some expectations from you
But being one of Ather Shahzad’s close friends don’t you feel any hesitation while working with their new rivals, Deevees?
That’s how I am politically correct. Tomorrow if a designer comes to me for a shoot and asks who should we take, I leave it to them. I try to stay out of it. I have to work with both of them. If you ask for my personal preference, yes, I will prefer Shahzad. Nobody can make me look the way he does. But it doesn’t mean that I am not happy with Abid Saleem or Deeves. In Karachi if anyone asks me I recommend Abid Saleem without thinking twice. But again it doesn’t mean that I am not happy with Tapu or Arif. To me it’s more a matter of chemistry.
There is this general perception that models indulge in and thrive on sinister activities. What is your defend on that?
This is a concept which is relevant to an arena like Lollywood and we models forcibly get bracketed in the same slot. People don’t realize that we are normal girls from normal families trying to make a living for ourselves. Just because I show my arms or my midriff doesn’t make me corrupt. If I am doing well in my career it doesn’t mean that I am making money through something else. Of course there are ganda andas everywhere, be it showbiz or whatever, but we get highlighted because we are in the scene. I swell with pride saying that the girls I work with, be it Iraj, Iman, Aaminah, Sunita, we make a decent living. Yes, there are some girls who use showbiz as their runway to fly high. Like one of the girls from Lahore during a show asked me to have coffee with someone she knew who was willing to pay heavily for it. Afterwards, I made sure that girl didn’t get any show, and thankfully she hasn’t.
When other girls smugly flaunt their boyfriends like their DeBeers solitaire you keep you love life under wraps. Why are you uneasy about making your love life public?
It’s something personal so why bring it up? I don’t want my love to be in the public eye. Even my boyfriends don’t want their names to be mentioned in print.
Are you seeing anyone?
Yes I am.
Who is that person?
You have to find that out yourselves.
Any hint? Is he from showbiz?
Is marriage on the cards?
It will be hopefully soon. But I have my apprehensions. I see so many marriage around which are not working out. I wonder why.
Marriage is about compromise and girls these days are not willing to compromise. Marriage is like a big amplifier. When things are going well, the team effect of marriage makes them go very well. When a marriage works it is a source of infinite peace and joy. However, when things are not working marriage tends to amplify things in a negative direction. It can make bad things worse because it can create a trap. Am I right?
Of course. Even I think I have made a few mistakes in my life. When I was seeing Ali Azmat I was concentrating more on work than on the relationship. So was he. Because of that our relationship went down the drain. You can’t concentrate on work after marriage. Work and marriage are like two different boats sailing in two different directions. You can’t sail in two boats at once.