Mehreen Raheal is one of Pakistan’s leading models, with dozens of product commercials, cover pages of magazines like Libas, and many, many photoshoots of clothes and jewelry to her credit. She is as familiar a face to Head & Shoulders and Pantene users, as she is to Lipton tea drinkers, and even Telenor phone users.
Mehreen was born to an artistic mother, Simi Raheal, a talented, renowned TV artiste and a social activisit who works for a leading NGO and is a gender trainer.
Since she was a child, Mehreen has had an eye for fashion and her heart set on a media career. She is a leading face on TV commercials and magazine pages now, but her vision’s already set on the next rung of the career ladder, which may take her behind the camera as a director or producer.
This talented young girl is delightful to meet for her candid views, friendly nature, and many interesting experiences.
Read on to get to know Mehreen Raheal better!
1. It seems like you prefer commercials to ramps (runway modeling) – is that true?
I’ve done ramps, but I’m not very fond of them. Not because of my height (laughs), but generally I’m not very enthusiastic about that particular type of modeling. I’ve done only two ramp fashion shows. But mostly, I’ve done ads and still photography for clothes and jewelry. I like doing shoots; I love the camera and I’m very comfortable around it. I’ve recently done some shoots that will be in the next issue of Libaas. I’ve done most of the major product commercials, from hair products to skin products to household products, detergents and everything, thanks to my agent.
2. What products have you modeled for and which commercials have been the most interesting for you?
I’ve done a lot of commercials – can’t count them! Name a major product and I’ve done a commercial for it. I’ve done Head and Shoulders thrice, and I’ve done Pantene four times. Lipton, Telenor, and PTCL too! It’s a great thing, it’s a blessing.
I find the whole hair commercial process quite fascinating. We travel to Thailand for all hair commercials because they have a whole team over there – from Mongolian women who donate their long silky hair for making extensions to the doubles for the pure “hair shots”. It’s easier for them to fly out the directors and talent to Thailand for a day or two rather than bringing the hair to wherever the ad is being shot. You are basically there for the beauty shots, the face part. The hair part is done by doubles and to make it look consistent, you need to get extensions either clipped on or woven into your own hair. That’s quite an ordeal. I had to have my hair dyed blue-black and by the time I got back I was “ganja” (bald). You are left with like four hair with all the straightening and chemical treatments (laughs)
3. What’s been the most interesting moment or time?
When I was a child, I used to dream of traveling by myself without a chaperone; staying in the most beautiful hotels, all expenses taken care of, with a plasma TV, a big bed…like in Home Alone when he’s sitting on his big bed, jumping around and eating ice cream! So I remember when I went to Karachi for the first time, on my own, at a very young age, it was the most beautiful moment. Because I realized that I’m an independent soul, my parents trust me, I’m here and I’m doing so much!
Another time would be when I went to Thailand the first time for a commercial and got the red carpet treatment. They gave me the best suite in the Emporium and all that. The experience of working abroad with huge budgets compared to our limited production resources was also tremendous. But the way they treat you, like a princess! (Smiles). Finally, when I signed my first autograph, obviously I had butterflies in my stomach…didn’t know what to say!!
4. What about the flip side – any particularly bad memories or times?
Well, in general, Allah ka shuker hai, people have been wonderful to me, from the key boys to the directors and everybody in between. But I remember once that a director showed up drunk on the shoot, and there was this woman pestering him. So he swore, in front of me and misbehaved with her. That’s when I walked off the shoot. He came back and apologized and said that I wasn’t meant to hear what he said, and that the woman was misbehaving, and he didn’t know what to do, and all that. But I just said that listen, I understand if you have problems, but whatever they are, don’t bring them to work and don’t spoil my work place. Because it is like going to an office. If someone is going to bring their problems and create a bad environment for other people who are working there, it’s not going to fly.
Other than that, I can’t say I’ve had any particularly bad moments. It’s just the delayed paychecks (laughs). Some people have a tendency of getting others to work for them whenever they need a project done, but then they aren’t as prompt about the payments, so there have been some issues of that nature. Now basically what I do is that I ask them to give me the check before I start the project, and if they want me then they have to!
5. Tell us about the international travel – you mentioned Thailand, what other countries have you been to and how has that experience been for you?
I traveled to India as an Ambassador for the Standard Chartered fundraising marathon for the Tsunami. It was an unbelievable experience. Traveling for such a cause and being able to do something meaningful based on your media presence or image. I hadn’t thought of this aspect of being in the media and what it enables you to do for others until I got this opportunity and it was really great. I’ve also worked in London, did a play and a few other projects there.
6. How do you compare the modeling scene in Pakistan with other countries?
In Pakistan, you have an edge because there are fewer models, plus the model’s life is longer. In the west, your modeling life is very short. The younger you, the better it is; and there are so many people in the field. Here in Pakistan, we have a handful of good models and it’s easier to become an icon. Once you are there, you can get into many other things like direction, production, or other projects. I know that I will not be this young or vivacious all my life, but I can be a character or I can use my name because I made my name through something that is media related. I’m strictly talking about myself, of course. I’d rather retire gracefully from modeling and do something different than have people get sick of me!
7. What is the future of modeling in Pakistan?
It’s really going to rock the town and the world, because so many designers are coming up and we are being recognized for our work. Plus, we have a lot of new modeling talent coming up, some good some bad. I’m not going to say that it’s perfect because it’s not. There are a lot of bad seeds also, which sort of make us take a step back, because we are here to promote our culture and clothes, and not to sell our bodies. And selling bodies has become really intense. I guess it depends on how and where you take it but I hope that the industry will go in a really positive direction and we’ll establish a very good name and image for Pakistan through it. You know, it really means a lot when images of a progressive culture are transmitted all over the world via satellite; and I believe that our international recognition will benefit our international image as well.
8. What do you do when you’re not modeling?
Procrastinate! Doing nothing, bumming around (laughs)! I enjoy good food, so I cook. I like reading a lot, I write poetry, and I write columns. I spend a lot of time with my parents. I travel. I have this hunger for traveling and going to different places, seeing what the culture is about; going to art galleries, exhibitions and stuff; and generally finding out about the world. The little time that I have left, I do yoga.
9. Who is your favorite author?
Well I’m reading this book called Short Stories by Nabakov; he’s the Russian author who wrote Lolita. I really like his work. I like Marquez a lot. It depends on my mood, depends on whatever the book is about, and it doesn’t have to be about anything in particular!
10. How do you stay fit?
I watch what I eat. I don’t eat meethas (dessert). I’ve always been into fitness but I don’t want to be skinny, because in real life I’d like to look like myself rather than a coat hanger roaming around with something draped on it
11. Any advice for future models?
As a wise man said once, “with great power comes great responsibility.” There will be good days and there will be bad days; whatever you do, you will either be condemned for it or complimented. It’s a tough life. Working hours are very difficult. You need to be a strong individual to be in this field because there’s a lot of bitchiness and backstabbing, because it’s a beauty based thing. I would advise you to get a degree in something of interest, either related to your modeling career or something which builds upon it that can come in handy later on in your career. You will not be a pretty face all your life! But people will know you and you will always have your identity, so think of ways in which you can use that identity, like they do abroad to do something good, rather than not using it at all.
In Pakistan, you have an edge because there are fewer models, plus the model life is longer. In the west, your modeling life is very short. The younger you, the better it is; and there are so many people in the field.