January issue 2009

By | Fashion | Life Style | Published 15 years ago

Globally, the sexiest models and actresses demand inflated sums of money when asked to take their clothes off for a photo shoot. Well, it used to be that way. In Pakistan, things in the modelling world seem to have been turned on their head. Here, the country’s top models demand top dollar to cover up.

When Newsline scouted for talent to pose in this month’s abaya fashion spread, we were turned down, not by one or two but by 600 different models. Actually it was only six. Still, we got the point: modelling anything related to the hijab is unthinkable. “My career will be over!” was the type of melodramatic piffle spouted. One household name insisted on a divine amount per photo for wearing the head-to-toe Islamic dress: at least three times the normal magazine rate. She may have asked for a car too, but that’s unconfirmed. She definitely didn’t ask if she could keep any of the outfits. Another said she was busy the day of the shoot. So we asked about the day after. “Oops, busy.” What about later today? Uh, no, got stuff … she sputtered. “Actually I’m booked, like, solid for the next, um, decade.” In a country where the Taliban’s intolerant reach is expanding as they enforce their strict moral code and blow up girls’ schools, models are more afraid of fashion designers than extremists. They fear wearing the abaya will ruin their I’m-the-hottest-thing-since-hellfire image and, thus, make them unemployable.

It’s ironic. The ‘decadent’ West, despite being decried as the ultimate purveyor of all things obscene, is home to — get this — models and celebrities who aren’t afraid to actually wear clothes. But somehow, the Islamic Republic of Pakistan has nurtured a community of professional female models who only feel comfortable doing sexy or skimpy.

That’s because it comes down to professionalism. The world’s best actors don’t refuse challenging roles that destroy their sex appeal (Charlize Theron in Monster). Neither do they refuse to pose in outfits that don’t represent their real selves (Cate Blanchett in a nun’s habit in Interview).

Models are essentially actors: they take on a character for the camera.

The model we eventually found, Nadia Ali, understood this, despite being no veteran. She did, however, show the professionalism and courage expected of one.

And chances are you’ll find her looking sexy and confident.

Imagine that.

Click here to see the full abaya photoshoot.