Our cover star needs no introduction. She has been the queen of our hearts and minds for a while now. She brings to life every role she assumes and continues to mesmerise us. Aamina Sheikh talks to us about her journey so far and vision for 2020.
Aamina Sheikh flew in from Dubai to do an editorial shoot with us. No fancy designers, no unnecessary glitz, a raw, personality encompassing, socially empowered, a bit idealistically envisioned New Year cover shoot. The lady was the very definition of grace and class. She put everyone at ease and I haven’t yet managed a shoot that went more seamlessly. Polite, warm and humble, yet somehow at the same time mysterious and aloof, Aamina carries herself in an awe-inspiring fashion. With Rizwan ul Haque behind the lens, Women’s Own team and Aminah created magic that day.
Aamina Armed for 2020
Q. You are an inspiration to millions, how do you handle the burden of ‘celebrity’ and how has the journey been so far?
A. I choose to see it as a blessing, not a burden and in turn it continues to be that for me. My journey started back in 2007 and so it’s been around 13 years since I’ve been on this path. From a novice, to a performer, to a public figure to an influencer has been a journey of great absorption, of observation, of diligent practice of honing the required skills, of reckless abandon to the craft at hand, of confronting fearfully and sometimes courageously overwhelming expressions of dramatic and creative endeavors and physical challenges that came with this line of work. Some projects felt like a complete life journey in itself. Many a times the experience was quite surreal as if living multiple parallel lives. Some of which were wildly outside of my own life experience and comfort zone while others carried similar patterns of a life lived. Playing some parts internally aged me even, as I would come out of it feeling like I’ve lived too big of an experience through that particular character, for example in Mora Piya, playing a young woman raped by a stranger on her wedding night in a violent encounter, bearing the child of that horror and navigating a marriage that took her there in the first place—-This was a kind of performance that exhausted one’s capacity of one lifetime. Maat, another example of the same is a serial which brings characters and their life choices full circle from their decisions as young adults to the consequences that unfolded as they aged into their last innings of life.
In contrast were the brave projects like ‘Bhaag Amna Bhaag’ based on the true story of Naseem Hameed, our SAF game gold medalist which injected passion, fire, ambition, youth and purpose in me. Projects like this made me train my mind and body like a true athlete during those months of my life. Just as wild, if not more challenging, was an off-beat project; to perform the
radical emancipation of a woman in an alternative music video for an underground band Bumbu Sauce, again required me to train to fight, jump off walls and do aerial somersaults for it. From a girl taking on the task of riding a rickshaw for a living to re-enacting in the remake of the mesmerizing Zeba and Waheed Murad’s ‘Armaan’ —-(a Brand’s film adaptation of the classic) getting me into a wonderfully feminine, graceful, and coy character dancing to the tunes of the iconic number ‘ko ko korina’ along with learning the melody of ‘Bhula Na Sako gay’ on piano to perform live while filming—-and I’m just touching the surface here, does it not then sound like many lifetimes lived? The ‘celebrity-ness’ as mentioned in the question, is a wonderful by-product of the actualization of the job and craft itself.
Over the course of the journey, facing the camera, lights, varied directions day in and day out—one tends to become more technically practiced and efficient as an actor, however the downside of this ‘performance grind’ is that it can strip down one’s performance, it can wear you down or make you get into a kind of a rote performance, where one falls into the trap of default go-to expressions. Understanding this phenomenon, it’s important to disrupt and shake things up. I did this consciously by taking small gaps and breaks in between projects— travelled the world, studied, immersed in workshops and switched on my learning mode to evolve and comeback and channel it all to try and create new dimensions to the craft. Another reprieve for me throughout has been the wonderful work of fashion, ad campaigns, reality shows and event performances that came my way. They provided intermittent reset and bursts of creativity from the intensity and grind of plays and films and put me in a different kind of creative indulgence of a compact nature—those were my breathers that allowed me to stretch, create and renew. To this day, as demonstrative in this very shoot of women’s own new year special…its this exact feeling of rejuvenation and re-birth that persists.
Q2. Of all the things you do what makes you the most excited?
A. What excites me most in all mediums is the dawning of the character. The time when we see the character blossom in its full glory and that is when all the prep, the pre-production, the costume, the makeup, the rehearsals, the script, the discussions, the technical meets the performance and the talent arrives in complete character. In addition, the further away from realism it is the more exciting it gets for me because it is then that one can experience a true sense of a unique collaborative creation.
Q3. What advice would you give to your younger self?
A. Read more. Learn more. Absorb and implement self awareness early on. Take the initiative to talk to elders in more depth, ask questions and really listen to pick out life lessons. Each life lived more than yours is an experience to learn from, do not disregard opportunities for understanding the way people live their lives, make choices, and think—-in it lies profound lessons for your own self. Identify mentors. Always be curious and knowledgeable about what you put in and on your body and what you put your body through. Make informed decisions and take your time in making those informed decisions.
Q4. What are the projects you are currently working on? Where will we see you next?
A. I am now at a juncture in my career and in my life where work meets purpose; purpose greater than one’s own self, greater than one’s own objectives. I have been fortunate to fulfill a career choice which over the course of a decade created a direct channel of communication and impact with a mass audience. A heart connect, I call it. Over the years, production houses and brands alike use this channel mindfully to create content that serves mutual objectives. As that continues, I am now increasingly interested in creating content and a platform of my own that elevates and brings tangible impact directly in the lives of my audience.
You will see me next, in the palm of your hands with content that will uplift your spirits and your lives. InshAllah!
Q5. What things have you learnt from life and the human condition from being a celebrity? What is still a mystery?
A. That’s a big question. The answer is vast. Let me see how I can attempt to get to the core of it. Perhaps key being what have i learnt of the two from being a ‘celebrity’ rather than a human — as the latter is an extensive talk. As a celebrity, I learnt how quick we are as humans to attach our worth to an external source of validity. How quick we also are as humans to let others dictate our sense of worth along with what we should be, how we should feel, live, talk, aspire to be and dream. We are as a species quick to assign attributes of God to an external source too. At the same time, I have come to understand better the language of love. I have understood that at the end of the day each individual wants to be seen, wants to be heard, wants to be loved. So simple, yet us humans make a conundrum out of it—where lives are lost, hearts are broken, voices are silenced. The mystery remains that in-spite of all Godly knowledge, in-spite of history, in-spite of all the learnings of self-awareness and progression of mankind at our fingertips….we fall, then rise, fall again and rise in continuum.
We asked Aamina about her views on a long prevalent social issue. One that deeply affects our part of the world, not just limited to the fashion industry but for many girls a bane they face in their daily lives; Colorism.
Q. Do you feel colorism is a remnant of the past or is preference for fair skin still prevalent today?
I think such -isms are so hard wired from centuries ago, that it will take more to rewire the biases of the society and world at large. A lot has evolved, with technology, media and influencers at our fingertips, the road to revolution has definitely cut short now. A more effective impact can be made efficiently now with conscious and collective data streaming at a mass level, as the audience has less attention span due to more data overload than ever before. I don’t see -isms as remnants just yet, however, I do see the grounds being prepped now more than ever before for the wipe out of such -isms in the times ahead. The key, however, I feel is to target the collective consciousness at a mass scale consistently.
Q. Have I faced colorism?
We live in a society where unfortunately it does not escape you, fortunately for me I was raised in a family and a home environment in which colorism or any such subliminal messaging was not on the charts. Then for my advanced studies I ended up in an incredibly progressive and alternative academic environment in Massachusetts where I encountered the identity of being ‘a woman of color’ —- that for me was a first. Getting to know the experiences of others that lead to this category of identification really expanded my understanding of the western world and its complexes. Anyhow being a ‘woman of color’ in that particular academic and social environment, ironically, felt more of a privilege to me than anything else. Thankfully later as I made my way in front of the camera and on celluloid, such attributes that I brought to the table served as a strength rather than shortcomings, or that’s how I was trained to see it. I came in front of the camera knowing the way my color translates onscreen and lucky for me I was around makeup artists and photographer who loved to work with my given skin tone and features such as my forehead. These creatives looked at all these attributes as great strengths that complemented and enhanced their respective visions, which helped shape my personal and professional experience with colorism as a positive one.
Q. How do I react to colorism on tv/film?
When I catch glimpses of it and the stereotypes being played out and reinforced, its an instant turn off for me. I don’t relate to it and I don’t watch nor indulge in any content that reinforces these bygones. To me it is representative of the makers state of mind, the way they see their surroundings and it reflecting their level of consciousness in their respective life journeys.
I don’t do work that encourages it, instead I choose to take on campaigns and initiatives that work towards dissolving such notions that hold us back and put forth a voice that rises above. Examples of such initiatives that are ongoing is the ‘Aagahi series’ of informing the masses of their civil rights, secondly the ‘Meri Awaz’ campaign raised against body shaming and condemning such societal ‘noise’ and thirdly actively collaborating with organizations to get out of school children to school and advocating for education.
Q. Are concerted efforts being made?
A concerted effort in my opinion would be to ensure certain media laws with regards to diversity percentage requirement in channels, production companies and the content that they generate and are allowed to put out there. For example, a lot of the media giants in the western world have had to do that over the last decade—they have had to adhere to certain diversity clauses when hiring employees along with content that they produce. Something along those lines making their way into Pakistan’s media laws would be what I would call conscious and tangible efforts for change and impact that are measurable.
Q. Can film or tv spearhead change in perception?
The origins of the television medium was deep rooted in propaganda. It was initiated to penetrate into the lives and mindset of the public at large to develop societal trends and habits for certain objectives. So yes, if the intention is to change societal perception, all creative mediums are the most effective tools to do so BUT the intention needs to be a pure and collective one. In this day and age, there is so much bombardment of varied content and programming that it’s hard to find a consistent value system. It’s hard to get producers on the same wavelength with an intent greater than their own personal gains. Leadership in all realms determines a lot of the matter at hand. If the leaders governing these mediums are brought together responsibly to align on a thorough strategy of changing, evolving and uplifting societal perception and if each does their part and are accountable for it, we will be using the strength of film, tv, digital, radio, all mediums in the most powerful and sustainable way forward. societal perception and if each does their part and are accountable for it, we will be using the strength of film, tv, digital, radio, all mediums in the most powerful and sustainable way forward.
Tete-tete with Aamina
As the day went on we eased into some quintessential personality questions fans usually love to hear about.
Q. What do you like doing in your spare time?
A. In my spare time, I drive or walk to a place I haven’t been to before and just wander about and explore. That spare time however whizzes by fast !
Q. Who is your celebrity crush?
A. None now. I know only too well the facade of a celebrity! 😉
Q. What’s your biggest pet peeve?
A. When no food is to be found and I’m hungry
Q. Who is your inspiration?
Q. What’s your favourite holiday destination?
A. I’m looking forward to new favorite destinations in this coming decade Cape Town, Cape Cod, SF, Seoul to name a few are on the list !
Q. If you weren’t famous, what would you be up to right now?
A. I would by now be the owner of an art cafe and running a healing retreat resort, but since I was busy all this time to get to where I’m at, now I shall take the time to do just that 🙂
Q. What’s the most interesting thing you’ve read or seen this week?
A. So I’ve watched all the documentaries on the Emirates airlines over the course of my travels. This week I watched the famous Hollywood icon ‘Hedy Lamarr’ documentary and to me it was an AHA moment of absolute enlightenment. Her iconic Hollywood image of a sultry beauty actually came in the way of the intellectual genius that she truly was. She was a scientist, an inventor and made some monumental inventions that contribute towards civilian life even till today and not many know that. A must watch!
Q. What would you like remembered about you?
A. I would like to be remembered as someone who used her capacity to love, impact and uplift people and their conditions. To be a source of enlightenment and positive change.
“I truly believe that if you take responsibility for your part in life, in your relations and in your choice of occupation — without a sense of entitlement (key) and instead with a sense of service, you are likely to lead a very rich, loving and an abundant life no matter what the circumstances.”
Photographer:Rizwan ul Haque
Art Direction:Rizwan ul Haque
Concept & Stylist:Haiya Bokhari
Coordination:Dua & Thomas