From her start, to morning show, online trolls, mental health in 2020
Anoushey Ashraf might be the one of the most busiest in the business She hosts a radio show at FM89 in the morning and then later she is at music fest alongside musicians like Strings. There are shoots and then there are brand endorsements with an up and coming fashion brand. She is mainstay at red carpets be it launch of say a phone or a carbonated drink hosting a meet and greet. She rules the red carpet at Fashion Weeks be it Lahore or Karachi, she is constantly on the move. When we finally sat down to talk we could tell why it comes so naturally to her and how more than often she is more popular than people she interviews yet people know so little of her.
WO: When did Anoushey Ashraf the public person start?
AA: Anoushey Ashraf began her career for public in 2002, it was on Indus Music that was my first show as Video Jockey.
WO: Did you always want to be a VJ/ Host/RJ?
AA: I think so, I was really young when I started my career so I don’t feel like I had really known what is it that I really wanted to do with my life but I was always very fond of hosting. I used to take deodorant bottles and hairbrushes and just stand infront of mirror doing a lot of “hosting” my father also had some on video camera. So I yea always wanted to be a host but I didn’t think I could become one.
WO: Unlike other contemporaries why didn’t you pursue acting like your friend Ayesha Omar or even Mahira who started as VJs? Or did you dip your toes?
AA: I did dip my toes in acting but I realised that it wasn’t really my area of expertise or passion, even though I wish I was because acting takes your career to really high places. I don’t think hosting does that particularly. But for me I felt like everybody was getting into acting because that is the bigger platform, everybody ultimately wants to do films and stuff like that. But it was never my thing I was never so much into films even as a kid or acting. I just wanted to be a presenter. I wanted my voice to be heard throughout the world you know and I never took acting seriously. But I don’t regret it, so I guess I am ok. Maybe I should start now! *just kidding*.
WO: How was the experience of being a morning show host? How did you approach yours?
AA: It was a very fulfilling experience for me to be a morning show host. I was on DAWN news; I think it is a very responsible channel so I did a very decent, very intelligent. It was travel oriented lifestyle oriented. It was a very good experience. And I approached mine as I would approach anything in the world, doing it with honesty, doing it with integrity. I would try to keep it as authentic to my personality as I possibly can. It worked well. We gave some really good lessons to people. We spoke about social stigmas, issues, all those things that usually should be talking about on morning shows.
WO: Do you feel morning shows have become a fad and run its course finally?
AA: Yea I think a lot of them have run their course but I don’t think morning show the entire concept has run its course. I just feel like the content they provide, the people has duly run its course like the weddings, unnecessary discussions about clothing and you know things like jadoo tona and all of those things that have happened. I feel people want to know a lot more than just what bridal season holds for them and what their skin regimen should be. They want to talk about other things. I feel mornings shows must keep up if they want to stay relevant for a long time, which they do but I don’t think channels have realised that a lot of people are getting exhausted with the content they put out there.
WO: There has been lots of criticism over the content of such morning shows about them being rather unintelligible/dumb. Is there a subject you’d draw the line at? Where you would say no to because it is too un-stimulating?
AA: Yes, there has been this perennial debate and a lot of criticism over the content of morning shows. To be honest I don’t know where I draw the line but on my show I definitely tried to avoid perhaps a lot of shadi biahs in the morning show, through the year like any reason to have just another wedding. I don’t think it’s my thing and I don’t think I’ll be able to do a good job at it and I know find it very over done and un-stimulating. So yea besides this there are no other topics that I would draw the line at, like there are so many things that need to be touched upon and be talked about. But the more I think about it even the “saas bahu” and things like those that I am really uninterested to be honest, it sounds mean but I wouldn’t be good at it.
WO: Pakistan has never had success with Late Night show format, why do you think that is?
AA: Of course Pakistan has had success with Late Night Show formats, late nights with Mubashir Luckman, Late Nights with Amir Liaqat just the news format and these guys you know. Kamran Khan. All these shows run in the night and they are the best late night shows rather dramas that are available on TV *sarcasm*
WO: What do you think of the trend toward Youtube channels like Samina Peerzada’s and the popularity of those shows?
AA: I think Youtube channels like Samina Peerzada’s are amazing. I means that’s the trend of On-demand content and people are watching stuff on YouTube and over all videos online. They are looking for material and content which is meaningful, which is conversational and caters to wider range of audience. So hats off to these guys who have done a good job and found the following on digital platforms as well. So good for them.
WO: In your latest work stint at FM89 you literally put music to people’s morning runs, What song best describes your state of mind these days?
AA: So the song that best describes my state of mind these days is perhaps “Look at Her know” by Selena Gomez. She has come a long way so I am really proud of her and I feel like I relate to the struggles that she may have been through
WO: You have done countless red carpets where you interview your fellow colleagues? Do you ever get nervous and how do you get people to talk?
AA: I don’t get nervous any longer, I used to but now I know them all very well and I have had a good working relationship with most of these people. I guess I keep it conversational and make them talk like we are talking in our living room instead of the red carpet. I feel that’s the trick
WO: Has there been times when you fumbled on live TV or radio? If yes what did you do to cover it up?
AA: I have fumbled on Live radio and TV but I just say ‘sorry that was wrong information, let me go over it again’. That’s how I handled it. I just acknowledged that I made a mistake and be honest about it because it is only human to make an error once in a while so it happens but just say “oops I am sorry” and then I move on.
WO: Women in media are constantly ostracised and demeaned by misogynist comments? Why do you think trolls have become so emboldened to comment and bash?
AA: See trolls have always existed now they just have a fake account, fake profile to hide behind. Unfortunately there is a lot of frustrations, anger you know in a lot of our people and perhaps they don’t know how to channel it out. So these comments and all these hateful things that we come across on social media is perhaps just a reflection of what’s going on within themselves.
And in terms of misogynist comments to ‘woh to puri society misogynist ek had tak hai’ and this is the reality. It’s just coming to surface now, I am glad it is coming to surface because once it has come to surface we will be able to point it out and talk about it. And the conversation has begun. They might not have understood why they are misogynists. Today many of them do understand the narrative. So I just take it in a positive way let them bash you, it’s an open forum to have a conversation with people who comment on your post and educate them accordingly where you think you may be right and know a little better than them.
WO: How do you respond to online trolls commenting on what you are wearing or doing?
AA: I have had good luck. I respond to online trolls by sometimes not responding to them. (When I don’t feel like it). But if I really do I try to educate them and make them understand where they are wrong. Also your character, your work speaks louder than what’s coming out of your mouth. So lead by example and don’t let the trolls get the best of you. The minute they understand that they mayn’t be able to get through to you. They are done
WO: Considering that you have this gregarious congenial image, do you ever more so censor what you put up? And what do you suggest women to do?
AA: I would suggest women to be just okay with who they are. Yes, I don’t like sharing everything or who I am and what I am in every capacity on social media. But I share a lot of my life with people already. But there are some things that I choose to keep private and I feel that is my choice.
And in terms of being congenial. I guess that is my personality in general so I try to go out of way to always make sure everybody is comfortable. And from what feedback I have gotten: I am likeable so that’s good, but all of this in no way means I will not stand up for what I believe in or not put my two cents in where I think its the right thing to do. So maybe congenial but it is also sorry not sorry kind of image where I will speak my mind when I need to but do it kindly and gently. I don’t do badtameezy.
But all of you women out there all of you just be you and learn and indentify what works for you. Don’t be sorry about who you are!
WO: Bushra Ansari recently spoke in an interview that women in Pakistani media are specially burdened to carry this perfect happily ever after image? Do you think is that so? How do you navigate this?
AA: Yes, obviously your life is public, so you come under a lot of stress even when you want to be private about your life behind the camera, but it doesn’t work that way unfortunately. So I do agree with her to a certain extent but again I feel like you know Bushra Ansari has been working for so long and her generation of actors are more burdened than us. I feel our generation is more open and out there and ok with who we are. We have that I don’t give a crap attitude to a great extent even when we do care. But hats off to her for doing what she did for being a person on TV during the times she was. I feel now it’s become a lot easier to be who you want to be, to talk about your issues and to be accepted still for who you are. Back in the day I imagine there must have been a lot of pressure to be just perfect and happy. I agree with her. As for me I share little bit of my woes, things that I think I can talk about but I don’t share stuff that I think I shouldn’t talk about. And that’s where I draw the line. I don’t talk about it on social media or in person.
WO: Do you think there is still stigma about talking about mental health? What do you think needs to change?
AA: I think there is stigma about talking about mental health especially amongst men, hats off to the women of Pakistan who have come out and spoken you know. Nausheen Shah has spoken about it. I take whatever opportunity I find I can speak about mental health. Deepika Padukone across the border. These are big personalities and they are women who have spoken about their struggles and feelings. I think men also come under more stress to not talk about depression and to ‘be a man’ and all those things.
So I think conversations need to change. Mental health is serious issue for everybody from children to adults, men, women alike. There are some people who are the forerunners who change the narrative, who start talking about things you never thought you’d speak about. Slowly and gradually the more you start talking about it. The more acceptance you find, acknowledging that you might be struggling with your mental wellbeing and getting the right kind of help and not being embarrassed by it, are the first thing that needs to change for mental health issues to become more acceptable health hazard than they are at this point in time
WO: Topics like Feminism, MeToo and religious beliefs in general are very polarising issues in our society. What do you think needs to be done to steer conversations in the right direction?
AA: I think perhaps media also needs to resist becoming polarised and talk about these topics very neutrally. That is the only way to steer conversations in the right direction making sure it has everybody’s side of the story and by being neutral so there is no screaming shouting and there is constructive conversation on these issues.
WO: If I gave you $1 million to bet on the future of the Pakistani media industry, what would you bet on?
AA: I will bet on the fact that Humayun Saeed will still be the number 1 star ten years down the road because he has just been working so long and he never seems to get old or out of fashion. He always manages to remain relevant. But on a serious note I feel like I will bet on the fact that we are getting bigger and better with our subject matter and content. I think this trend is going to remain because now there is a little check and balance in the form of social media and stuff like that.
WO: What’s the one question you were hoping I wouldn’t ask you?
AA: I don’t know I don’t want to get into trouble. On a serious note I like to take on any question that you may throw at me so I could just express my stories but aisa koi particular question that I was dreading you would ask me.
WO: Lastly what is the one thing you think people should know about Anoushey going forward in 2020?
AA: One thing people should know about me going in 2020 is that I have started this year on a good note, I have shed a lot of baggage and I am looking forward to a new start, going forward in a positive direction and I don’t want to be affected by the negativity around me. These are my plans. I don’t have any career goals, or financial goals or anything like that. Just to be a better human and to be able to live a better life