It’s refreshing to come across a showbiz personality who is not obsessed or consumed by the desire to conform to the dictates of fashion, or doll up in designer garb simply because it is expected of someone of her stature. A familiar face at red carpet events, Anoushey Ashraf is one celebrity who likes to remain down-to-earth.
“I’m more bohemian than anything else. When I host red carpet events and designers dress me up, later I wonder why on earth I wore what I did, or why I didn’t bother to do my hair. I sometimes wish I was a little more hands-on. I see my friends always being particular about, and putting a lot of thought into the way they do their hair, accessorise and so on. I just can’t be bothered by all that!
"I’m very happy this way and the way I look at it, I have a good career and make enough money, so I don’t have the ambition to prove a point. That has never been my agenda.”
Anoushey Ashraf, Mahira Khan, Urwa Hocane and Waqar initially launched themselves as VJs on MTV what seems like eons ago. But one wonders why there has been relative stagnation on that front, with no fresh talent coming in.
Ashraf lets out a deep sigh, “It’s because music channels didn’t survive the stifling situation created for the music industry. All these people you mention had launched themselves as VJs when Indus Music and MTV were flourishing, concerts were popular and music videos were being made, but all that came to a halt and VJs and RJs were no longer regarded as ‘cool’.
"Subsequently, the drama industry took off; everyone started to move on to acting as that gave them the exposure they needed. Sadly VJ-ing never evolved here and died a premature death. There are VJs even now, but no one really knows them — after all how many music channels do viewers watch these days?”
Anoushey Ashraf treads a different path from the rest of her showbiz peers but she says she is happy with her lot in life
How Anoushey survived the stifling climate as a host and still didn’t move on to the greener pastures of acting is a query that comes naturally. To date she has only one play to her credit, that too for PTV.
“Yes, I don’t know how I stuck it out! I did the one play very half-heartedly. While everyone else started to gravitate towards acting, I got offers for hosting whether they were television shows, events, series or what have you. I never had the time to concentrate on anything else and never considered acting a priority. People keep asking me if I regret that now as you have to be an actor to be regarded as a super-level celeb but I’m happy with my lot. Perhaps, I’m just lazy and not really pushed enough to pursue a career in acting!”
Even today, when she is offered a serial she makes some excuse or the other to bail out, she admits. “Sometimes I use travelling to India as an excuse otherwise it’s the shows; there’s always something more urgent happening to keep me from acting.”
Although she did try her hand initially at ramp modeling, she says, “I never really quite understood the concept of walking and posing; I look constipated on the runway and always feel I can’t carry someone else’s clothes properly. I am very self-conscious and lack confidence, and wish sometimes that I could be like all those other people who have made it big either as a model or as an actor, without having anything much going in their favour except confidence.
"But I don’t like to venture much from my comfort zone which is hosting, although I do realise one should diversify one’s portfolio. I’ve done a lot of digital campaigns, though and I’m fine with those.”
The one thing Ashraf seems to have consistently done over these past three years is hosting a morning show. Says she, “It’s for a small network but the one thing they are dedicated about is giving health and lifestyle awareness to their viewers. I’ve learnt a lot from them. My show is not about hosting weddings first thing in the morning, or black magic; we just hold some great discussions with our guests and try and impart knowledge to them on various issues such as on breast cancer awareness.
"We do intelligent shows on social issues, and even if we focus on commercial things like weddings, we accompany it with intelligent conversation. It may not have mass appeal but when educated people come up to me and mention the show, it feels good.”
“When I host red carpet events and designers dress me up, later I wonder why on earth I wore what I did, or why I didn’t bother to do my hair. I just can’t be bothered by all that! That has never been my agenda.”
Ashraf is running a clothing brand by the name of Block Seven in partnership with her sister. Considering one doesn’t hear too much about it, she confesses, “Both of us keep so busy that we haven’t really been able to give it much time. We put up regular exhibitions at multi-brand stores with the next one in February. It’s a fun venture, which is living but not growing at this point. Maybe when we have more time, we’ll be able to make it flourish.”
Does Anoushey have marriage on the cards? She laughs, “Well, marriage is on the cards when I meet someone worth marrying or who is worthy of me. It will happen when it is meant to happen. I have been open to marriage for a while now, and never thought I was too picky, but maybe Karachi just doesn’t have enough nice guys! Some people have an inherent fear of settling down, and I think I am one of them.”
For the time being, Ashraf has enough on her plate to keep her busy. She is doing a travelogue for the channel in collaboration with an Afghani channel, Tuloo, and by the time this goes into print she will have returned from having recorded the show.
She muses, “I love to do such shows but it’s always difficult to sell the concept here; however, Tuloo has already done four seasons; this season their host had come to Pakistan and I co-hosted the shows with him and took him to Lahore, Karachi and Islamabad. So the concept is that now I am his guest and travelling in his country and projecting that side of it that people normally don’t see of it. I would love to take this concept forward and host some travel shows in Pakistan too.”
With the security situation constantly improving in the country and more and more people daring to travel in Pakistan, Anoushey just might get her wish. So when tourism does become a booming industry here, perhaps the talented Ashraf could do travel shows and fulfill her dreams, as well as educate Pakistanis about the hidden treasures that this country has to offer.
Published in Dawn, Sunday Magazine, December 13th, 2015