Veet has long been endeavouring to celebrate beauty in Pakistan. But to make a lasting impression, the efforts had to go beyond being merely skin-deep. This wasn’t always achieved.
In 2016, the brand aimed to redeem itself to some extent by moving towards a new format. At the grand finale for its Miss Veet competition held at Mohatta Palace in Karachi this week, contestants from across Pakistan took the stage to find out who the ultimate winner would be — a winner who would embody the 'complete woman' rather than just someone with good bone structure.
The show was more or less entertaining, featuring performances by Ali Zafar, Mawra Hocane and more.
One has to give Veet credit for being consistent, for, regardless of success, failure and an obsession with the colour pink, it has persistently continued launching into different projects.
But why are they doing this now?
A journey in pink
Veet's fashion shows, initiated some 11 odd years ago, were presumably organised in an effort to associate with glamour. The predominantly pink designer capsules were not always fashion forward but they did get Veet noticed by the public eye.
Similarly, when the brand chose to dole out beauty awards in 2013, they did so via a lavish ceremony which didn’t really set any precedents in the realms of beauty. It did, however, generate plenty of media mileage.
Most significantly, six years ago, the Veet Top Model reality show was launched, undertaking the harrowing task of grooming and mentoring ‘top models’. It was an ambitious cause to take up, especially considering the dearth of models in the burgeoning fashion industry.
In the past, the show floundered. While introducing some prominent names in modeling today – Sadaf Kanwal, Saima Azhar, Sana Sarfaraz and Areeba Habib come to mind – the show adopted a cookie-cutter tendency to deliver a profusion of girls who barely made an impression.
Somewhere along the way, though, the show floundered, plummeting towards the downright shoddy. While introducing some prominent names in modeling today – Sadaf Kanwal, Saima Azhar, Sana Sarfaraz and Areeba Habib come to mind – the show adopted a cookie-cutter tendency to deliver a profusion of girls who barely made an impression.
Fast-forwarding to present times, it is no longer enough to put together fashion and models and expect the audience to be enthralled.
In this age of social media, we have our fill of glamour on a daily basis and most of us have seen enough fashion weeks via Instagram to become veritable experts. Yet another quest for a fumbling bumbling so-called ‘supermodel’ wouldn’t have made us bat our eyelids.
And a finale event, even if it featured a pink Mohatta Palace for shock value, would have had been just another show in the many that fill up the year in entertainment.
Fortunately, the brand realised this and chose to re-route towards slightly more cerebral ambitions.
A new purpose
“The show is no longer restricted to modeling,” emphasised Fahad Ashraf at a pre-finale lunch, the Marketing Director of Reckitt Benckiser. “Instead, we have focused on how every woman needs to be comfortable in her own skin. More than anything else, we have advocated the importance of confidence in a woman which allows her to avail the same opportunities that are available to men.”
"The girls hailed from very diverse backgrounds; one of them was a kick-boxer, another was a teacher, some came from smaller cities while others were from the country’s urban centers. They all came with their baggage and we tried to help them overcome society taboos and restrictions and recognize the importance of their own individual persona," says Fahad Ashraf, Marketing Director of Reckitt Benckiser.
“The 12 finalists shortlisted for the show were tested through different character-building challenges. They were guided on how to speak and act in a professional environment and how to develop their image in the public eye. The girls hailed from very diverse backgrounds; one of them was a kick-boxer, another was a teacher, some came from smaller cities while others were from the country’s urban centers. They all came with their baggage and we tried to help them overcome society taboos and restrictions and recognize the importance of their own individual persona,” he added.
But was this purpose executed well?
These are certainly very altruistic aims but based on the show itself, a number of loopholes could immediately be pinpointed.
If the show’s objective was mainly to inspire confidence why, then, were there no plus-size girls amongst the shortlisted 12? Although there were contenders who could be considered big-boned, the girls generally tended to fulfill the svelte, somewhat tall requirements for the desi fashion model.
Also, given the show’s lofty plans, couldn’t the judges have had been more varied? While two of the judges were actresses Aisha Khan and Aamina Sheikh, the other two, model Fayezah Ansari and photographer Tapu Javeri, are fashion stalwarts. This particularly alluded that the show was still mainly centered around modeling rather than having a more generalized aim towards confidence-building.
“Most of the girls who came to the auditions were still under the impression that we were having a modeling contest,” explains Fahad. “It’s why they were generally thin and tall. Now that we have completed the season, we hope that the audience has realized that we are no longer searching out just models. Next year, I hope to see a more mixed crowd at our auditions.”
“Moreover, our judges needed to be famous faces with a certain amount of career experience and finesse. Ultimately, in Pakistan, a large contingent of celebrities work in the fashion industry. Despite their backgrounds, all our judges were primarily guiding the girls on how to rise above the ordinary. Modeling, we believe, does help in building confidence but it only played a minimal part in the overall format.”
It did make the show confusing, at times. Cases in point: the photo shoot challenge, the inclusion of designer Fahad Hussayn as a ‘guest’ judge and the occasional references on how to ‘walk right’.
Much more relevant – and entertaining – were other episodes that had the girls attempting outdoor physical challenges in picturesque Sri Lanka, taking on acting, trying to market a product, embarking on scavenger hunts and working on CSR initiatives.
“We consider this our first year with this new format. It will take time for the show to get completely sorted,” promises Fahad.
Reaching out to Pakistan
Driving home the brand’s all-new mission to inspire the Pakistani woman to take on the world was the announcement of an Internet-based, free-of-cost Veet Academy.
Online courses will soon be available to anyone who is interested provided by five mentors: Sarwat Gillani providing guidelines on confidence, Aamina Sheikh advising on intelligence, Hareem Farooq focusing on fitness, Sidra Iqbal helping out with communication skills and Masarrat Misbah talking about charm. The courses will all be in Urdu and once an online viewer completes a certain number of credit hours, she will be awarded a certificate.
In an effort to raise awareness about the academy, the currently crowned Miss Veet 2016 will be visiting mainstream schools and colleges and talking to young girls. “We are targeting an initial audience of 1 million girls,” predicts Fahad. Should the project work out, the brand will also be inadvertently creating better content for their next tryst on TV: the academy’s online recipients, who may be inclined to audition, will possibly be better groomed than their predecessors.
It remains to be seen, though, whether the project manages to work out.
The show has improved but it is far from stellar. The contestants this time certainly looked better than those from previous seasons. Sadly, they still weren’t able to talk with the polish and wit that we assume Veet hopes to instill in its go-getters. They faltered through the simplest questions although they did dance well – a skill that’s great for a career in fashion or entertainment but not too helpful otherwise.
The finale was high on celebrity content and Ali Zafar and Mawra Hocane’s acts were definite highlights. It would have been even better had it been snappier and better scripted.
But Veet, fumbling and faltering for all those years, may just be getting there now. The online academy particularly indicates an eagerness to take things forward.
We live in times when a platform dedicated to women needs to look beyond surface glamour. It’s good to see a major corporate entity recognize this. Now, it needs to follow through with its plans.