Anoushey Ashraf Voice of a Generation

Young or old, music buff or entertainment junkie, Anoushey Ashraf is not a new name for anyone. She has the distinction of being one of the first, and undoubtedly the most loved, female VJs of this country and is seen hosting red carpets of corporate events, fashion weeks and award functions all too often. The self-proclaimed animal rights activist is about to embark on a whole new journey soon – the blushing bride-to-be will be tying the knot with long-time friend Salar Farooki. Eager to know of her plans, MAG chats up with the absolutely affable Anoushey. Excerpts:

What was young Anoushey like?

I was born in Karachi. I was a very naughty child, but I was always passionate about animal welfare. I was a perfectly average student – not exceptional but not bad either. My parents were thankfully happy with how I was. I grew up with two sisters; one a lot older than me and one a couple of years younger. I was the middle one and surprisingly very tomboyish considering I didn’t have any brothers. My equation with my sisters has been wonderful. Ever since childhood, they have been my closest friends and companions in everything that I have ever done and we still continue to be very close.

It is hard to imagine, but are there moments or situations that make you nervous?

I’m generally a very nervous person, even if that’s surprising. I get nervous every time I have to go up on stage and perform in front of people. I get anxious. I had a problem with public speaking but I overcame it over the years.
It has been a bit of a struggle but I think I’ve done well, thankfully.

Looking back, what are some of the most memorable moments you have experienced in your career? Can you recall any goof-ups?

I think it has been a memorable journey altogether. There have been some ups and downs but I had some really good times backstage with some of the biggest singers, actors and artistes this country has seen. I feel tremendously lucky to have been associated with them, as well. But I think one of the most pivotal moments was when MTV came to Pakistan and the music scene totally exploded. We rode that wave of fame and popularity; there were five concerts to host in a single night and the likes of Ali Zafar and Ali Noor were there.

There haven’t been any lows thankfully and hope there aren’t any even in the future. For me, my growth has been very slow but also without any hiccups. It has been a solid journey that I am really very proud of. I remember when my colleague had been made to wear a wig and I had gone blonde for the MTV makeover – those were hilarious times. I also remember my first dance performance on stage that made me very nervous but everyone loved it.

What qualities, in your opinion, make a great host?

A good host has to be themself. That is the best advice I can give. You have to be who you are, there is no room for putting up a drama or [being] someone that you are not. That, accompanied with a little bit of humour, confidence and just general openness to be able to communicate with anybody and hear them out as well, are the qualities that make a great host.

Your favourite project so far, and why?

My work has given me a lot of opportunities to travel, so a lot of my favourite projects have been those which took me to India or to unusual places like Bahrain. It collectively makes up for a fun experience. Two years ago I had the chance to travel to and explore Afghanistan. I made friends there and met people I never thought I would meet. These have been like milestones on a personal level.

You have also acted on and off. How has that experience been? Any particular reason why you haven’t been active in that field?

I have done very little acting, [but] whenever I’ve done it, it’s been fun and possibly a little testing because it requires a lot of patience and time. You have to be really passionate [about it] and the role has to be worth it. That hasn’t happened with me yet because I’ve established myself as a solid host that I get great hosting gigs but may be not that good acting work.

There are lots of good actors out there, it’s a very competitive field, but there are not so many good hosts, so I think I have been concentrating more on being a good TV presenter and anchor for many years instead of acting. But I don’t mind shaking things up a bit every now and then if I get the opportunity.

What is your 10-year plan?

I don’t even know what I’m doing next week! [laughs]! I don’t have a 10-year plan but if I think about it, I would love to travel as much of the world as I could possibly see, and I wish to be content and happy with my life.

What inspires you personally and professionally?

I’m really inspired by professionalism, honesty and hard work. I like people who are committed to their work and are genuine about it. Of course, you find such people in our field, but you really have to get to know them to see this side of theirs, and when you do, you find some really interesting and amazing people who inspire you everyday.

You travelled to India to meet the team at MTV there. What was that all about?

It was an amazing, eye-opening experience! I met the likes of Priyanka Chopra, Salman Khan, Irrfan Khan, and so many other actors, producers, directors and VJs. We went their for lots of interviews and everyone was really receptive and pleasantly surprised to see Pakistanis so hard at work. It was one of those life-altering experiences.

How do you deal with online bullies?

Initially, I used to reply to them but later, I realised that their names aren’t even real when they’re online, their pictures aren’t real. I mean, they might have an identity crisis, they might have a lot of issues at home, their frustration comes from somewhere. You don’t know their story. So instead of replying to hate with hate, you can just block all of this, do what you need to do and not let it affect you. It’s hard at first but it becomes really easy with time and once you get the hang of it, it’s actually a lot of fun because you continue to do what you think is right and all they can do is, perhaps, write a comment saying “you look ugly” at the bottom of your post. It doesn’t really matter.

You are deeply passionate about dogs. Where does this quality come from? Would you want to take this further someday and start a charity or shelter for them, may be?

I’ve been fond of animals since I was a child. I’d like to thank my parents for always letting me bring home a kitten or an injured puppy, or even a bird and letting me take care of it, love and nuture it. As I grew up, I got my first dog and he had been my closest and best companion for the years that he was alive. Like they say, it’s a relationship that begins and then there’s never looking back. I do want to associate myself with shelters, on an individual level, opening a shelter or charity is just not possible for me right now but I’m always ready to lend my name to a good cause.

What are the most important things you have learnt in life?

One of the most important things I’ve learnt is that time is one of the biggest healers, and patience is key. You will have good and bad days but if you take them both in your stride and don’t let them get to your head, it will pass. Always be aware of the fact that happy times don’t last forever, so don’t be fooled by them, and know that bad times don’t last forever, so don’t be saddened by them.

You also co-own a fashion label with your sister. What is the fashion philosophy behind it?

Yes, I own a clothing company with my elder sister Natasha, and it’s called Block 7. It’s our baby. We’ve worked really hard on it, and she has become the driving force behind the brand. We basically wanted to provide affordable, good quality, Western clothing to Pakistani girls.

You have travelled to quite a number of places. What are your three favourite places and why? Which destination is next on your travel list?

That’s a very difficult question to answer for a traveller. I mean, I love big cities like New York and London but I also love small places like Puerto Rico, Brussels or Hunza. So, for somebody who enjoys seeing the world and who enjoys exploring big cities, small cities, mountains, rivers – just put me in a plane and send me anywhere, it’s difficult to pick three [laughs]. It depends on what you’re looking for, what you want but I’ve always had a good experience because I’ve gone with that mindset: I’m here for five days, seven days, or 10 days, I’m not here forever, I’m going to make the most of it even if there’s nothing to do here and I will have a good time. Where do I plan to go next? Wherever the world takes me. I’m going to be travelling to Sri Lanka, I’ve just gotten back from Maldives but I’m really hoping to travel to New Zealand and South Africa in the near future.

You will be getting married soon. Congratulations! Tell me about the groom-to-be; what is he like, where did the two of you meet and what are your expectations from post-marriage life?

Salar is this wonderful soul who I met many years ago but that perhaps was not the right time for us to get together [laughs]. But now, the time is right. We’ve known each other for a very long time. He’s working in the corporate world, far away from what I do but close enough to understand the requirements of my business. He’s very humorous and we get along really well. I’m not much of a future planner, I take one step at a time, so I’m just going to take each day as it comes.

Hair & Make-up: N-Pro
Designer: Yasmin Zaman
Coordination: Umer Mushtaq
Photography: Rohail Khalid