• 21 Apr - 27 Apr, 2018
  • Attiya Abbass
  • Interview

The first time I spotted Fatima Zara Mallick, was on the runway for fall’s Fashion Pakistan Week last year. Amongst the scores of skinny, size-zero models who pranced the ramp, it was Fatima’s firm, sinewy and awe-inspiring presence that everybody had eyes for. She stood out, almost effortlessly. The model and fitness trainer inadvertently busted the myth of ‘skinny is beautiful’, right there on the runway for me and for many more. A year later, now as I interview her, I feel her strength, beauty and positivity relay through her carefully chosen words. For Fatima, fitness training is the profession she was destined to opt for. After spending six years in Italy pursuing her education and then turning down a coveted opportunity to work under Frida Gianini for Gucci, she finally finds her way back to her home country to head her own fitness boutique, which has quickly amassed a massive clientele.

Please tell us about your education and your return to Pakistan.

I did my BA in Art History from the American University of Rome, followed by a Masters in Fashion Marketing and Branding from Polimoda in Florence, Italy. I moved back to Pakistan two years ago and since then, I have been involved in a series of ventures.

As you have studied fashion marketing and branding, why did not you try pursuing fashion field?

When I moved back, I immediately started fashion consulting with some of the best fashion houses in Pakistan. However, I quickly grew disillusioned with the local fashion scene. There is a lot of unprofessionalism and too much plagiarism.

How did it all begin then, the fitness venture?

While doing my fashion consultancies, I started holding fitness classes and that’s when I found my true calling in life. In the beginning I was just holding free classes at my house for friends and family but the response I got was phenomenal. While in Italy, I had done my basic personal training certification as a hobby because I wanted to be fit myself. I had also taught dance at the Florence Dance Academy and worked as a part-time instructor at a gym. At that time, it was all about making an extra buck to support my way through fashion school. But destiny had something else in store.

Were you always a fitness enthusiast or is it something that you took on later in life?

Fitness has always been a crucial part of my life. As a child, I used to accompany my mother to the PIA Sports Complex every day! At the time, my mom was heading PIA’s fitness program and was helping the flight crew stay in shape. After school, I would spend all my time with my mom and watched her conduct a range of programs, from Yoga to Aerobics and HIIT.

She also made me learn katthak at the age of five! In my teens, I learnt belly dance in London and later on, all the Latin dances at the Florence Dance Academy. 

How was your journey into the fitness world, which led to the creation of your own fitness boutique?

I never thought I would go into fitness professionally but one thing led to another, and this was the path destiny wanted me to pursue.

Today, I have successfully done fitness courses from Italy, England, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, Australia and the UAE.

What came first for you, modelling or fitness training?

I would say both. I did my first print ad for a bank at the age of eight. Modelling is not my first career but it fits well with my idea of beauty and a healthy body image.

Pakistani models are obsessed with size-zero frames. We believe it is something encouraged by the fashion fraternity. You have chosen to be different, has that affected your modelling career in any way?

I am not size zero. When I did my first fashion shoot, I was told I was a bit muscular for the commercial market. However, now, I get many more offers and I’m applauded for being different from an average model. For me, that’s what it is all about: accepting alternate body idols and creating body diversity in fitness and fashion!

What are the most commonly asked fitness questions?

Everyone wants tips to get quick results and lose 10 pounds in 10 days. What they don’t realise is that quick fixes don’t work in the long run! Fitness requires a lifestyle change that’s why it’s hard to achieve. You need to step outside your comfort zone, and that’s when you start getting results.

The top three health and fitness tips you give to people at large?

• Workout at least three times a week for the rest of your life!

• Throw out all processed foods (anything that comes in a box with labels on it).

• Don’t beat yourself up if you do over indulge occasionally. We can’t eat 100 per cent clean all the time. Set realistic goals and stay true to yourself.

A lot of fitness trainers sell the idea of a size zero body. What is your stance on it?

I encourage women to be strong; mentally, emotionally and physically. At my fitness boutique, we train them to become Amazons: if you constantly push your limits at the gym, you eventually get addicted to the process and that’s when the magic happens. I have actresses and socialites who ask me to make them thinner because they feel unhappy every time they look into the mirror.

To me, fitness is all about feeling good in your skin, being able to constantly surpass your limits at the gym and therefore, feeling stronger in mind and body. It is not about fitting into a particular dress size! It is about exploring the greatness your body is capable of at the gym. Aesthetic goals are always secondary.

Is there someone who has served as an inspiration or driving force for you?

I think, my mom. She has always supported me and encouraged me to pursue my dreams. And then my best friend and senior trainer Komal Malik, who is my pillar of support!

Any other fitness expert that you look up to?

Strong women like Crossfit athlete Brooke Ence and my amazing coach Fern Caver.

What are some of the prerequisites to becoming a celebrity fitness trainer?

A crazy, maddening, all-consuming passion for what you do. All my clients are celebrities for me.