She’s three hours late and travels with her own personal make-up artist who doubles as her confidant and friend. When she finally walked into the studio, I was a bit shocked — on television Iqra Aziz dominates the screen, but in person, she’s so petite that I had to reach out touch her to see if she was real. Apparently, it’s a reaction she gets quite often.
Her fierce energy however, more than makes up for her somewhat diminutive presence — once she starts, Iqra can talk at about 100mph. In between the interview, I would occasionally ask her to stop and … breathe.
Although on screen she appears very mature and takes on somewhat sombre characters far beyond her years, in person she looks and behaves every bit as the 20-year-old (“Almost 21!” she informs me) that she is.
We meet just as she’s returned from the Hum Awards that were held in Toronto, Canada. A lot of the actors that went with her for the show decided to stay back. Their Instagram profiles are full of photos of their escapades around North America. Having returned to Pakistan earlier than anybody else, Iqra is experiencing a serious case of FOMO — Fear of Missing Out.
She comes across as far more assured in front of the camera than in real life. But at only 20 years of age, the hot young television actress constantly feels under pressure to look perfect. The question remains, where does she go from here?
“I could’ve stayed a couple of more days,” she sighs. “The Hum Awards is actually work but it’s a party as well because you’re all together — the directors, producers, actors, the fraternity. You don’t get to meet them every day. So, I was actually having fun.”
The 20-year-old who’s having a very successful year with hit television dramas such as Khaamoshi, Tabeer and the massively popular Suno Chanda, already has six years of experience, and almost 15 television dramas, under her belt. She started her career when she was just 14-years-old.
“My mother wasn’t too excited,” she relates adding that, as a single parent, her mother’s priority was making sure that her daughters received a good education. But Iqra had made up her mind: she wanted to act. She enlisted the help of her older sister. It took a bit of extra effort to convince their mother, but in the end, she relented — as long as Iqra continued her studies on the side.
“I was nervous, but I was also confident,” says Iqra. “I felt like this was the time in my life. I need to have guts. If I lose it, this opportunity will be gone forever.” She auditioned as a television commercial (TVC) model and was signed with the talent agency Citrus.
Her first TVC was a “stop motion, so there are lesser people,” she relates. “My sister was with me. When I looked down, from the stairs, I saw the set, people and the place I had to stand and act and … I started crying.” Nerves got the better of her. But with the support of her sister, she did the TVC. And she hasn’t looked back since.
A photo of Iqra when she was around that age surfaced on the internet recently. She looks different from how she is now — she had a slight tan, eyebrows are thinner etc. The photo went viral and the internet tore her apart accusing her of artificially enhancing her appearance. Iqra waves it all off to “bad lighting, bad mobile camera and a lack of grooming.”
“When I was 15-16 when I used to look at myself in the mirror I used to think: ‘No one’s as beautiful as you’,” she says. “That was the best time of my life. If I compare that to now.. we have a lot of issues with our appearance — do our accessories match? What about our eyebrows, mascara, tint, lipstick, etc.? When people see you outside, what will they think? Back then, I didn’t care what anyone thought. I just felt pretty.”
Is it because, as a relative unknown back then, she didn’t have that many people commenting on her appearance, as she does now? “It’s this thing you feel within yourself,” she confesses quietly. “Comments tau uss waqt bhi aatey thay [Comments were made at that time too].”
But that’s not the only time this social media-savvy millennial has gotten backlash online. Earlier this year, she posted photos of herself in a halter-neck top while on vacation abroad with her sister. The internet morality brigade wasted no time in attacking her. Iqra’s response: instead of backing down, she simply posted another photo of herself, this time in a pool, with her back to the camera (and, presumably, her haters).