Being Ayyan

She’s one of the most recognised faces and hardest working models in the world. Ayyan opens up to Momtaz Begum-Hossain about life behind the camera.

Posted: 08.10.13

Headstrong, focused and fearless. International supermodel Ayyan epitomises the qualities of a contemporary role model. Her unique looks, professional attitude and commitment to her art have landed her over 400 cover shoots. As well as recently appearing as the showstopper at the Asiana Couture Catwalk in London, Ayyan has fronted campaigns in 25 different countries, appeared in over 1500 print campaigns and 20 commercials; having only recently turned 20, these successes are still just the beginning of her incredible journey.

I meet Ayyan in her favourite hotel where she insists we head to the bar to sip on her mocktail of preference flavoured with passion fruit and rosehip. She confesses her weakness for the concoction, though for me it’s a tad too sharp. I wasn’t sure what to expect while I was waiting for her. A high-flying millionairess model is bound to have expectations and quite frankly I wasn’t sure how she would find anything I had to say remotely interesting. After all, she’s seen the world, mingled with royals and is the face of infinite global brands including Honda, Magnum, Samsung and Sunsilk; could I really excite her? I need not have worried; Ayyan alleviated my fears the minute we met with her warm smile and enthusiasm for being in my company.
In fact it’s a rare treat to have her all to myself: she is a girl in demand.

Ayyan reveals: ‘I shoot back-to-back most days. Then I’m off travelling to my next destination. I don’t have down time. I’m a workaholic.’ The first thing that strikes me is how on earth she can handle jet-setting alone all the time? She holds up her phone. ‘I talk to my mum every day!’ She continues: ‘I’ve always been independent. At the age of 11 I was planning my own vacations. I landed my first modelling assignment when I was 14, and for that I had to pack my bags and go.’
So how did Ayyan land that first lucrative job?

Time and place was key. Ayyan explains: ‘It was the summer holidays and I was at a party. The CEO of a major brand spotted me and his wife came over, commented on my height and asked if I’d ever considered modelling. Obviously I hadn’t! I always thought I’d work in a scientific job. Even as a teenager I was good at maths, chemistry and biology. I didn’t think much about it then on a whim I called her back and the next day I was booked. It could have been any job, but it ended up being a huge campaign that saw me plastered all over billboards.’

Born in Dubai but of Pakistani heritage, Ayyan has a soft youthful complexion with a cute doll like charm. Her perfect figure, teamed with her individual sense of styling has made her a global icon, specifically for younger fans, many of whom have followed her fairytale story. So how does it feel to be known by fans in pretty much every country in the world? Ayyan admits: ‘Everywhere I go people welcome me. I’ve even turned up at airports and the customs officials have recognised me, which is nice because they have a reputation for being stern and strict, but actually they are normal people!’ Then again it may not just be her stunning looks that got her noticed on that occasion. On Ayyan’s passport and in fact all her legal documentation, Ayyan is known simply as Ayyan. She doesn’t have a surname; her brand is based on one word that translates as ‘god’s gift’, the revered nature of which she takes very seriously.

Throughout much of our conversation, Ayyan expresses her appreciation for god, thanking him for all the goodness in her life. She’s quick to assign much of her success to having divine support from above. She says: ‘Inshallah I know that god has blessed me with this life, just as he gives it he can easily take it away, so I don’t take advantage of it. I don’t drink, or smoke or take drugs. You won’t see me at parties or even socialising with men. I believe in just one love, there is someone out there for me who I will meet when the time is right.’

Ayyan clearly has her head screwed on and she’s well versed in making judgements. She admits that most of the people she socialises with are the clients who book her, most of who are aged over 40 and perhaps this explains why she is so professional in her poise and mannerisms. When working she’s very hands on. Rather than leaving stylists and photographers to do all the work, she likes to add her own input. Most importantly to ensure that shots meet her standards. Ayyan explains: ‘Some people see me modelling short skirts for high fashion campaigns and assume that’s the real Ayyan, but I always say to these people, it’s my job. I get paid to do it. She continues: ‘Nothing matters to me more than self-respect and quality. There is a huge difference between looking sexy and vulgar. Sexy is good, vulgar is bad, but it’s all about how you wear it; the model ensures which of the two a shot looks like and I only aim for the stylish and sexy!’

Accolades under Ayyan’s belts include Best Model at the Pakistan Media Awards and the US Consulate General on Women’s Day. She was also awarded the title Face Of Pakistan in New Delhi. She’s also starred in television adverts and of course, film offers are rife. But she’s not going to rush into anything. Despite modelling full-time from the age of 16 she decided not to push the international status until she reached 20, but now she feels ready to take on the next big steps, fuelled by her own personal goals. She confesses: ‘It’s easy to be a model but not easy to be a supermodel and stay at the top, but I’ve managed it for the last five years. Every January I make plans. I don’t tell anyone what they are but I make a list and then one by one I tick them off and that’s when I know I am achieving everything I was born to do. I don’t do any of this for money, but in this career I have earned a lot of it, along with fame and respect so I couldn’t ask for anything more.’

And with that dinner arrives. I’m pleased to let you all know that Ayyan does eat and she’s opted for a creamy dressing, which gives us all hope. But more than that, I can’t believe I’m in the presence of a young woman who is so passionate, philosophical and inspiring. Her positivity rubs off on me to the point I’m feeling that if this down-to-earth girl can make all her dreams come true, so can I.

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