An inspiration for women of Pakistan, Mehreen Syed is a style icon, a diva, an exemplary entrepreneur and a female who started from humble beginnings but made it to the list of most celebrated models of Pakistan. She has been the face of L'Oreal Paris in Pakistan and is the CEO of International Fashion Academy. She has also been crowned Model of the Year with the badge of over a hundred magazine covers worldwide to her name. Having accomplished most of her goals, Mehreen is now dedicated and devoted towards empowering women of Pakistan.
Getting a chance to meet her in person, I realized that Mehreen is not just gorgeous outside but also has a wonderful soul and an awe-inspiring personality.
Mehreen has a treasure of stories to share. She started recalling her early childhood days, and said, “I have had a very simple childhood where we were taught the value of hard work and earning an honest living by our mother. I was only three when my father passed away and my mother had to raise five children on her own. It goes without saying that she is the strongest woman I have ever come across. My mother was well-educated and that has helped her a lot. Being an Advocate, she brought us up in the best way within the given means. However, it was not always sunshine and rainbows. There were some really tough times as well but she stood strong and fought through it. She has been my rock throughout and she is the one who has motivated me to succeed in every sphere of life.”
It is the postmodern era and we all have free will but it’s of great importance to convince loved ones for the steps you take as only with their blessings, you progress and succeed in life.
As the conversation progressed, Mehreen shed some light on her life as a teen and continued sharing her memories saying, “For a number of reasons, I had to take the initiative to start working at a fairly young age. I joined PIA as a stewardess, which was quite an experience in itself but in my heart I knew I was made to do something different and I am so glad I came across Athar and Shahzad. They were the guiding light for me. If it was not for them I would not have been standing where I am today. They saw the burning desire in me to achieve something special in life and these two gentlemen helped me to grow not only as model but as a human being, too.”
Knowing that a society like ours can be tough on those who choose an unorthodox field, I asked Mehreen if she ever had to face any resistance from family or friends. She replied, “Obviously, it wasn’t easy to make my family understand how the dynamics of the fashion industry have evolved. It took me a while to convince my mother and family but they yielded when they saw my ambition. I am very glad and content as now they take pride in my work.” She further added, “It is the postmodern era and we all have free will but it’s of great importance to convince loved ones for the steps you take as only with their blessings, you progress and succeed in life. On the other hand, parents these days also need to understand their daughters and trust them to make right choices in life.”
Mehreen has been happily married for six years and according to her, “Ahmed has been a true blessing for me, he is a very supportive husband and my in-laws are also respectful and appreciative of my work. The key to success in any marriage is mutual respect and shared interests.”
Mehreen is not only career oriented, she is also a dedicated and very hands-on mother. A mother of two beautiful children, Mehreen says, “Aman and Ibrahim are the crown jewel of my life. Women sometimes think their career ends when they are blessed with children. On the contrary, beauty lies in maintaining a balance between work and family. It isn’t easy but not impossible either.”
As the CEO of International Fashion Academy Pakistan (IFAP), Mehreen enlightened us about her work and stated, “When I started, there were no fashion academies for modelling in Pakistan. Some people did not understand the need of having such an academy but I got a lot of support from fashion industry as they began to understand its significance. The academy is now affiliated with the Punjab Board. Over 1700 girls have become qualified and certified in beauty and grooming, making a significant contribution in women’s education and skill development. Over 20% girls received free education and 10% were facilitated with free skill development training and education. I supported my family for years when I was younger and it is my dream to enable other women to do that for their families. I also run an NGO known as ICARE which facilitates marginalized girls and women in Pakistan. We have been doing a lot of work in the past, but last year, ICARE, IFAP, L’Oreal France Foundation and Punjab Skills Development Fund conducted ‘Beauty for a Better Life’ program, and trained 500 beneficiaries to become beauticians and lead empowered lives. Women being able to work from home and make a living is the single biggest reason why this program was chosen. I believe there’s a lot of unexplored talent in Pakistan and it’s my aim to find skilled women and give them required resources to make themselves self-sufficient”.
As our conversation came to an end, Mehreen said, “We only have one chance to live our life to the fullest, make the most of it! Be passionate and aim high. Keep your intentions pure and try to help all those you can with the means you have and observe how nature rewards you for all your deeds.” HH
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