"I am a proud Baloch"

August 14, 2016

Hasnain Lehri, fashion’s male model of the moment, talks about being part of a sidelined community, struggling to make it big in fashion and what the future holds for him

instep interview

Dressed impeccably in a crisp white cotton shirt, blue jeans and metallic slippers, Hasnain Lehri arrives half an hour late to our meeting. I can see him rushing inside, which proves to me that he already feels bad about being late and this isn’t some diva behavior. Two minutes later, he is still apologizing profusely. Where Lehri lacks in punctuality, he makes up for with his personality. He is eager to talk about everything it seems, and immediately gets comfortable talking about some very serious matters.

Having recently won a Lux Style Award for Best Male Model of the year, Lehri left the audience wondering about his life story when he received the award and announced on stage that being a Baloch, he had to struggle a lot to become a model. Which brings us to the question: who is Hasnain Lehri, and what’s his story?

"I’m a proud Baloch," he exclaims, looking quite proud of his parentage. His father is the Sardar of the Lehri tribe that resides in Quetta. It indeed is a trying time for the Baloch, keeping in mind the recent bombing in Quetta that took the lives of nearly 70 people this week. "This is not just a blow to the Baloch community. It’s a blow to all humanity," Lehri is quick to correct me, but it does seem that the Baloch are the ones bearing the brunt of the tragedy, as Lehri laments, the Quetta blast is not being given the same attention and urgency that tragedies of other provinces are usually given. "My father’s lawyer was killed in the blast. Even our lawyer’s son died."

This discrimination exists in the entertainment world as well. Lehri points out how Baloch culture isn’t represented properly on television or in films. "In TV dramas, I notice how they show Punjabi Sardars and their households and it amuses me because the life they show on TV is actually Baloch tradition, and not Punjabi. They borrow our culture and lifestyle but don’t give us credit." But Lehri claims that the Baloch don’t want TV dramas based on them, or more media attention. "We want love and appreciation. We are also a part of Pakistan!"

One can’t help but wonder; a man with such strong roots in Balochi tradition, how did he end up becoming a model? A big smile spreads across his face. "My family is made of businessmen and accountants, so naturally, my family was against me choosing this line of work." Eventually he entered the industry and his parents were even more upset that he wasn’t bringing any money either. "Modeling cannot be any male model’s bread and butter because we just aren’t paid that much," therefore his family couldn’t understand why he was putting in all the hours but not getting any returns. "They just didn’t understand that I love this work. I love this art form."

But why can’t modeling be a male model’s bread and butter? "I would advise every male model to take this as a hobby, because there isn’t much money in this field." On the contrary, female models are paid much higher wages as compared to men. How come the men don’t protest? "Because male models are so desperate for work, they will say ‘let me do this project for even lesser money.’" How does Lehri steer clear of this greed? "To be honest, I’m not doing this for money. I already come from a very rich family. Money can’t buy me," which clearly proves that Lehri truly does enjoy his work.

Being a model, male or female, requires a strict diet, and I’m not surprised when he orders a quinoa salad and black coffee for lunch. Lehri takes his work, and therefore his body, seriously. "I like to eat food that is not overcooked, so my food choice isn’t only because I’m a model." Though Lehri adds that he did indeed lose weight when he started modeling, clearly an anomaly, as male models in Pakistan tend to bulk up to make their place in the industry. "We aren’t WWE wrestlers, we are models!" In order to keep up with international standards, Lehri believes that even male models must maintain a lean and svelte physique as it brings more diversity. "The clothes should fit properly. They shouldn’t always look like they’re about to rip!" Lehri proudly adds that he is probably the skinniest male model around, and the industry appreciates that as well.

But it wasn’t all fun and games for this model, who faced his fair share of trouble when entering the industry. Speaking of the casting couch, Lehri explained how hard work helped him steer clear of having to use any such means to make it big. Is there even a casting couch? "This industry is like the earth, it has three different layers. The top layer is all the beauty that you see, all the good people doing good work. At the bottom there is that dark layer where things aren’t so great." Upon asking how it feels to see other people succeed through unfair means, he says, "I can live with myself and my decisions. At the end of the day, when I look in the mirror, I don’t feel ashamed."

Many senior models even bullied him in the beginning, "I was told I’m ugly and will never become a model. One model even told me during a show that people were laughing at me when I was walking on the ramp. I know that wasn’t true." He remembers this incident with a laugh, as he recalls how he went running to Abdullah Harris, "the man who has made me what I am today. He taught me everything I know about modeling." It was in these bad times where Harris became Lehri’s strength and assured him "You will make it big one day."

Despite all this, Lehri exclaims, "I love this industry! It has given me so much respect and love!" And love is definitely what he has received; he is the industry’s go-to man for every major fashion campaign. Lehri has successfully associated himself with all the A-list brands, such as Sapphire, Elan, HSY, Ali Xeeshan and the likes. "I keep myself very exclusive and only work with the best brands. I don’t focus on the money, I only focus on quality." This attitude explains how he has made his mark in a short span of two years in the modeling world and he has plans for more.

"I want to try my hand at acting," he admits, concluding our chat, "but only once I’ve received proper training and have taken acting classes. Many people do on-screen experimenting and that’s how they learn acting. I’m a perfectionist and will do this the right way."

- This interview is an expansion of a recent story published in  www.somethinghaute.com

"I am a proud Baloch"