Areeba Habib - Empress Of The Fashion Runway

She holds a superpower, and bringing it to light doesn’t need much effort. Meet her and the first thing which you spot is? A beam, a smile that isn’t forced. In the fashionista’s own words, “Because of it (smile) I haven’t been scolded by my folks; wherever I go, I end up making friends from make-up artists to helpers,” Areeba Habib, the 25-year-old diva of the fashion world shares.

Her venture into the glamorous sphere was nothing short of a lucky stroke. Indulged in a hearty high tea session with her family, Areeba was asked if she was willing to audition. “When I found out that it was an audition for modelling, I immediately refused, but it was my brother who persuaded me to give it a try,” Areeba recalls the moment that soon defined her career.

This lady from the fashion block was always full of pep, yet she knew all along that she wanted to associate herself with the flashy world, after all her sophistication in style was engraved since she was 11. “I was 11 or 12 when I used to tell my mother and brothers what goes well with the dress they were wearing. I shared ideas with them on how to drape, or how to carry a dress better,” says the workaholic who always wanted to be a model.

Starting off at the age of 21, this self-taught girl is always open to learning. “Fashion TV is what I watch mostly and that helps me learn,” says this “Mama’s girl”. As she comes for her photo shoot, a tote bag and a carry-on is what accompany her. This styler of sorts likes her things uncluttered. Asking about her essentials, Areeba lets me in on her pick of the litter. “Denim, sneakers, and not to forget, accessories! I feel incomplete without accessories,” she speaks as she ties her shoelaces around her all-time favourite coloured pair. “A white Adidas pair is what I’ve liked always,” she makes it known.

Being associated with an industry that has been showered with stereotypes, unfortunately, Areeba imparts that the backing she has received from her family is unparallel. “My father, mother, brothers and sisters are all extremely supportive,” the youngest of four sisters utters, talking about the strong bond that she shares with her family. As for the relatives, she has a different take. “Oh, relatives!” and a gasp followed which was enough to understand her fit of pique, but she immediately came up saying, “Bad and good vibes follow accordingly, but when I have a strong connection with my family, I don’t need anyone’s vibes.”

Mostly referred to as “bubbly” and “cute”, ask her the first time she walked the ramp and a fond memory waits for her to snap the bubble.

“It was my first show at Golf Club and one of my shoes came off. I took the other one off too and continued walking, as the audience cheered while laughing,” now, too, the memory spreads a big grin on her façade.

Steering through the world that oozes aesthetics amidst all shine and the razzle-dazzle, Areeba used to collect clippings whenever a photograph of hers was published. “I used to buy a copy of the publication and kept the piece safe. When my first billboard was up, I went all decked up and took selfies with it,” she voices as she chuckles out loud.

The audiences throng to fashion events, waiting to note down the season’s fads, soon to scale up the bandwagon. The dynamics of the modelling world aren’t as glorious, for the eyes only come across a small fry from the world of big fishes. “In Pakistan, there is no future for modelling. Here, people do not take models seriously which is not the case abroad,” Areeba says, adding, “that is why I have done my graduation from Asian Institute of Fashion Design to start my own label once I retire.”

With time on the loose between changing looks, when asked what happens backstage, Areeba sheds light on the rush. “Don’t ask! With only a minute or two for the next look, at times we only have 30 seconds to change the dress, hair, shoes and jewellery!”

According to her mommy, the world which Areeba is associated with, showbiz, is “all but show bazi. My Amma, at times talks about the odd workings of this field. To the viewers we are all prim and glossy stars, but what we are in real is only known to our families,” she talks about how issues at home at times have their minds occupied or heads aching, but when on the ramp, “the levels of stress need not be showed, for it’s a different world and you need to be your best.”

If she were to verbally sketch what ‘modelling’ is, according to the glam-princess, it is a “short life in a very short time, with fame and glam attached to it. It’s living luxury; for a model, good shoes, clothes, bags are a need.”

With a constant pressure due to the rising competition, especially in this field of work, more often than not, the levels of thrust make those associated to the field succumb to the ill-famed ways.

“Models damage their image very easily because on the fashion runway, you have to be your best with all the worries left behind,” Areeba expresses, as she compares her line of work to that of the acting cosmos. “An actor becomes a daughter, wife, daughter-in-law and then a mother and as she evolves, people respect her. In modelling, the more senior you are, people start hating you for fresh, young faces are what the designers and audiences want,” she opines about the short life of a model, which she deems is between “10-15 years maximum”.

To say our chat was at its candid prime wouldn’t be incorrect.

Enjoying the playlist in the backdrop, to keeping a check on behind-the-scenes and frequent laughing jam sessions, Areeba is a peppy soul who lives life to the fullest. And she has been this way since her childhood. “I was a naughty, badmash kind of a kid who was suspended from school twice,” and putting to words an incident makes her pause to catch her breath for hysteria had enveloped her. “Once, we returned from the game period when I handed a glass of water to this classmate of mine. I filled up water from a dustbin that was kept right under the water cooler. When my friend found out that the water was from there, she broke the glass and was raging with fury,” Areeba shares the tale, as the recollection spreads a bout of sparkle in her eyes and a smirk lingers. Did she put her superpower to use? “Oh! I’m still friends with her,” she adds. “The next day the principal called my father but that was to no avail as my father told him that ‘if kids don’t do such acts, would you and I look nice carrying them out?’ leaving the principal speechless.”

A store of nicknames are in for her. She is “Areebs, Reebs, Areebiya, Pink Panther”, each called by either of her family members.

Looped with the fashion marble, being fit is what she needs to be. “I eat a lot, but I also walk a lot. I run every day, but not on the treadmill as it casues knee issues.

Having a set playlist, I work out accordingly,” Areeba shares from her fitness book.

The charm of her magnetic world, can be spruced if “unity” prevails. “Our industry lacks behind because there is no unity amongst us. If one person hears a rumour, they make it a point to share it with four more. Not only this, but at times another model on the ramp pushes you or steps on your clothes just to ruin the finale,” and the not-so-charming side of the opulent industry comes across for jealousy reeks through.

A shopaholic through and through, Areeba indulges in the activity quite often. “I waste money a lot on shoes, bags and clothes!” Of course for those who would want to know what fills her wardrobe, she makes it known: Topshop, Forever 21, Zara - looking at their pieces makes me feel like they’re for me,” as she reveals, she also hints her personal favourite designer, Valentino. And she wouldn’t mind receiving presents of the label, by her mom, sisters or boyfriend.

The present line of models aren’t from whom she draws her inspiration as she puts it: “the current line-up do not have ‘current’ in them.” However, Bibi, Zoella and Aliya Zaidi are a few who she admires.

A lover of desi cuisine, “nihari and biryani” rule her list of top dishes. As for her culinary skills, she is quite confident. “Yes, I’m a good cook for my mother says so.”

Fashion weeks hold a special place for Areeba’s friends. “My mom sends in food during all three days and this has been a routine since the past three years. Even my friends, Cybil, Nooray, Rubya and Sunita are fond of the dishes and keep asking me if food is coming in.” Not to miss are the cherries on top. For along with the food, chocolate cupcakes are what these glam queens stuff on.

Areeba is clear on one thing. She doesn’t want to venture into acting as yet. “I would love to act and have received offers too, but I don’t want to do everything all in one go, making a tamasha out of myself. I want to make a name in modelling and then decide if I want to try acting or not. Recently, I have received a script for a movie which for now I’m going through but I haven’t decided yet if I’ll take up the venture or not.”

A joyous being, Areeba believes in living life as it comes. Spotting a macaw on a nearby treetop, she steps forward handing out a Marie biscuit to the striking creature which readily clasped its claws around her arm. And soon her facial expressions are what spoke of her rollicking ways.

How can a subject not be asked the quintessential, yet an ever intriguing question. You must have guessed it already. “Shaadi?!” in an all squeaky tone followed by a scaled “NO!” Areeba is not settling down soon. “I think the day I decide to marry, I’ll think about the options I have. I have people around me aur main hath rakh k keh sakti hun k han tum ajao,” as she laughs out loud, she adds, “I want to establish myself for now; I take life very easy which is wrong. Even now, my mother does half the things for me and she knows everything.” From her last cup of green tea for the day to her wanting her mommy by her side during sickness, this diva of the runway is a die hard mama’s girl.

Photography: Wahaj Alley
Make-up: Mahin Nawaz @ Meher’s Salon