Model Mushk Kaleem, whose first lesson in the fashion industry was to grow a thick skin, broke down on Tuesday after some students belittled her profession and called her talentless behind her back. Well, that alone wouldn’t be so triggering if it was the only time she had heard it.
The 27-year-old penned a note to detail the painful, lonely, long hours that go behind her day-to-day gigs and how the financial independence from it has humbled her instead. Sharing the good, bad and ugly sides of modelling, Mushk expressed her gratitude for the life her strenuous job has allowed her to live.
Sharing screenshots from her notes app on Facebook, the two-time LSA award winner recalled, “I was shooting at Punjab Library yesterday and could hear this student in the background say, ‘yeh kaam kitna asaan hai, koi mehnat hi nahi karni parti [this work is so easy, she doesn’t have to work hard at all.]’ His friend replied, ‘mehnat toh kiya, kisi hunar ki bhi zaroorat nahi hai [Leave hard work, you don’t even need any skill/talent for this.]”
She said she wished her job was “as easy as people think it is.” Pondering over why the particular statement bothered her so much when it isn’t even the “worst thing” she had heard about her profession, she added, “when I was on my way back to my hotel room, with ears bleeding and swollen from wearing heavy jewellery in the sun, and arms scratched from wearing embellished clothes and toenails broken from shoes a tad too tight, I could feel the waterworks begin.” The reason behind the tears, you ask? “Maybe it was the 10-hour work shift or the fact that I was underslept and overworked, or that my scalp was throbbing from the twenty bobby pins in my hair or that I was actually, genuinely hurt by what I had heard,” she wrote.
A bad day like this isn’t an anomaly for Mushk. She went on to add that she really wished people knew better than to comment on how she “just takes pictures for a living.” Adding to the list of things people do not see behind the “perfect shots”, she spoke about biting their teeth when shooting lawn in temperatures as low as 4 degrees to coming home to silent hotel rooms after 15-hour long shifts.
However, she emphasised that her rant isn’t a complaint against the industry—and the note soon gets better. Mushk went on with another anecdote that resonated with her despite the horror of it. “This one time, right before an award show, a model was asked how you would describe a model? And she said, a hanger.” Although taken aback by the thought, Mushk was familiar with her answer given how they’re treated at merciless fashion shows where outfits are being fixed on them, their hair tugged and makeup changed within minutes before the show begins.
But like every employee at work, she also got used to client calls at ungodly hours, the frequent travels, chasing clients for money, the less-than-four-hour sleep schedule, the constant body shaming, the suggestions for teeth/lip jobs and whatnot. Still, she wanted everyone to know that “just because you get used to hearing unpleasant remarks, doesn’t mean it stops hurting.”
After almost five years in the modelling industry, Mushk knows she loves what she does. She’s not ashamed of it but rather grateful for the opportunities it has provided her. While it sounds terrible, she says “there’s yin to this yang.”
“If being in this industry isnt humbling you, you’re doing something wrong. Because if anything, this profession has made so many dreams come true for so many people around me,” she wrote. Mushk continued to list the things she has been able to afford through the financial independence her job gives her. “It allowed me to get my first car, to visualise buying my own place, to treating my loved ones to good things in life, to having people show love when they recognise you, to looking at my savings and knowing that I can afford my own wedding, to finally treating myself to a good vacation, or a small spa date, or even knowing that I have the means to make possible the dreams that I wouldn’t even dare to dream before.”
The rather tough day of criticising hurtful statements became a day of gratitude for Mushk who realised the numerous blessings her work and dedication has given her. “There’s so much to be thankful for in life and I guess, criticism works in funny ways. It made me realise that I have a lot of blessings to count. Alhamdulillah for everything,” she concluded.