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27 Aug

Real beauty and a role model

While Mehreen Syed is most famous for her well deserved supermodel status, not many people are aware of her philanthropic work and projects in Pakistan.

For the last seven years, Syed has been involved with the International Fashion Academy Pakistan (IFAP), an institution that she founded in Lahore with the intention of providing girls with vocational training relative to the fashion and beauty industries. Mehreen involved big names to sign up as visiting faculty and her efforts lent credibility to the academy. Syed then established an NGO, ICARE, that aimed to empower girls from underprivileged backgrounds, by teaching them hair and makeup as well as helping them clear exams from the Punjab Board. While she had been managing all this single handedly, she decided it was time to step up and involve a brand that would help her empower even more young girls.

In came L’Oreal, who collaborated with Syed this year, helping 10 lucky girls graduate with L’Oreal certified degrees in makeup and styling that is acceptable everywhere in the world. This means that these girls are now free to join the workforce, and aren’t only restricted to working in Pakistan, but can also aim to work abroad as well.

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“The idea was to empower women with a skill that they can use to work from home because most women in Pakistan aren’t allowed to leave their homes,” says Syed, wishing to help more women earn and be able to support their families. She explains how many girls come from backgrounds where they have 8 to 10 family members with no one earning or supporting them. “Some girls don’t have parents, others don’t have access to education.” With Syed’s training, many of her students are entering the workforce as beauticians and stylists at leading salons, such as Toni & Guy, while others are now becoming teachers themselves.

This cause came from Mehreen’s heart as she believes her own profession as a model gave her the opportunity to provide for her own family and household. “My mother worked very hard to raise us, and she has been my inspiration to work hard as well.” Syed adds that families run by single mothers are generally not well supported in our society. “We don’t even ask our neighbours whether they have food to eat or clothes to wear.” This is why, from a very young age, Syed knew that one day she would help in empowering other young girls to be able to provide for their families.

She rubbishes claims that fashion or beauty is only for the privileged, or is something that shouldn’t be taken seriously. “I have worked tirelessly to be where I am, I didn’t get supermodel status overnight.” Syed says she took this profession very seriously and in turn, this profession has given her a lot of respect as well. “For me this has been a serious job, and it’s one of the most difficult jobs as it is very tiring and time consuming.”

Syed is hopeful that she will be able to empower even more girls through this collaboration with L’Oreal. We wish her all the best and also hope she will inspire other privileged people from fashion and society to follow in her footsteps.

Manal Khan

The author is Deputy Editor at Something Haute who has studied film and journalism from SZABIST. Will be found at the gym if not in the office.