Zunera Mazhar, the Global Brand Ambassador for LABELS, was recently crowned Mrs. Pakistan International 2014 and is going on to compete in the Mrs. International Pageant this July. Representing one of Pakistan’s biggest fashion houses, this hardworking mother also runs a successful lifestyle blog with her daughter and husband, while simultaneously working for the US Immigration Office. Zunera has a chat with Nikhar Riaz to talk about her love for fashion, the importance of confidence and how she balances all her different roles.
How would you define beauty?
Beauty is being confident in your own skin and embracing your individuality.
Why did you choose to participate in the Mrs. International Pageant?
Because I wanted to show that an average looking woman, with all my flaws, can still be considered beautiful. Beauty is more than just what initially meets the eye, the mind can be just as beautiful.
Are you nervous about the pageant in July?
To be very honest I am not nervous at all. I am confident that I will have fun and meet some very accomplished women.
How did you prepare for the pageant?
The pageant is very focused on accomplishments and activities with-in the community. 50% of the score is based on the judges interview, so I focused on the issue of being a working woman, a mother and still pursuing my passion and on the topic empowering women through my blog & various other outlets.
Were there any hesitations or reservations from your side or from your family regarding the pageant?
My family has always been very supportive of everything I do. My husband is my rock and helps and supports me every step of the way. My parents, in-laws and siblings are always there to support and motivate me to do my best.
What was your biggest fear regarding the pageant? What was your favorite part?
I had no fears. I went there with the sole intention of meeting and making new friends. My favorite part was when my daughter was screaming my name every time I came out on stage. All I heard was â€œgo mommyâ€ and it truly made my night.
Were there any unexpected reactions from people after you were titled Mrs. Pakistan International?
The overwhelmingly positive response was truly phenomenal, but some of the personal messages that I received from women saying that I have motivated them to â€˜not fear cultural normsâ€™ were truly touching.
Your advice to future participants?
Be yourself & be confident.
Is it hard to manage your work while being a full-time mom?
It is challenging but I have an extremely supportive family. My typical day starts around 5 am. I am at work by 6:30 am and home around 4 pm. I spend some time with my daughter Serena, and then usually go out with my husband and Serena for a photo-shoot for the blog. Then dinner, clean up, some chores, and once Serena falls asleep I spend some time on the blog. Most days I go to bed around midnight. It is a lot of hard work but extremely rewarding and I truly love and enjoy every minute of it.
Do you see Serena following your foot steps in the future?
It is her decision. She is very active on the blog and has signed a modeling contract with an agency in New York, but these days she does not like posing for the camera. Since it is completely up to her, we never force her into anything.
What’s the one quality you see of yourself in Serena?
Her confidence and the ability to connect with people.
What’s your all time favorite outfit?
Sheath Dresses are my all time favorite.
What is your fashion inspired by?
It is inspired by diverse and rich people/culture around me.
How would describe yourself in three words?
Confident, Persistent & Hardworking.
How would you describe your fashion in three words?
Minimalist, Edgy & Feminine.
How did your relationship with LABELS come to be?
LABELS is a very proactive fashion house who is always on the look out to work with and promote upcoming bloggers and designers. I hadÂ done a blog post wearing a Pakistani outfit and was approached by theÂ LABELS CEO, zahir rahimtoola, who is all about promoting Pakistani fashion on an international stage. His vision for the future of Pakistanâ€™s fashion scene and his dedicated and highly organized team made it easy for me to work with the LABELS team and it is truly an honor to be LABELS international brand ambassador.
What does it mean to be the brand ambassador for LABELS?
Being the LABELS International Brand Ambassador means actively promoting Pakistanâ€™s tremendous designers abroad, especially in the U.S.Â where sometimes itâ€™s hard to show the modern side of Pakistan. LABELS has an outstandingÂ history of showcasing Pakistanâ€™s premier and upcoming fashion designersÂ from setting up the first fashion retail storeÂ inÂ 1996 to opening the first original Levis and Dockers storeÂ inÂ 2000, and more recentlyÂ establishing the first comprehensive fashion eRetail portal inÂ 2012.
Being a Pakistani woman with such a high position in the US immigration office, how do you feel that helps you represent our country?
It is an honor for me, as a Pakistani woman, to work in public service.Â I represent theÂ modern dayÂ woman of Pakistan,Â who balances her life between a career, family and passion.Â Roughly 14 years ago I moved with my family as a young female to the United States. I was blessed to be able to pursue higher education, graduate from college andÂ become a regional executive of largeÂ financial institution by the age of 25. Since immigration and empowerment are so close to my heart, I left my executive leadership position to pursue public service with the Refugee & Asylees in the U.S. Immigration Services. As anÂ immigrant myself IÂ could not have found a better place to work; I can help those in dire need to come to United States and also help them settle here, giving them the chance of a better tomorrow.
Interview By: Nikhar Riaz
Nikhar is currently a senior at Boston Univeristy, majoring in Economics and is interested in Marketing, Fashion and Travel. She is a summer intern at Sunday Times.