LAHORE-Faiza Saleem is a lawyer turned comedian based in Karachi. She was the first female social media entertainer to have pursued stand-up comedy in Pakistan and also led and trained the subcontinent’s first all-female comedy troupe, The Khawatoons. Faiza has been active on television and made her film debut with the comedy film Parchi.

In a brief encounter with The Nation she talks about her career and success. Following are the excerpts of her interview:

You did degree in LLB and switched towards comedy, what inspired you to become a comedian? Tell us about your journey?

I always wanted to perform but never got to go to acting school. However, I did pursue theatre throughout my school and college life. In fact even when I started working after graduation, I continued to do so and even join an improve troupe and made videos and memes on social media. My first video became a big hit and I just kept going. But when I started doing all this money or popularity was not a concern. I genuinely only wanted to be true to myself.

You are the first female social media entertainer to have pursued stand-up comedy in Pakistan. What were the challenges you had to face in the beginning of your career?

There were no other Pakistani women on social media or even in standup when I started. So I didn’t have a set formula or any sort of guidance. Everything was supremely male dominated and sometimes that left me feeling isolated. So I created my own girl gang-The Khawatoons.

Do you receive criticism for raising issues such as body shame and rape?

Quite frequently, yes. But I also receive a lot of love and support and the fact that so many women have followed suit fills me with pride. Long after I’m gone, Pakistan’s comedy scene and even the position of women in entertainment will have changed. That keeps me going.

Do you feel your work has created a space for women in Pakistan?

Definitely! For so many women it’s shown a path that they probably wouldn’t have even considered in the past. You see so many amazing female comedians in and from Pakistan already-imagine what’ll happen in the next ten years!

With every step you take, you’re so confident. How does Faiza Saleem continue to be so confident?

Faiza Saleem is Faiza Saleem. She’s not pretending to be someone else. I own my personality in every setting; a lot of people (especially in the entertainment business) are fake. Either they’re artificial, classist, sugarcoated or just trying to be cool. I am way too comfortable in my own skin to jump into someone else’s. Like it or not, it is what it is.

How was the response in Karachi to your video mocking elitism?

Mind blowing. That was my first ever video and the response was so great that it threw me off. I think people are willing to listen, if you serve them their truth with a little bit of meetha.

Are you willing to move towards Film Industry?

I’ve already done a film-Parchi and I loved it. But I don’t take up any and every offer. I’d rather work less in mainstream media than do crappy sitcoms and films. I’ll do one occasionally, but my heart will be in it.

Was your father always supportive of your choice of career?

Unfortunately, my dad wasn’t around when I decided to take up this career. It was his passing that really took a toll on me and made me realise that I can’t spend the rest of my life doing something I don’t absolutely love.

As an artist, what is one thing about Pakistan that you want to change?

The stereotypes in our industry. I wish we had roles of substance for different kinds of people. No one really thinks out of the box. Everyone wants to do the fried and tested formula. We think our audience is dumb but we need to educate them better through the media as well. Kab tak gori chiti, lambi, dubli ko pakeezah dikhao ge?

Would you like to tell us about your upcoming projects?

Yes! I’m most excited about two of my upcoming and ongoing projects. One is an online cooking show called “Faiza Learns to Cook with Chef Saadat” and the other is a digital, fun talk show “Two Minutes with Faiza Saleem” Which are on my Facebook page and YouTube channel!