No right to touch me without consent: Amna Ilyas

Earlier this week, supermodel and actor Amna Ilyas made an interesting appearance on The Talk Talk Show, surrounded by many people holding up posters and chanting slogans to protest against “controversial” questions on the local talk show. Although an unusual introduction, little did the viewers know that it would set the tone for the entire episode.

During the show, host Hassan Chuadhry took his chance to question the Ready Steady No star about her views on feminism. “In a recent interview, you said, ‘I’m not a feminist, but I believe in equality among genders’,” he recalled. “I didn’t understand this—doesn’t feminism aim to fight for equal rights for women?”

Hearing this, Illyas immediately responded, “I think we have reduced the notion of feminism to just what women wear. Whenever I read comments on social media, I realise that the famous chant, ‘Mera jism, meri marzi (My body my choice)’ is made out to be about clothes only, even though the idea behind it is much deeper. It’s about having body autonomy rights and consent. It’s about harassment, domestic violence, and concepts like, ‘No one has the right to touch me without my consent, even if I’m married to you’.”

She further added, “Whenever I talk about feminism, people always object by saying ‘Oh, Amna is bold, of course, she will spread vulgarity as she’s from the industry, she wants all our daughters to be like her’. No, I don’t want that, I only do what I want to for myself.”

“When we speak of equal rights, it’s about having the same opportunities to thrive in my career as the man beside me. If you’re a father of four children who excel in your profession, why can’t I do the same? Honestly, it’s not about whether you’re getting permission to wear jeans or not. What we truly need, is the space to work in a cerebral capacity,” she shared.

On TV’s rigid beauty standards

Moving on to a more lighthearted conversation, Ilyas then revealed that she was on her way to becoming a banker, before landing jobs in the modelling industry. “I wanted to be an accountant at first but was introduced to modelling by my older sisters at the right time. It’s thanks to them that life opened its doors for me. I was only in Tenth grade when I started doing shoots,” she said, adding that at the time, “people preferred skinny, tall, and dusky women in the fashion industry,” so she was an ideal candidate.

“Honestly, by the time I reached intermediate, I still wanted to be a banker because this job was quite demanding. You have to constantly wax, and thread your body hair and I really hate doing that. But then, things turned out well for me.”

The host pointed out how Illyas hasn’t worked in television much in the past few years, compared to her recent film projects. “I would love to be on television more but I was occupied with working on multiple projects,” explained the starlet. “Baaji was released in 2019, and then Covid’19 happened, which is why I took a break and only worked on movies back-to-back. For me, quality matters more than quantity, which is why I don’t like playing various roles at the same time.”

The model said there was another reason why she was not landing many roles on television. “It has been quite a problem for me to appear on television due to my height, colour and looks, and that is a reality I face with every project I work on,” detailed Illyas.

“Have we not gotten over that complex still?” asked the host. To this, she replied with an affirmative no, “Absolutely not, especially if we look at television. I have nothing against anybody, but if you look at all the female or male actors we have onscreen, most them are of the same height, and skin shade, so there’s definitely a set beauty standard in the entertainment industry.”

Before concluding, Illyas acknowledged that the unhealthy beauty standard is finally breaking away, but it will still take time to fully disappear. “Women who look like me and are unconventional according to the beauty ideals here are starting to get more jobs,” she stated.

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