Tell us about your foray into the field of acting. How did it all begin for you?I come from a showbiz family. My mother was a renowned television star in her own right. I used to accompany her on shoots and absolutely loved the atmosphere I experienced. Even from childhood, I always knew that that was what I wanted to do. My first break came when I did a bubble gum advertisement as a child. It was the first time I appeared in front of the camera and any doubts that I may have had vanished. I knew for sure at that point that being an actress is what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. How supportive has your family been with your decision to join acting? Do you think people’s perception regarding women being actresses has changed over time or is it something still frowned upon?I could not have done half of what I have without the explicit support of my family. My mother fully advises on all aspects of my career and I don’t do anything without consulting with her first. As regards to people’s perceptions regarding actresses, I do at times find it hypocritical. On the one hand, they go out and watch our films and idolise us but at the same time, trash our sense of morals. Attitudes are changing slowly with more professionalism and trained people entering the industry but the stigma attached to be an actress in Pakistan will take a long time to change. Audiences need to disassociate our onscreen glamorous personas from the private lives. These are parts we play on screen and is not what we are in real life. You are the proud recipient of the prestigious and the highly coveted Tamgha-i-Imtiaz. When did you find out that you were being bestowed with this honour and who communicated it to you?The first I heard of the award was when the list was published a few weeks before the investiture. Usually, the list comes out on 14th August for the following year. Last year it was delayed because of the elections. I was asleep and was woken up with a call from a dear friend who was screaming down the phone telling me I had been given an award. First, I thought it was a dream and I went back to sleep. It was only much later the magnitude of what the award meant sunk in. You recently voiced your concern over Priyanka Chopra’s irresponsible handling of how she clarified her Tweet. How would you have done things differently if you were in her place and were posed with the same question from an Indian?I’ve given many interviews recently where I have been advocating the role we have to play as artists in building bridges between nations and across cultures. I think that what Priyanka by lending her name to racism dressed up as patriotism was wrong. Rather than using her position as a United States-based celebrity to broaden what it means to be an Indian celebrity, she has fallen into the same jingoistic role that her fellow countrymen are forced to adopt at home. I would never do that.You have also tried your hand with singing. Is there anything up and coming on that front? Has your singing taken a backseat now that you’re starring in projects more?Singing is a love of mine and something that I intend to do more of in the future. Already in this past year, I was able to duet with a hero of mine, Rahat Fateh Ali Khan, so definitely more on the horizon, just need the time to fit it all in.You have written an opinion piece for CNN which carries immense value. Do you intend to take writing for renowned publications or blogs forward in order to be heard better?I’m fortunate to have been given such prestigious platforms to air my views. I’m flattered that international media find me worthy. Of course, I’ll be furthering my voice to as many platforms as I can – fighting wherever I can for a better representation of my country.You have been a victim of trolling on social media. How have you dealt with it and what do people need to realise before mercilessly trolling a celebrity? What advice would you give to someone who’s suffering from online trolling?I think that there are two ways of dealing with trolling; the first is the one I now adopt which is to ignore them. Nothing upsets them more than knowing that their comments have had no effect on me. I can do that because I’ve the confidence to do so. I understand that others are not as strong. So the second way is to report the trolls to the appropriate authorities. There’s help available against cyber bullying both on the platforms themselves and with the authorities. Either way, don’t let the bullies know that they have won.You have an Instagram Following of millions. How responsibly do celebrities have to portray themselves even on Instagram considering they are role models for so many people out there?My social media has always been a reflection of who I am. I post what I believe. The message I give is that it’s okay to be yourself no matter what – you don’t have to conform to any media driven concept of what’s expected or what’s normal. Yes, I take care not to offend people’s sensitivities in anyway but I’m not going to create an online persona that’s removed from who I am.I was asleep and was woken up with a call from a dear friend who was screaming down the phone telling me I had been given the Tamgha-i-Imtiaz. First, I thought it was a dream and I went back to sleep. It was only much later the magnitude of what the award meant sunk inWe see a lot of underweight and painfully skinny actresses on television who are renowned for their craft. Do you think they are promoting a healthy body image considering the fact that so many girls look up to them?It’s for other actresses to decide what image they’re putting out to the world and they need to take responsibility themselves for any body image issues that they are perpetuating. As far as I’m concerned, I am who I am – yes I promote a healthy lifestyle and fitness when I can, but that’s about as much as I do. For every fitness post, you’ll find an equal amount of pictures of desserts.If you were made prime minister for a day, what three things would you want to do first?I think that I’d rather defer these responsibilities to those that know better. Our country faces so many issues at the moment; education, Kashmir, financial – the list is endless, so I wouldn’t know which three things I would start with.You have raised voice to garner support for domestic sports. What other social issues do you feel the most strongly about?Education. I’ve recently just been appointed as an international ambassador for the Global Penny Appeal Charity and have pledged to help rebuild five schools in Sukkur. I went along there myself and was appalled at what I saw and just had to help. What touched me was that even the parents of the girls want them to be educated but they lack the basic resources. I promised them that I would help and pray that I’m able to deliver.Your film ‘Punjab Nahi Jaungi’ is one of our all-time favourite Pakistani films. The film was a humongous hit internationally and nationally. Tell us about your experience working on the film, your camaraderie with fellow actors and if you were confident it would turn out to be such a huge hit.Our industry is so small that we are all like one big family. So working on ‘PNJ’ is no different than working on ‘Load Wedding’ or ‘Chhalawa’ – it’s all fun. On all these films, I’m working opposite friends so the off screen chemistry translates onto the screen.What are you currently working on?At the moment I’m taking a break after having worked continuously for many years. I’m catching up with friends and enjoying doing things that I don’t usually have time for. Work wise, I’m looking at what I should do next. Interesting projects are there but all in good time.What is your vision for Pakistan and what does it mean to be Pakistani for you?I’ve been quoted as saying that the proudest moment for me will be when the green passport is given due respect in the world. When we’re not looked down upon by other nations and people are proud to be Pakistanis. For me, Pakistan is my identity and defines who I am. This is exactly the reason I chose not to work across the border, I wanted to stay here and build my own industry. Sitting here five years on, I’m so proud of what we’ve managed to achieve – from nothing, we are now an industry that’s as good as anywhere else in the world.Tell us about a memorable moment in your career.Without any shadow of a doubt, when the president of Pakistan bestowed the Tamgha-e-Imtiaz (Medal of Excellence) on me. There can be no higher honour than to be recognised by your country for your achievements.What advice would you give to an 18-year-old Mehwish Hayat?Believe in the power of your dreams and don’t be afraid to reach for the stars.What motivates you to excel no matter what?I think that more and more I’m beginning to understand the role that we as filmmakers have in representing our country to the world. This is the best window to Pakistan, its culture and its people. So that’s what drives me. We have to use cinema to put our best foot forward.We at Daily Times consider you one of our national heroes. Who are some of yours?I’m truly flattered that Daily Times considers me a national hero. I’ve many heroes I look up to – from those that gave their lives to win us the freedoms we enjoy today, to sports people that represent us so well on an international stage and those like Abdul Sattar Edhi who devoted his life to the care of others. I respect those in my own profession who paved the way for us and are true legends. Above all, I consider those of us who have selflessly devoted their lives to keeping our country safe, the biggest heroes of all.AchievementsMASTER OF ALL TRADESMehwish Hayat is not just a multiple award-winning film and television actress but is also a skilled singer and a globally recognised powerhouse humanitarian.BOX OFFICE QUEENMehwish Hayat has not jus delivered hit drama serials but her performance and craft as an actress has been highly appreciated by audience. Her films such as ‘Jawani Phir Nahi Ani’, ‘Actor in Law’, ‘Jawani Phir Nahi Ani 2’, ‘Punjab Nahi Jaungi’, ‘Load Wedding’, ‘3 Bahadur – Rise of the Warriors’, ‘Chalawa’ and many others have been super hit, setting the box office on fire. He film ‘PNJ’ was such a humongous hit that it was hard for people to get seats in cinemas following many weeks even after its release.HONOURED AT HOMEHayat has won many awards and accolades in Pakistan that include Lux Style Awards, Hum Awards, Hum Style Awards, Nigar Awards and the International Pakistan Prestige Awards. Only but recently, she was honoured by the government with the coveted Tamgha-i-Imtiaz.ACCOMPLISHED MUSICIANHayat has been an active singer, having lent her voice for many drama serials as soundtracks and in the third episode of ‘Coke Studio 9’, she sang “Tu Hi Tu” with Shiraz Uppal.MESSENGER OF PEACEHayat recently won critical acclaim from not just Pakistanis but from global audiences when she spoke about the importance of peace, the spoils of war, the plight of Kashmiris and the irresponsible handling of their words by Bollywood stars when it comes to India-Pakistan relations at a prestigious ceremony in Oslo, Norway, where the Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg bestowed the Pride of Performance award on her. Later, to various prominent international channels, she spoke about the misrepresentation of Pakistani and Muslims in Hollywood and Bollywood films. She took a stand for her country like a brave warrior and wrote articles on the aforementioned topics for CNN.A DEDICATED HUMANITARIANHayat has recently been appointed as an international ambassador for the United Kingdom’s Global Penny Appeal Charity and has pledged to help rebuild five schools in Sukkur.