WOW: Women Only Wednesdays Ft. Blogger Extraordinaire, Shehzeen Rehman
WOW is an acronym for Women Only Wednesdays. The idea is to cover famous and lesser known women who belong to a diverse variety of professional backgrounds. From fashion, marketing, blogging, and engineering, to designing, cooking, science, and photography. What binds them are their stories of struggle and success.
It was an absolute pleasure interviewing Shehzeen for the first feature of the WOW series. She is like a breath of fresh air in this extremely noisy and often attention seeking blogging world. She has been running the Desi Wonder Woman blog tirelessly every day for the last 6 years and is a household name for the desi audience on instagram and beyond. Her readership and fan following is not limited to Pakistan only, she receives an immense outpouring of support and affection from many distinct parts of the world. She can talk about anything under the sun and make it sound interesting for everyone. She frequently shares her opinions about travel, lifestyle, food, clothes, relationships, home decor and so much more.
I would like to mention that she is the perfect blend of hard work and humility. Not only did she responded professionally but also shared her life experiences with great warmth. She repeatedly claims to be just an ordinary person but her skill set and work ethic seriously takes her miles apart from her contemporaries. Without further ado, i would let you all enjoy the detailed answers that she gave for the following questions.
Please tell me about yourself ? Who is the real desi wonder woman?
I’m a very ordinary, (borderline-boring) kind of person, who has a deep passion for chai and a serious bias towards having cake for breakfast. I’m a hardcore homebody and will always choose hanging on my couch with a good movie over everything else. I love walking, I love looking at the trees and the sky. I’m a very low maintenance person and have a very fuss-free approach towards life. I love honest people, I dislike gossip. I love jhumkis. I love parathas. And I live in Sydney with my husband of almost 8 years.
What was your life like before DWW blog? Tell me about how you got into that line of work and what lessons has your work life taught you?
The complete opposite of this! I was working in the corporate sector for about seven years and because my family was in Lahore, I was living in Karachi by myself. I got into it very accidentally but I loved every bit of it. There was lots of autonomy in my roles, I got to travel to so many countries (I’d never set foot outside of Pakistan before that!), and was able to save and do many things in life for myself and my family.
The biggest thing my work life taught me was actually not directly from within the walls of the office. Since I was living by myself for work, I learned that you can do *anything* that you set your mind to and living by yourself as a young, naïve girl in a completely unknown city is possible. It was the most fiery, chaotic, exciting, confusing, liberating time of my life and I learned the most during those seven years.
Who has been the most important influence in your life? Can you tell me about him or her?
Without a doubt, my father. His blind love for his family (with special privileges to me, as much as my siblings hate that, it’s true, sorry guys), his principles in life, his detachment from material things, his love for only the stuff that mattered — all of it truly made me who I am today.
When and where were you born?
I was born in the winters of Lahore in the good old eighties.
Where did you grow up? What was it like?
I grew up in historic Lahore and it was amazing. I was a very quiet, shy child but secure with myself so I always remember being quietly rooted about whatever I did. We were very tight knit as a family, spending almost all mealtimes together. Our home was very warm and cosy. I studied in a very small school (that’s not even functional anymore) but it was one of the best times of my life. I had the most amazing teachers, great friends, the coziest, little campus. Every time I think about Lahore, I have such warm, nostalgic feelings of being with my family, the simple life we had, our home, our lunchtimes and dinner times, sehri, iftari, eating dry fruit together, going on long drives, the change of the seasons. It was just perfect.
What were your parents like while growing up? How was your relationship with your parents then and how is it now?
They were both very relaxed and loving. I was closer to my dad and I remember being very loved and cared for always. I was a very independent kid from the beginning but as I started working, I really took over a lot of things for my family. I still remember the day I bought my dad a jacket (the first thing I got him) and he had tears in his eyes because his daughter was getting something for him. So as I grew older, my relationship gradually evolved into being nurturing towards my parents. At this point, I’m a listener and problem solver in my family so you’ll rarely see me going to them with an issue (in fact because of my reclusive nature, I’ve never in my life really shared what’s bothered me, I like to handle things myself). At this point, I think my mother is my responsibility and everything in my life is about her and her needs, that’s it. I care about her being happy, and that’s what the relationship is pretty much rounded in 😊
What kind of student were you?
The very boring, good-at-my-grades kind of student. Uptil my school years, I was the only kid who used to come first in my class (which feels quite uncool to say now, it’s much more interesting to be the party kid?). In fact I had a distinction in my Matric exams. I don’t think I was super textbook-intelligent but I was hardworking with a decent brain and with that combination I think I was able to get by well in my student life 😊
How did you meet your husband? How did you know he was “the one”?
I met him at work. We became friends and gradually over time things fell into place. We did long distance for the majority part of our relationship because he moved out of Pakistan a few months after we met but it was always MashAllah smooth because we’re both very good at caring for each other while giving one another space.
I think you never really know whose “the one” until you practically live together under the same roof, sharing emotions, finances, experiences. Sharing life, basically. But I do trust my gut and my intuition a lot and I just always had a very good feeling about him. I could trust him, he was very caring, he wasn’t insecure about anything I did and I didn’t feel that way about anyone else ever, so :)
Share your top 3 life lessons that you have learned while living with your spouse?
That you should never get lazy with love. It’s important to treat your partner special every single day, whether that’s with a grand gesture or just making them a simple cup of chai when they’re tired.
That you should never take your time together for granted. Life is temporary and unpredictable so I never leave the house in an argument.
And that it’s important to push your spouse to be the best version of themselves. Whether that’s physically, spiritually or emotionally. To not hold them back because of your insecurities. Husband or wife, help them fly no matter what.
What advice do you have for newly married or soon to be married couples?
Just love each other. There is no magic formula to a good relationship, no set of tips or tricks. If you just love each other honestly and do everything out of that love, there won’t be a day that you’ll need to ‘work’ on your relationship. It will all fit into place. When you love someone, you don’t let them be treated unfairly by your own self or anyone else. You let them grow when they need to, you let them rest when they’re tired. You apologise, you don’t hold our relationship hostage to an ego. And when someone feels loved in a relationship, there’s nothing else they need.
What was the motivation behind starting the DWW blog?
After working in corporate for a good period of time, I felt I’d evolved into someone who wanted to live my life a little differently. I’m super grateful to everything I learned and experienced in that time but it was not who I was anymore. I started the blog while contemplating other options but it got traction and so I took the leap. I’ve always been writing, since my childhood (I was published in many magazines), so I probably would have ended up here sooner or later.
When did you decide to become a full time blogger?
Back in 2013 :)
Tell me about your first blog entry. Were you excited or nervous?
It was a very simple post about some of my favorite shopping picks from that time. I was posting very randomly, just out of the love of putting something out there. I used to write it anonymously at that time so I think that kept me feeling a little okay because no one knew me. I could’ve been a disaster and it would have been fine, hah!
How is blogging different from how you imagined it to be?
This is funny but I never thought I’d get so much love for what I was doing. I didn’t start writing for validation, it was very random. And I never thought that putting myself out there would actually get a genuine liking from a lot of people. The kind of letters I get, messages about such deep things that people have sent me because of my blog, it’s just another level of appreciation. I don’t share people’s private messages publicly, but it’s like nothing I’ve seen. It’s extremely humbling and sets you in your place. So that was one aspect that I didn’t ever think about and it still surprises me today.
What are the most challenging moments you’ve experienced while running Desi Wonder Woman?
Nothing really. It’s been a really nice, smooth ride 😊
Name 3 blogs that your regularly follow/read.
Internationally, I love Emily Henderson, Apartment Therapy and The Jungalow (I have a bias towards home décor blogs). Interesting and gratifying little snippet: My Dubai home tour was featured on The Jungalow sometime back, it was a surreal moment having an exclusive feature on a site that was not just one of my everyday reads but also one of the top home décor blogs in the world.
Locally, I follow quite a few so hard to list just three. But the ones I love genuinely for their content AND as people, are Amber from @awardrobeaffair (she has the best style), Humna @humnaraza (the cutest person) and Sidra Raja @therajalife (my ultimate style crush).
Looking back, what advice would you give to yourself in your first year of blogging?
You know, it might sound strange, but I was never really bothered by or stressed about anything related to blogging when I started out. And now when I think back, there isn’t one thing that comes to mind that would help me be better vs where I am today. I think everything that went right or wrong, collectively put me here. I am and have been very comfortable with my journey.
Do you mentor any aspiring bloggers right now or do you plan to do that in future?
I do! A couple of people I genuinely clicked with and who I knew were doing this also out of a love for blogging and not just for an audience.
Have you experienced any miracles?
I’m one of those people who just think life is one big miracle. Seeing new flowers in the neighborhood when I’m out on a walk, watching a parent take care of a child, the flawless rising and setting of the sun every single day. Miracles everywhere :)
What was the most profound spiritual moment of your life?
The most profound spiritual moment for me was, undoubtedly, when I completed my Hajj. I cannot explain the feeling. I had done it with my husband, the perfect person I could have asked for to be my companion. It had gone so beautifully and with countless learnings and growth. It’s an unmatched experience.
What special traditions have been passed down in your family?
When we were younger, mealtimes were always together. There was no one who skipped sehri, no one who was elsewhere for iftari, all breakfasts, all dinners, we were together. Over time, as we we moved out of our parents homes and went our own ways cos of work or marriages, personally it’s one thing I’ve always kept with me. Sharing a meal with your family is more than just about eating and refueling. It’s the conversation that happens over it, the appreciation for what one person cooked, the companionship, I think this is a tradition that will always stay with me.
What has helped you the most in your grief?
The most crippling grief I’ve ever experienced was the passing of my father so my coping mechanisms have been for that mainly. This may not be for everyone, but I think if you have faith, just the fact that you’ll meet your loved one again one day — this is the only thing that’s kept me going over time. I don’t think you ever really heal from the loss of a loved one, but the promise of that future encounter, it helps 😊
How do you deal with negative/cynical people?
In my personal life, I’ve managed to distance myself from toxic people so I don’t really have any negative influence as such. This has happened over the years, with maturity and experience (I would hope). I think it’s something you learn to do, as you age. Either your circle becomes only people who would never bring you down or you learn to distance yourself emotionally from those negative people who are still physically close.
In my blogging life, I’ve honestly been very lucky that I don’t get more than 1–2 negative messages in a year and that’s not hard to manage at all. I did get more negativity back when I started my blog but I think the fact that I’m not very commercial in my approach, I just don’t attract those kind of people anymore. They just solely weaned off over time, I guess.
What’s in store for the readers of DWW? What can they expect in the next 2 years?
Just lots of honest conversation and me being me. But if you’d like more of a tangible response, then I have an exclusive collection coming out with a brand very soon and I’m literally flipping over it. Fingers crossed, it goes well!
An abridged version of this interview is available at mashion.pk.