Event manager, model, actress and mother: is there anything Priyah Prakash Pawani cannot do? Alvin Thomas finds out more.
As an influential face in the fashion industry in Oman, Priyah Prakash Pawani is everywhere, from billboards and newspapers, to television and Government advertisements.
As I settled into my usual spot at a café at Oman Avenues Mall to prepare for our interview, Priyah warned me that she might be a little late. But, like the fashion industry professional that she is, Priyah was bang on time.
The model was accompanied by her best friend (soul sister, as she calls her) and fellow event manager, Antara Bose.
Priyah is very sweet and humble, and it didn’t take me long to get comfortable with her. So I ask her about her roots.
Priyah, 31, tells me that she hails from the Indian union territory of Pondicherry, but lived in Dubai until 2010.
As it turns out, Priyah and I were even neighbours in Dubai at one point.
The similarities didn’t end there: we even share the same birthday.
“Are you also an introvert?” she asks. “Yes,” I tell her.
She laughs, saying: “Don’t worry, I was one too, but of course, as you can now see, I am not one any more.”
Priyah tells me that her life took a turn when she opted to pursue commerce at school – a switch from her family’s dream of her being a doctor.
“A nice chunk of my early days involved me trying to prove myself to my family and relatives.
“There are some amazing doctors within my family and the same was expected of me.
“However, when I told my dad that I wanted to deviate from their dream, all he asked me if I would stick to my choice.
“I obviously did. This shift transformed me.
“I became a social person. I didn’t keep within my usual friend groups any more,” she says.
Priyah passed school with flying colours, before opting for a degree in psychology, marketing and accountancy from the American College of Dubai.
Her introduction to the world of fashion was purely coincidental, she says. “I came across an ad, seeking hostesses, for the prestigious Zee Cine awards in Dubai. It just seemed like something fun to do, especially because I had curfews at home,” she jokes.
“However, I was a tomboy, with my shirts and sneakers, and I wasn’t even sure if I would get selected.
“Against all odds, I got selected, and also received a remuneration of RO20 for the event. It felt like heaven to me.”
According to Priyah, that moment laid the foundation for her career.
Soon, she was appearing in photoshoots with high-profile clients such as Atlas Jewellery and GITEX in Dubai.
Priyah continued modelling for brands in the UAE for a few years and then married her husband, her college sweetheart, Pratik Mahesh Pawani, and they now have an eight-month-old daughter.
“I moved to Oman right after marriage . But it was extremely difficult to find a job here.”
Her break in the fashion industry in Oman came when an agency selected her during a talent hunt for new models.
The rest, as they say, is history, and Priyah has become a household face here, appearing in advertisements for leading telecommunication companies, the Ministry of Tourism and the Public Authority for Consumer Protection (PACP).
“Working with the agency helped me gain a lot of contacts,” says Priyah, who is 1.67 metres tall. However, she shifted into organising events and managing her own clients after noticing a niche in the market.
“Analysing the Omani market, I noticed that there were a lots of advertisements in the newspapers.
“I remember telling myself that there was no stereotyping of models in Oman, like anywhere else in the world.”
She soon took the lead in the fashion scene, managing events, searching for talent and also organising events. Priyah has organised more than 60 fashion events to date. “Omani Nights is one of the fashion events that I organised with my friend, Antara. We associated with a couple of international designers such as Nawal al Hooti at an event at the InterContinental Muscat.
“This was a breakthrough event because we really felt the support from the local market.
“We even had a lot of Omanis joining our group. The number of Omanis interested in modelling nowadays is staggering.”
But Priyah says modelling is not about the face alone.
“Models need to have respect, commitment, the right attitude and above all, punctuality and maturity.
Fashion in Oman has transformed a lot since 2010.
“There was a time when a lahaf [scarf] was compulsory for every fashion shoot with an abaya.
“However, that’s not a norm any more. You can stylise the abaya in any way you want. Oman has come a long way.
“I hope to be a part of the Omani fashion scene in the coming years, however, there will always be someone who is better than me and my team. It’s just up to us to keep moving forward, revolutionising the way we work, bringing new content to the table,” she adds.
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