A conversation with Faiza Saleem – The Facebook superstar

Published: April 21, 2015
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Improv queen Faiza Saleem talks about her viral videos and memes. PHOTO: FAIZA SALEEM FACEBOOK PAGE

Lawyer by day and Facebook star by night, 24-year-old Faiza Saleem gives a new meaning to celebrity-hood. She might not come on TV, or star in a local film, but her two-minute-long videos, which are produced through a phone camera and uploaded on Facebook, rack up more than a million views from around the world.

The videos, which are satirical in nature, star Faiza and her friends and they poke fun at all sorts of social issues in Pakistan. Some of her characters are so popular – especially ‘Aunty on the phone’ – that she has turned it into a regular series!

But out of all of them, one particular video that she hesitantly uploaded last year in November 2014 mocking elitism in Karachi became so popular that it brought about thousands of comments, shares and likes. It also led to an influx of fans to her Facebook page.

Besides her hilarious videos on Facebook, she is part of the improv group, The Platoon, which performs bi-monthly at the MAD School.

We spoke to the talented entertainer about her creative journey!

How did you start making Facebook videos?

I started off by making memes. I used to make fun of my own friends on my Facebook profile and then I realised that I could probably use these memes on a more public page. Although I used their pictures with their permission, most people who came to the page thought I was using random people’s pictures.

Photo: Faiza Saleem Facebook page

That’s how I started the Pseudo Burger Diaries. And then I started making more generic memes. They did so well that I made my first video called “Aunty on the phone – mein gheebath toh karti nahin” that poked fun at aunties who “cheer phaar kar” go like “aisa kehna nahin chahiye”.

Were you inspired by somebody in your family?

No, but some of the lines that I use in “Aunty on the phone” are actually things that my mother says. So my mother plays a major role in the things that I do. She hasn’t appeared in any of my videos yet but I do plan on getting her on board. Let’s see if she does it or not!

Photo: Faiza Saleem Facebook page

Does being a lawyer help in giving you the confidence to be in the limelight?

For me, it’s the other way around. By doing theatre, I realised that if I can get up on stage and act, I can be a better lawyer. Theatre gave me a lot of confidence to do mooting which is a mock court where I would be one of the two speakers.

Do you think it’s difficult to be a female entertainer?

I would be lying if I said it’s not difficult because people tend to be more conservative about my jokes as opposed to be a male counterpart. If I stand up and say something controversial on stage, people would call me besharam. They wouldn’t say it out loud but they would have that look on their face that “oh my God… she said that?” Sometimes I crack jokes on stereotypes; I even make fun of myself on stage.

How do you get all this confidence to put yourself in front of a worldwide audience?

Thankfully and surprisingly, I don’t lack confidence. I do believe that I can make people laugh… sometimes.

Have you ever been recognised by someone?

I also do improv shows called The Platoon, so people do put two and two together. But yes I’ve had people who have come up to me and recognised me.

Photo: Faiza Saleem Facebook page

How many memes and videos have you made so far? How often do you put them? How long does it take you to shoot a video?

I made about 30 or 40 memes in the Pseudo Burger Diaries. At one point, some friends came up to me to make their memes. I’ve made about seven to eight videos so far. Putting videos up depends on my mood and the availability of my friends. It doesn’t take too long as it has no pre-written script, it’s all improv!

How was the response to your video that mocks elitism in Karachi?

Mixed! Some people thought it to be very elitist on my part and then they became very personal.

Everyone’s a Simon Cowell online, how do you respond to criticism?

I recently wrote a blog for The Express Tribune on rape and some of the comments made me stronger, and after that, I am able to take on anything and everything. This made me see the world from a completely new perspective. I actually go through all the comments because sometimes the disses are actually pretty good.

I appreciate good humour even if it’s using me as a target. But obviously, some of the comments are absolutely ridiculous and too personal, which I ignore. But in contrast, there are also very lengthy and good comments complimenting me on my work and how they liked it. And some random people would even advise me that I could do this differently and give me suggestions.

Have people asked you to make a video on something specific or what they would like to see?

Sometimes I actually put up statuses asking people about what they would like to see me do next or a particular topic they’d like to see covered.

Photo: Faiza Saleem Facebook page

Have you been approached by sponsors to make a video? And if so, would you go for it?

That’s exactly what I and my friends were discussing, that I should do something like that.

Do you plan to make comedy your bread and butter?

That’s a good question. I have been thinking about this recently. I will be joining work back in the first week of May. I have been considering doing this full-time.

What role have your friends played in your videos and overall comedy?

I get by with a lot of help from my friends. They do a lot of khwari for my videos. And I don’t have any money to pay them. Not that they would ask for any! I have nothing except for love to give. They would not be in any mood to make a video but I insist them ke please kar do and the persuasion pays off.

Photo: Faiza Saleem Facebook page

We wish Faiza all the luck and hope she continues to make us laugh and proud of her!

This blog originally appeared here.

Saba Khalid

Saba Khalid

A blogger for Rolling Stone magazine, a contributor to Kulturaustauch and Musikexpres, Saba is an Institute for Foreign Affairs (IFA) Cross Culture scholar for the year 2012 who also teaches creative writing to young aspiring writers. She blogs at www.thecityalive.com and can be found on instagram as @thecityalive

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.