Pakistani Martha Stewart is your new best friend on Instagram
Brown girl problems
When I first heard of The Pakistani Martha Stewart, I was expecting a middle-aged South Asian woman offering advice on how to turn old gym shorts into new dusting rags. But she turned out to be vastly different from what I was expecting. If I was disappointed, it says more about me than her.
Saher Sohail, alias Pakistani Martha Stewart, is a second-generation Pakistani immigrant based in the US. Her hilarious illustrations capturing the everyday reality of growing up ‘desi’ even caught the eyes of Mindy Kaling recently. “I’ve adored her ever since I saw her on The Office, and The Mindy Project. So I was elated that she related to my work,” says Sohail.
Pakistani Martha Stewart understands your parlour didi problems
Born in the US but raised by a conservative Pakistani family, Sohail channelled her identity crisis into Insta fame. With Bollywood references in colloquial Urdu adding brown sugar to her Lichtenstein-esque illustrations, she allows South Asian women from around the world to laugh together at society’s expectations. “People reach out saying it’s exactly what they’re going through. It’s like having an unspoken bond with people you don’t know personally. We are able to come together for one experience.”
Sohail tackles ingrained patriarchy, casual racism and body image issues common to fellow South Asian women. But she didn’t realise that The Pakistani Martha Stewart’s appeal extended beyond the diaspora.
“I think the funniest responses have been from non-South Asians. They’ve told me that they can still relate to a situation that I thought only we faced,” she says. A common theme in her illustrations is white people being blissfully ignorant about South Asian culture, leading to hilarious outcomes. “I love the fact that this has allowed them to reach out to their South Asian friends to learn more about our culture. Now they can join in on the joke.”
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Her way of dealing with trolls is simple: Just block and move on. “Social media is an overabundance of sensory input. We use it to express ourselves, check up on others, and that’s about it,” she says, “You can’t allow your creative space to be ruined because of some loser on the internet.”
But the most important question still remains: Why Martha Stewart? “I have an obsession with party planning and DIY crafts,” says Sohail.
So I wasn’t completely off, right?