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Success in one field just isn’t enough for some people. South Asian dime Tehmeena Afzal has been somewhat of a renaissance woman within the music industry for years now. From rapping to running a mixtape website to now modeling, Miss Meena has done it all while simultaneously selling cars and keeping up with her first love, sports. XXLmag.com caught up with the Pakistani knockout to discuss playing the leading lady in The-Dream’s video “Roc,” brushing off stalkers and what South Asian women have working in their favor. – Christopher Minaya (@CM_3)
XXLmag.com: How was your experience shooting The-Dream’s “Roc” video?
Tehmeena Afzal: When I got there, to the shoot, he goes, “We’re going to try something totally different. You’re going to thank me after you see this video.” I didn’t understand what he was doing till I saw the video. I think he just had a vision with me. He saw my face. He said, “You know what? She’s all boobs and butt in all these pictures. But, let’s do something different with her. And since then, I’ve actually shot with like clothes on. Since then, I realized I don’t need to wear a string bikini and look hot. I could wear a nice conservative dress, and I could cover up a little bit. So, he kind of like changed my whole way I view myself after I shot that video.
So this wasn’t the creative director’s vision, it was all The-Dream?
He basically picked out the dress. He picked out exactly how my hair was parted, my makeup; like, he was in control of everything. He had me try on like 10 dresses; he picked the one I hated the most, and it looked good. Like, he had the stylist like pin it up and make it fit. He saw the vision before he even met me. And when I got there, he just transformed me. It was really interesting.
Weren’t you in his “Rockin’ That Thang (Remix)” video?
Yeah, I was. Actually, that’s the first music video I ever did. And, he actually didn’t even know I was in the video because the scene that I shot for the video, it was like one of those fill in scenes. So when I met with The-Dream last time, the last video, I was like, ‘You know I was in your other video?’ He was like, “No, you weren’t.” So, I had to like pause it. It was like half a second I was in it. But, it was pretty cool that we ended up working together again.
Since the “Roc” video, how often are you recognized?
A lot. I go to Atlantic City; at the casino, I’m sitting at a table, and people walk up to me. Or, it’s a mall. I have customers that come into work, and they’re like, “Hey, aren’t you the girl?” It’s so weird ‘cause I’m trying to do my job selling cars and then someone is like, “I saw you on TV!” They get all crazy. But, it happens a couple of times a week.
What’s the craziest thing to happen to you so far?
The craziest thing?… The last time I went to Atlantic City, I got stalked. Basically, just everywhere I went, there was someone pretending to play a table game, and then as I walked by them, they were like, “Hey, can I get a picture with you?” Just popped out of nowhere. Like, they were like watching me as I was walking the casino, like waiting for me to walk right by them. It was weird, but yeah, that’s probably it. Nothing really crazy.
How did you get into modeling?
I didn’t want to do it. I had a mixtape website years ago. And, what happened was a lot of the DJs that I was selling mixtapes to and buying mixtapes from, when they met me, they were like “Oh, you should model.” I’m like, “No. Ew. I don’t want to model.” They’re like, “No, You should. I could use a model for my mixtape.” So, I took a few pictures, sent them out to a few DJs and I started getting on mixtape covers…. And then, after that, I was like, “Oh OK. It’s pretty cool. Alright.” So then, I kept on sending them out to DJs, and once I got on mixtape covers, magazines started hitting my up. Like, “Oh, who’s this? Can you shoot for us?” So, it kind of just happened. I like it, but I was really a tomboy; I wasn’t really interested in modeling… People told me to do it.
You said you’re a tomboy. You got a full athletic scholarship, if I remember. Right?
Yeah, I got a full scholarship to NYIT (New York Institute of Technology). I was a pitcher. So, I was really into the sports since I was like 8 years old. And, softball players are like butch and like big, and that was me. And then, I decided I wanted to be girly after college, so I lost some weight and put some makeup on and changed my look.
Do the assumptions that people have about models get to you in any way?
It doesn’t get to me. People automatically assume, “Alright. She doesn’t work. She’s a stripper. She’s this. She’s that.” I myself know. I’ve been selling cars for five years. I have a college degree. So when people assume stuff, it just makes me laugh because a lot of people know my whole background, that I came from a business background, have an education and I sell cars. And, that’s something that I make sure everyone knows. Like, when people follow me online, on Twitter, on Facebook or whatever it is, like they know I work, I sell cars ‘cause I talk about it all the time. I’m not just talking about, ‘Oh, want to see my new picture?’ So, it doesn’t get to me because I already know and a lot of people know what I do. It’s not an issue for me.
After modeling, what’s your next step? Do you have a greater goal in mind?
Well, I really want to settle down and have a family. I mean I know a lot of people say, “Oh yeah, I want to be a movie star and all this.” I mean I sell cars; I make good money doing that. I think my next step after I’m done with the whole modeling thing is being normal, having a family. Just doing that. I mean it’d be nice to be like a famous movie star, but it’s not realistic. I mean that’s what I want to do. Be normal… Can’t do this forever.
OK. Cool. Alright. So, what’s the secret to how you “Roc” your body?
Oh, I’m not really a good dancer. I have no rhythm or anything, at all. I’m not lying. I really don’t.
But at the end, it was just you two dancing.
Yeah but the song is very sensual, so there’s not really any way to like move to it. It’s slow. There’s no “you have to keep on rhythm or beat” ‘cause it’s a slow song, so that was easy. But if there was some kind of like movement needed for it, he probably would have told me to go home (Laughs).
Alright. So, talk to me a little bit about your love of sports.
Since I’ve been eight years old, I’ve been playing softball. So, I grew up a big baseball fan. And, my favorite teams are the Giants, the Knicks, the Mets, which everyone does not understand why, but I just love them ‘cause my dad, and the Rangers who are in the playoffs now; I’m watching them play right now.
How have you used your love of sports in your modeling?
I did a lot. I don’t know if you seen the videos, the 14 videos. What happened was I was just sitting there one day; I was getting casting directors hitting me up like, “Oh, do you want to be in this video? Do you want to be in this video?” And, I was tired of being in a video, shooting 12 hours and then I’m in the video for like 30 seconds. So, I was like, ‘You know what? Why don’t I just do videos of just me?’ But instead of me just doing a stupid video of me rolling around on a bed or something, let me just pick things I like; so, I picked all my sports teams… That’s where a lot of people know me from, my sports videos.
I remember the one where you were wearing Victor Cruz’s jersey body painted.
Actually, Victor saw the video and emailed me. He’s like, “The video came out awesome.” And, he was like, “You didn’t tell me you were filming it. I would’ve came through.” I’m like, ‘Yeah. OK.’ (Laughs). But, a lot of the Giants, when they saw the video, they showed me love.
It was dope. I remember. How often do men approach you?
Everyday… It happens like everyday. If it’s not at work, it’s like I’ll be in my pajamas. I don’t know if they even look. I don’t what they see. Sometimes I have a hoodie on, sunglasses and I don’t know. A lot of the times, I ignore it. I just walk; I don’t stop to talk to people; I just keep going. But, it happens a lot at work though, with my customers. I don’t think they’ve seen women, a lot of them.
What about when you can’t ignore them, how do you kill their hopes, so to speak?
I don’t really. They’ll be like, “Oh, can I get your number?” I’m like, ‘Nah, I don’t give my number out.’ I don’t really entertain it; I just keep it moving. I don’t stop to talk ‘cause then I have to talk. I just keep going. If anything, I’ll just be like, ‘Oh, I’m in a rush. I got to go.’ I don’t really stop to converse. I don’t like to talk (Laughs). I don’t kill their hopes. I just don’t talk to them and act like I didn’t hear them.
Do you consider yourself hard to get?
Yeah, I do. ‘Cause if you try to talk to me, I ignore you (Laughs). So, there’s got to be something. I don’t know exactly what it is, but there’s got to be something interesting for you to catch my attention. Most of the time, people probably think I’m deaf ‘cause I just keep going and act like I don’t hear it. Plus, I work a lot. I have a child. I do the modeling. Like, I don’t have time.
Why do Queens rappers love having in you in their videos so much?
‘Cause I’m from Queens! (Laughs). That’s where I grew up. I live in Long Island now, But I started living in Long Island after I went to college in Long Island, but I grew up in Queens; I’ve always repped Queens. People still ask me, “Where you’re from?” I still say, ‘Queens,’ ‘cause that’s just where I grew up. I just live in Long Island now ‘cause it’s a good place to live for your child. A lot of these people I’ve known. Like Grafh, I knew him way before, when I had my mixtape website ‘cause that’s when he was trying to push his mixtape onto different sites, so that’s how I met him. Some of 50’s people also had mixtapes coming out. And then, they were like, “Oh, that’s the girl with the mixtape. Oh she’s a model now? Alright. Let’s use her.” So, the buzz with my name has been out for a while.
What made you get into the mixtape game?
Well, what happened was I was a rapper (laughs). So, I was hitting up DJs like, ‘OK. Feature my song on your mixtape.’ So, they want to charge 300, 500, 1,000 dollars to be featured on a mixtape. So to be featured on them for just one month, that’s like 20,000 dollars. That’s how much it’s going to cost. So, I said, ‘You know what? What if I start a website, purchase these DJs’ mixtapes, sell them on the website and put money in their pockets? And then when I ask them to put my song on mixtapes, they can’t say no to me. So, that’s how I started it. I started buying their mixtapes in bulk. I won mixtape website of the year two years in a row for the Southern Entertainment Awards with my site.
I was about to ask you to spit something.
No. But (Laughs), I did blast a link on Twitter a few weeks ago. There’s a clip I have online; I found a song, and I put it up. It’s one of my better ones, and people actually loved it. They’re like, “Why don’t you still rap?” I don’t know. It wasn’t me; I was talking about like poppin’ guns and stuff. And you look at me, I’m like this little Pakistani chick talking about poppin’ guns. It doesn’t sound right (Laughs).
How’s does it feel being the top Pakistani/South Asian model in the game?
It’s very nice because I have a lot of people that are from my culture that look up to me. They’re like, “I wish I could do what you do, but I don’t have the balls to do it. Like, how do you do it? What’s your secret?” I just do what I want. I mean my parents don’t agree with it, but I’m an adult; they don’t like to see it, but they’re still on my side with anything I choose to do. But then, I also have the people that are like, “You’re going to die; Allah is going to come and kill you; you’re going to burn in hell.” I get crazy emails everyday from people, like extremists. To me, when I get the fan mail saying how people support me and how really happy I’m doing this and that more girls of our culture should do this, it means a lot. Then, I get the haters too, but it’s a good feeling ‘cause I’m not one in like a pool of like a million girls trying to do this for my culture; I’m like one of the few that are.
So, what’s the best feature of South Asian women?
I think it’s the face.I get a lot of compliments on my eyes, how big they are, just the shape of the eyes. It’s the face really ‘cause the eyes, the nose and the facial structure; it’s very different from a lot of other cultures out there. That’s what I get the most compliments on to be honest. I’ll put a picture up with like my cleavage popping out, and they’re like, “Oh my God. Your eyes are so pretty.” So, you see a lot in the eyes in South Asian women.