Sean Penn fronts launch issue of Hello! magazine in Pakistan

  • @AndrewBuncombe

A magazine known for celebrating the glamorous side of life hit the newsstands in Pakistan today and was soon sold out in the country’s biggest city.

After weeks of speculation over who might appear on the first front cover, the Pakistani version of Hello! went on sale with Sean Penn’s image gazing out, advertising a supposedly “super exclusive” about the actor’s recent visit to flood-struck parts of the country. The front cover also featured Oscar-winner Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy.

“Pakistan does have lots of problems. But we want to show another side of life,” said its editor, Mehvash Amin. “And I don’t mean just glamour. We want to cover art, writing, music and the cinema as well.”

She added: “From what I have been told, the magazine has sold out in Karachi already and is selling well in Islamabad. It is also selling out in Lahore.”

While those who know of Pakistan only through gloom-laden headlines might be surprised at the decision to launch the magazine, the country has a small but very wealthy elite and a steadily expanding urban middle-class. Hello! will be entering a market that already contains several indigenous lifestyle magazines.

With an array of sportsmen, movie stars and even television anchors, Ms Amin said there would be no shortage of people to cover. The country recently held its third fashion week in Karachi and two of the country’s leading designers, Sana Hashwani and Safinaz Munir, also feature on the front cover.

“It won’t be exactly like ever other magazine. But I don’t think we are going to lack for glamour,” she added.

With a cover-price of 395 Pakistani rupees (around £2.75), the magazine will be out of the reach of most in the country. However, when the publication’s team held a press conference last month to announce its launch, Wajahat Khan, a consulting editor, said they were aware of the sensitivity of publishing a glamour magazine in a conservative Muslim country where the overwhelming majority of people were poor.

“We are trying to be happy in a war zone,” he told the assembled reporters.  “We are trying to celebrate what is still alive in a difficult country.”