a Bollywood actress, a high-flying lawyer and is now bidding to
be the first Asian MEP for Scotland.
But Tasmina Ahmed-Sheikh, who is also a mother of four, laughs off the idea that she has been put on Earth to make other females feel inadequate.
She’s far too busy with her latest venture – organising the first-ever Scottish Asian Women’s Awards – to be bothered with the idea that she’s some kind of superwoman.
She said: “I’m just a woman doing what every woman does all the time – we look after our families, earn money and balance our lives. We don’t spend a lot of time talking about it because we’re just getting on with it. It’s normal. I’ve met lots of women who are doing amazing things without any recognition – and they are contributing to the improvement of Scotland.”
Tasmina, who set up the Scottish Asian Women’s Association last year, has found top-level support for the inaugural awards and it’s already pencilled in as an annual event.
The judging panel includes Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, Labour leader Johann Lamont, Lib Dem leader Willie Rennie as well as actress Elaine C Smith. And a glamorous night is planned at Glasgow Science Centre on Thursday.
Tasmina, 42, from Glasgow, said: “Asian women have watched their male counterparts attend these kind of events for years. The women might have been supporting and helping the men but they weren’t getting any recognition or encouragement.
“But it’s not just about being businesswomen or entrepreneurs. Asian women don’t talk about things like breast cancer – it’s private for them.
“We have nominees who have been through breast cancer and have been open with their communities about it, helping others by talking about it. That’s wonderful.”
Solicitor Tasmina’s own fight for equality in every aspect of her life means she understands the issues many Asian women face.
She remembers the name-calling she endured as a mixed-race child at primary school in Edinburgh in the 70s and 80s.
Then, as a newly wed, she struggled to fit into her husband Zulfikar’s traditional Asian family.
When she knew it was time to have kids of her own, she was determined to continue studying for her law degree and gave birth to her son two days after her graduation ceremony.
She said: “When Zulfikar and I got married, we did the traditional thing and moved in with his family in Glasgow.
“But we were living with his mum and dad and his five brothers and sisters – that just didn’t work for me.
“It was very hard for him to leave his family and come with me. I didn’t want to be the half-white woman who took him away from his traditional home.
“But we made it clear there was no disrespect involved. We just had to do our own thing, pursue our own lives.
“We went out to Pakistan for a while and that’s when I got involved in acting. I got the lead in a drama series on Pakistani national TV but I couldn’t even speak Urdu. I had to become fluent in two months.”
A Bollywood film and some modelling work followed. Tasmina remains a poster girl in India and Pakistan and is recognised by fans in the most unlikely of locations.
She said: “I was on holiday with the family and was at Universal Studios in Florida, standing in a queue with no make-up on, my hair scraped back from my face, wearing a pair of shorts and a vest top.
“Someone came up to me and said, ‘Oh my God, Tasmina Sheikh,’ and asked for my autograph.”
She’s now put her acting career aside to pursue her political ambitions, following in the footsteps of her father, Mohammed. In 1986, he became the first Asian regional councillor in the UK, holding his Edinburgh ward for two terms.
Her dad had arrived in Britain from Pakistan in the 1960s and settled in Edinburgh with his English wife Yasmin, Tasmina and her sister Seema.
The girls were drafted in to help dad deliver leaflets as he stood for election as a Tory candidate.
So, when Tasmina decided to enter politics, the Conservatives welcomed her with open arms.
She fought the Govan seat for the Tories in the first Scottish Parliament elections. She lost – and defected to the SNP the next year.
She said: “When I spoke to people on the street, it was clear the Tories couldn’t deliver what they wanted.
“I realised it wasn’t the right party to deliver the things I wanted either – a multi-cultural, all-embracing, equal Scotland.”
Tasmina is now a member of the Yes campaign for independence and a nominee for selection as an MEP candidate for next year’s Euro elections.
So, how will she manage to jet to and from Brussels while looking after the kids, practising law and helping to unite the Asian women of Scotland?
She said: “I’ll manage – that’s what women do.”