In an exclusive interview with HerStory, actor and entrepreneur Sunny Leone speaks of the importance of creating a better world for women by starting right at home, and delves into how her love for makeup set her off on the path of entrepreneurship.
Love her or hate her, you simply cannot ignore the fact that Sunny Leone is a woman of the world who lives life on her own terms, undeterred by what others think of her life and career choices.
I hadn’t watched Sunny Leone on the big screen. But I was completely bowled over by her presence of mind and calm demeanour while facing a volley of condescending and tactless questions from TV anchor Bhupendra Chaubey of CNN-News 18, a few years ago.
Here’s taking you back to some of those questions: “How many people would grow up thinking of becoming a porn star?” “Am I being morally corrupt because I’m interviewing you?” “Will we see movies from Sunny Leone in the future where Sunny will be dressed up in a saree, covered completely?”
Any other woman would have walked out of the interview but Sunny stood her ground, and with head held high, handled the questions with utmost grace. Later in an interview with Huffington Post, she said,
“But I will never back away. I will never let anyone get to me. I will never let anyone - man or woman - take me down. It was that spirit in me that made me continue with the interview. Also, if I walked away, I would prove every doubt he raised about me, everything he suggested about me and my past right. I was never going to let him do that.”
Being one’s own person
For her entire life, Sunny Leone, born Karenjit Kaur Vohra, has been battling critics for the choices she has made. Born to Indian parents in Canada, she started off as an adult star, besides acting in mainstream Bollywood cinema and TV shows.
Sunny is a great believer in making choices and sticking to them, whatever the circumstances may be. In an exclusive interview with HerStory, she says, “The essence of being a woman is just figuring yourself and the things you like and want out of life, and then making them happen. Women usually tend to conform to standards set by those around them and lose who they are in the process. If that has happened, I believe we should make those baby steps to come back to our own selves,” she says.
Sunny Leone on motherhood and more
The actor revels in the multiple roles she plays in life - as a woman, wife, mother and actor. Married to Daniel Weber, a guitarist and now her manager, Sunny’s life is an open book, at least on social media. She constantly posts happy pictures of the family - her three children - adopted daughter Nisha Kaur Weber and her twins via surrogacy Asher Singh Weber and Noah Singh Weber. The couple adopted Nisha from Latur in Maharashtra.
She wrote on Twitter recently, "June 21st, 2017 was the day Daniel and I found out that we might be having three children within a short amount of time. We planned and tried to have a family and after so many years, our family is now complete with Asher Singh Weber, Noah Singh Weber and Nisha Kaur Weber. Our boys were born a few weeks ago but were alive in our hearts and eyes for many years. God planned something so special for us and gave us a large family. We are both the proud parents of three beautiful children. Surprise everyone!"
So how does she manage all these different aspects of her life? She tells us in jest, “Not a lot of sleeping happens with these roles, but I love my life and children and my husband. I really do have the best life minus the sleep part.”
Struck by entrepreneurship
Not just content with being an actor, Sunny has also turned entrepreneur with Star Struck by Sunny Leone, a cosmetic line comprising lipsticks, lip-liners and lip gloss in various shades.
“I love cosmetics and am a self proclaimed product junkie so it was very natural for me to turn in this direction. We are already in the market and the brand is doing very well. I wanted to create something I would want to wear; that was very important to me. I’m in front of the camera all the time and having great makeup and products help me look my best. I wanted the same for the people out there. Both Daniel and I were very clear that we would do this on our own with no investors because in our experience the more people involved, the more things head in a direction that we don’t want. We both wanted full control over this so that it would be perfect. I am very proud to see the progress the brand makes on a daily basis,” she says.
‘The plan is to expand my brand and keep moving forward and working as much as possible. Like a train going uphill, I plan to just keep chugging forward,” she adds.
While India maybe one of the largest consumers of porn, there is a lot of hypocrisy surrounding adult stars and Sunny Leone is no exception. India is still a conservative country at heart and does not deal with blurred lines too well - like an adult star becoming a mainstream actor and sharing screen space with other “respectable” actors. Of challenges, she says, “I guess I don’t see life as black and white. The challenges are many, but the result is a learning process and I don’t hold onto them in my mind or heart, to recall later. I am methodical and everything has a solution and it’s my job to figure that out and come out of the problem. I try and live my life as positive as possible.”
‘Change begins at home’
Having lived in Canada and later in India, Sunny is aware of the many issues women face, especially when it came to freedom of choice. “There are so many issues that women face here, and all I can say is change begins at home. If we can educate families on the basics, then maybe we can make a difference in the next generation. Children are our future and the only way to fix women’s issues is to start right at home,” says.
While Star Struck remains high on the list of priorities for the actor, she is also looking forward to her debut in the Malayalam film industry, where she feels, “she is going to have a great time”.
Whatever Sunny does, makes news. And elicits bizarre opinions, biases and extreme reactions. To all those judging her, she has only this to say. “Take a look at yourself in the mirror in the morning and ask yourself who you really are? I know who I am and I’m proud of my life… are you?”
We are nearing the end of 2018 and it's disheartening that we are still judged for who we are and what we do. One thing that stands out is how Sunny Leone has stood tall through it all. I believe that rather than being the victims of our own stories, let's all own our own stories.
Let's make the New Year one where our lives will not be ruled by unfair judgements and stereotypes. Kudos to all of you who have surmounted the most difficult challenges to prove yourselves. Tell us your stories so that the world can also hear them.
I am waiting to hear your stories, so feel free to write to me at firstname.lastname@example.org