Published On: Mon, Mar 7th, 2016

All of India accepted me, other than my family: Sunny Leone


First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win. Mahatma Gandhi’s words remind you of Sunny Leone’s walk to stardom in Bollywood. She braved opposition, even humiliation, sometimes at the hands of self-proclaimed culture custodians for the choices she’s made, but emerged stronger as the better human being.
Her dignified approach to naysayers, earned her the respect and love of those, who may have mocked her before. She’s an astute listener, who rarely raises her voice to make a point and her unapologetic approach to life is admirable. On the eve of Women’s Day, we talk to Sunny Leone about being a sharp businesswoman, actress, achiever and above all the person that she really is, beneath her glamorous exterior.
Many believe that it’s tougher for women to flourish in most professions in the world?
I have never really put gender into my struggle. I personally feel, as a woman if you are strong, smart, and if you know your work and are good at whatever you do in life, you will have the ability to pick and choose your employer. I’ve always believed in persistence and hard work. Nothing happens overnight. It’s a constant struggle to make the right decisions. Yes, in India, women have to work really hard to climb the ladder because of cultural differences. As a woman you might have to work hard to prove yourself but what’s wrong in that?
While ours has been a patriarchal society, do you think a man and woman must share equal domestic responsibilities?
My husband, Daniel and I grew up in a household where my father always supported my mother. They were both raised in India with the same set of values and same rules, but my father helped my mother cook and clean. My mom had a job too, so running the family was a combined effort. There’s no reason why husbands and boyfriends can’t take on those chores. Why can’t the dad go pick the kids from school? So ladies, please choose your husband wisely.
Uday Chopra challenges Sunny Leone
Is Daniel like that?
His father worships his mother and he’s grown up seeing that. So, I married a compete gentleman. We also work together, help each other out, whether it is making breakfast together or doing the dishes. There is no ‘I’ or ‘me’ in our household.
You have been living in India for five years now. How different is the perception of women here vis-a-vis the US?
These two countries have two different ways of life, but of course, the US is a lot more liberal. Seeing a girl in a bikini is not a big deal. If you see a beautiful girl in a bikini on the beach here, and everyone will exclaim…What’s going on here! It’s extremely different, but that’s also what makes India unique, with its values and culture.
Do you think women aren’t as comfortable when it comes to demanding their rights at the work place, including their pay package?
I think women generally speak with too much emotion. If you make it professional, choose your words wisely, people will take you more seriously. You have to nurture that confidence to demand what you deserve. What’s the worse that’s going to happen? They might say no. It’s not going to hurt you. Unless you don’t ask, you are not going to get it. If you are in business, it’s completely fine for a woman to be (excuse my language) a b****! Women should get equal pay.
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And are men better at business?
My husband has an amazing business sense. I think I am good at it, but he’s far better. As a woman I am kinder, he is just straight to the point, no beating around the bush. He doesn’t mince his words, and I tend to speak a bit too much (smiles). Nobody messes with Mr Weber, even I don’t. Women are often labelled for the choices they make. I think that freedom of speech is the freedom to live. It also means in doing what you think is right for you. If you are not stealing, cheating, physically or verbally hurting someone, why can’t you do what you want? I do believe that if a woman feels like wearing a bikini or a short skirt than she should wear one. Own it, be it.
Do you believe in celebrating Woman’s Day?
I think there should be a ‘Good Human Being Day’ rather than all this, but it is always great day to celebrate being a woman.
What qualities do you admire in a man?
I like men who are chivalrous. He should open the door for me and give me a hand when I am walking down the stairs. At the end of the day, a woman is looking for a man who treats her like a princess.
Who do you look up to?
I look up to my father. He worked all day long and studied at night to get his doctorate degree. I watched him juggle so many things at the same time. As far as women go, I worked at a tax firm in the US when I was 17, and the owner of the agency was very influential. She had an aura around her that said “I own the world”; and I liked that. In Bollywood I admire Vidya Balan a lot, she is a strong woman.
Your husband Daniel defines you as courageous.
There are lots of things that have happened in my life that people don’t know about. But we all have situations that go wrong. It’s about how you take yourself forward. My (relatives) don’t speak to me anymore. They don’t like me at all and that’s very sad. Since ‘Bigg Boss’ everybody disowned me. I put my best foot forward and I reached out to them, but they are not okay with who I am. All of India accepted me, other than my blood family. It doesn’t make any sense, right? Of course, that’s their prerogative. I know who my real family is – My husband, brother, Daniel’s parents and my friends. These are the people who stuck by me in good and bad times, unlike my blood relatives, who didn’t make one phone call. So I am happy being around people who love me for who I am.


About the Author

Syed Ammar Alavi

- is Lahore (Pakistan) based journalist & writer with 25-year experience in print, wire and broadcast forms of journalism. His major fields of interest are politics, film,tv,sports, climate change and technology

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