Sunny Leone Won’t ‘Disown’ Her Past: Full Transcript of Walk The Talk
Actress Sunny Leone spoke to Shekhar Gupta on Walk the Talk about her ‘notorious’ past and present state-of-affairs in Bollywood. Here is the transcript of the interview.
Shekhar Gupta: Hello and welcome to Walk the Talk. I am Shekhar Gupta and if I told you my guest today is Karenjit Vohra, you’ll ask me who is she? If I said she is Karen Malhotra, you will say what’s wrong with you? But if I told you my guest today is the most searched person on the Internet in India, you will know immediately. It’s Sunny Leone here. Sunny, welcome to Walk the Talk. And we are walking on your famous ground. Besides the fact that this is Mehboob studio and history of Indian cinema is linked to it, even for Walk the Talk we’ve had Salman, Vidhu Vinod Chopra, Priyanka Chopra, Katrina Kaif, Tabu and Kareena walk these grounds.
Sunny Leone: Then I feel very honoured. Thank you for having me here.
Shekhar Gupta: So, you have now joined India’s Star Walk. Tell us your story. I know everybody asked you the same question, so I am not asking you five questions. Tell me your story.
Sunny Leone: Tell me my story. Well, it depends on where you want to start.
Shekhar Gupta: Why should you be the most searched person on the Internet in India?
Sunny Leone: Everybody out there, I was fine as the most searched person. But I think the people are curious, and they start searching because they hear this name and it’s not something that either they understand, or they can comprehend or you know that makes sense to them. You know, they see this person on television or you know in the movies or on the internet and they can’t put two and two together or they just want to see entertainment.
Shekhar Gupta: Is it entertainment, is it notoriety?
Sunny Leone: What do you mean by notoriety?
Shekhar Gupta: Notoriety of your past which you haven’t disowned, which is a wonderful thing.
Sunny Leone: No, I don’t think I would ever disown my past because my past is which has brought me here. And it’s not that somebody forced me to do anything that I didn’t want to at that moment in time in my life. So, yes, they are searching for that material and they are also searching for you know different songs and different things that I’ve done as soon as I’ve got in to India. I have this saying that people know me for years, but it wasn’t until I came to Bollywood that it was “Okay” to say the name ‘Sunny Leone’. For that one also, you know it’s a hidden secret.
Shekhar Gupta: Hidden secret. Why did you decide to bring the hidden secret out in the open? Because this also means you’re not disowning your past, you’re website still has the same material, your own website.
Sunny Leone: I don’t own the website, but yes it has.
Shekhar Gupta: Yes it’s called Sunny Leone’s official website. So, you’ve not repudiated it, you’ve not disowned the website.
Sunny Leone: Well, I sold it a long time ago. Yeah.
Shekhar Gupta: You sold it, you sold it, yes, but all the material is there. So you’ve moved away without disowning it, why did you have to do it? Why did you have to move away?
Sunny Leone: I don’t think it was, ‘I had to move away,’ I believe that in life just like yourself or maybe anybody else out there they have chapters, they have chapters in their life where they are struggling to make it in life or I don’t know pay the bills or do whatever their goals are. And at another point in their life, they move onto a different chapter and that’s where your life is made up, they’re made up of different sections of what works for you at that time, and you don’t know when that page is going to turn or when that new chapter is going to start, but it just happens naturally. And I never disowned anything that was not in my personality to do. But then Bollywood happens, so of course you have a choice in life, ‘Do I want go this direction? Or do I want continue on the same path that I was on?’ So, for me at that moment when Big Boss invited me to be on the show, on Big Boss 5, it was a moment in time that changes your whole life and at that moment you have no idea that it’s going to change your whole life. And my husband and I sat there; I remember we were sitting on the couch and we were discussing the pros and con, everything that was going to affect our life – is this going to make it better or is this going to make it worse? Do I want to go through the process of being ridiculed or being made fun of or people just not accepting of who I was. In a country where I’ve never gone to as Sunny Leone except only when I would come visit my family, it was a moment of time when I just said, (excuse me for my language), “Screw it, let’s just go, dekhte hai kya hota hai’ and whatever happens, happens. For us it was just, our main thing, which was safety of course.
Shekhar Gupta:That ‘dekhte hai kya hota hai’ is better said in Punjabi.
Sunny Leone: Yes, exactly. You know when, if you want to take in life you have moments where you want to take the chance or you don’t. Especially, when you work in entertainment, there is moments where you just say, ‘Okay I don’t care what’s going to happen, I’m just going to do it’, and that’s just what happened.
Shekhar Gupta: So you said earlier in our conversation, that nobody was forcing you to do anything. So, you don’t have a sob story from your past.
Sunny Leone: No, I don’t. I don’t have a sob story. I wasn’t hurt, I wasn’t raped, I wasn’t molested. I wasn’t treated badly growing up as a child. I played sports, my mom was like the mad mom in the mini-van driving her kids to all her you know the sport.
Shekhar Gupta: A hockey-mom?
Sunny Leone: Yeah.
Shekhar Gupta: So, I believe that you played hockey with boys.
Sunny Leone: I played street hockey in front of our house.
Shekhar Gupta: With the boys? Yes, yes?
Sunny Leone: Because there were mainly boys only over our street. I was a girl who played with GI Joe’s instead of Barbie, or made forts instead of castles. So, I was a little bit of a tomboy growing up.
Shekhar Gupta: So, tell us the part of that story, the transition from that tomboy in a proper Punjabi NRI household, to glamour model, to penthouse model, penthouse pet of the month, penthouse pet of the year and then onwards.
Sunny Leone: Well, as I said growing up I was a tomboy, I grew up in a typical Punjabi home, my mom was the one for the longest time, who would put a aloo ka paratha in my lunchbox, and just send me to school, but then I realized all the other kids because I lived in Canada, they are all predominantly white children going to a Catholic school, I was the only kid that had the smelly lunch box.
Shekhar Gupta:With aam ka achaar or not?
Sunny Leone: Yes, she would pack, she would pack everything into my lunch box, and after a while, you know didn’t want to have you know there’s Indian food in my lunch box and all these things, because the kids, they’re not nice when something is different. So, I remember in high school, one time we were moving from the Canada to the US while we lived in a border city. So, we travel back and forth, my last year of school there. And our last day of graduation of eighth grade, no boy danced with me, I was so upset, and I think my parents secretly were very happy about this, because as a mom dad no one asked to dance tonight, and she is like “Oh it’s okay beta, don’t worry”
Shekhar Gupta:Little did the boys know.
Sunny Leone: Yeah, they didn’t know what happened. But I wasn’t like a good looking kid. I wasn’t a kid that was well put together you know wardrobe or anything. I was dorky, geeky, young kid. And in high school I was part of (FBLA) – I was always into business. I was a little girl that went door-to-door that would bug every single person in the neighborhood to buy something from me, to raise something for my basketball team, soccer team or that kid that would come door-to-door to shuffle first three dollars or the lemonade stands. I was always making money. I was always trying to figure out how to make money at a very young age. By the time I went to High School, I was a part of – I guess you’ll call it a very geeky club – it was called the FBLA – Future Business Leaders of America where we would learn about different business, marketing and different things. I wasn’t like a cool kid who had all the cool friends or cheer leaders or you know all these things, and once I got out of High School, I discovered myself and figured how to have a voice because I was very shy and that’s where penthouse and all these different things came in you know. When I shot for the magazine.
Shekhar Gupta: But, how did that happen? How did this geeky kid get to Penthouse?
Sunny Leone: I don’t know. You know most girls out there, they look at magazines and other things, I never looked at any of this material while growing up, which I know may be surprising, but I didn’t even until I was 18 and till someone showed me you know these are the photos and when I saw that, I felt, ‘Wow,’ I didn’t think it was horrible. I don’t know certain people out there have this switch – I call it a switch – that says, ‘Yes this is okay, no it is not.’ And in my mind when I saw these beautiful women, I thought it was gorgeous it was beautiful and it was sexy and never did I ever think that it was vulgar or this is not right or what are my parents going to think. First of all, It’d be very weird if I thought I thought about my parents were always looking at these photos, a very odd thought but it wasn’t something that I thought was wrong and when I posed for the magazine I had no idea that things would turn into a big day and when you become a penthouse pet, they say you cross a country – radio, television, magazine shoots, all these kind of things and I was just 19 years old so this was you know a whole new world.
Shekhar Gupta: And a penthouse pet can’t be Karanjeet Kaur Bora.
Sunny Leone: No, it can’t.
Shekhar Gupta: So that’s when the name happened?
Sunny Leone: Right, so when I was doing the interview for this magazine, they asked me what do you want your name to be and I said how about Sunny? And you guys pick the last name and it wasn’t something that I really thought about. Sunny just happens to be my brother’s nickname. His name is Sandeep and I don’t know why.
Shekhar Gupta: Every Punjabi has a nickname. What was yours?
Sunny Leone: My father’s and mother’s was Gogu and my brother calls me Kala, so that was my nickname.
Shekhar Gupta: So you borrowed your brother’s (nickname)?
Sunny Leone: Yeah, you know if I knew what I was going to be today, I obviously would have choosen something maybe a little bit different.
Shekhar Gupta:Little bit more Indian sounding?
Sunny Leone: No, Sunny is a pretty Indian.
Shekhar Gupta: Yes, I don’t think it’s been a problem for you.
Sunny Leone: No.. Umm, I wouldn’t have chosen a name that was my brother’s nickname. I would have chosen something else because you know when I take my brother for some event or something and I’ve to say, ‘This is Sandeep,’ and I’m Sunny so you know it is not awkward, it’s just a little weird.
Shekhar Gupta: Where did Leone came from?
Sunny Leone: Leone was picked by the Magazine. I got lucky that it wasn’t some weird, whacky name.
Shekhar Gupta:What does your passport says now?
Sunny Leone: Tananjeet.
Shekhar Gupta: Tananjeet.
Sunny Leone: It’s my husband’s last name, so yeah. It’s always confusing whenever I’m going, they look at the passport and they look at me; then they look at the passport and they look at me. So yeah!
Shekhar Gupta: So you’re a person behind many person’s. Are you judged often?
Sunny Leone: I think when you pull yourself in front of the camera, you’re judged every day. No matter what.
Shekhar Gupta: No, not just about you’re performance on the camera. Judged in terms of your life and what you’ve been doing.
Sunny Leone: Yes, of course.
Shekhar Gupta:This is a very judgmental society.
Sunny Leone: But it’s a judgmental society anywhere you go. And you know I’m judged based on what I’ve done. People are apprehensive of what they think I am. How they think my personality is going to be. They can’t get mentally pass the idea she is this person that we’ve seen or that we’ve heard about . How can she be normal?
Shekhar Gupta: And then they play those things in their mind, sort of visualize?
Sunny Leone: Right, they stereotype and they kind of take all the things that they do know than actually just take a second opinion and make an informative decision after they’ve talked to me.
Shekhar Gupta: So what is the worst interesting thing that somebody had said to you in India since you came back?
Sunny Leone: Umm, I don’t know about said to me, I think it’s more about actions. I think it was the first time I exited Big Boss house and I was having dinner with my husband and this gentleman and two young ladies came up to me and said can my daughter take a photo with you. I looked at her, and she looked like 14-15 and I wanted to say, ‘Are you out of your mind? Why would you want your under-aged child to take a photo with me?’ You know at that moment, I didn’t know what was going on because at that moment I’ve only been a part of the adult world in the US, so it wasn’t making sense to me why were they so fascinated. But, I took a picture with these two young girls, they were with their father so obviously they had consent, but then the aunty came and the uncle came, and then the grandparents came and then the baby came, and I had this big family photo with 15 people.
Shekhar Gupta:Selfie with Sunny.
Sunny Leone: Yeah, it was. It was really a shocking moment. And I had really started analyzing why is this happening. My conclusion was that these people have been watching me on television for the last 7 weeks at home, after dinner and they’re all sitting around the TV, and there watching me make paratha or watching me make salads or watching me just being a normal person. Because of this stigma or the stereotype that was created, Sunny Leone the Adult Actress is coming to the Big Boss house. I wasn’t the person that they thought I was going to be.
Shekhar Gupta: But you would presume that it still plays at the back of your people’s mind when they see you, when they talk to you?
Sunny Leone: Of course, I think there are a lot of people who think like that. And that’s so prerogative.
Shekhar Gupta: So, in Bollywood did you hear it a lot from producers, directors?
Sunny Leone: Well nobody has the guts to say it to you on your face most of the times. It sometimes their actions or how they talk to you or that they automatically assume.
Shekhar Gupta: Tell me about somebody – you don’t want to name somebody it’s up to you, you want to then it’s better. But tell me. Be a good Sardarni.
Sunny Leone: Umm, you know you sometimes get a script which is just nonsense material, doesn’t make sense to me. It doesn’t make sense to a scene. Everyone wants me to wear a bikini, I still don’t understand why, but doesn’t make sense to me but I know that they do and I would think that people would think people were seeing me in bikini like who cares but for some reason they do and they think that would sell more tickets they think they’ll get more eyeballs to see you know what to show on TV show or movie or photoshoot, whatever it is so those are things that sometimes get on my nerves.
Shekhar Gupta:But something someone said that came back to you or in the manner somebody spoke?
Sunny Leone: Umm, people are usually, they test the waters to see where you stand and how you speak to them and for the most part I haven’t have had a situation that I couldn’t handle or wasn’t easily talked through.
Shekhar Gupta:How do the women in Bollywood handle you?
Sunny Leone: Women in Bollywood that I’ve noticed in the last six months, the responses on social media and people more willing to say hello. At first I definitely felt like an elephant in the room, people stare but don’t want to say hi. I remember one of the first award shows that I went to, they wanted to put me on stage with another woman or any actor, they all said no. Someone really nice ended up saying yes, they were more open minded I guess you know there is a weird moment to feel that the people are so against you. They’re scared of you or whatever is going on their mind, they don’t want to be associated with you.
Shekhar Gupta:You don’t want to be seen with a girl like this.
Sunny Leone: Exactly, yeah.
Shekhar Gupta: That’s a judgement. You’ve faced a lot of that from women in Bollywood?
Sunny Leone: In the beginning yes.
Shekhar Gupta: Is it changing now?
Sunny Leone: Yes, definitely. I think when people start to see you more regularly, not at a party but just that you’re here and not going anywhere, that you are still working that things that you do become successful you know. Then they start changing their tone and I think the more people that I’ve met, I just say I need five minutes with you and in those 5 minutes probably I could change your opinion of how you see me. Not me convincing you, but you just having a conversation with you. So that conversation would probably pay forward to somebody else.
Shekhar Gupta: So have any of the women been really nice to you? As they’ve gotten to know you? Famous women in Bollywood.
Sunny Leone: You know what it’s only when the last maybe a couple of months back when Sonam Kapoor wrote back to me on social media and I was so happy. Sonakshi Sinha wrote on social media. But that’s one of our common platforms as actors and entertainers.
Shekhar Gupta: But no one asked you how were you managing your past life?
Sunny Leone: I haven’t had an opportunity to have that conversation. You know you meet people at award shows or at an event or party or something, it is not the right setting. Has there anyone been who I have met that have that I’ve become friends with and said, ‘Hey you should come over, I am having some of my Bollywood friends come over,’ absolutely not. That has not happened.
Shekhar Gupta: And that’s why most people don’t know that you are actually a very political person. In your past life you campaigned against (George) Bush in a very unconventional manner.
Sunny Leone: Yes, I had no idea that it would come back to me now.
Shekhar Gupta: Everything comes back at you, life on internet. So tell us why you protested against Bush and how you protested?
Sunny Leone: I think it had got to do with the Adult industry and how some of his views were to affect the industry at that time and that is why.
Shekhar Gupta: Because the American right is so conservative.
Sunny Leone: It is and there are certain laws and regulations that are placed on our industry that holds that industry together and when certain groups come and change things , of course there are going to be protest. There are going to be campaigns that are not going to let that happen.
Shekhar Gupta: So some of you protested as only Adult stars can.
Sunny Leone: Exactly, no more bush girls.
Shekhar Gupta: Tell us more about it.
Sunny Leone: I don’t think there was too much of a thought process. I think I was 20-year-old when I did it, so, a little while ago. I don’t think it was too much a protest or thought into of what it is other than I knew that we didn’t start campaigning some of these laws and regulations will be imposed.
Shekhar Gupta: So some of you, if I may say so, shaved off your intimate hair with pictures taken.
Sunny Leone: Yeah, we did.
Shekhar Gupta: And said ‘No Bush.’
Sunny Leone: No more. It didn’t work.
Shekhar Gupta: And ultimately you got Obama. Then animals because that is something close to my heart too. You worked for PETA.
Sunny Leone: Yes I did. Here in India. You know what I found amazing about being able to come here is that I got to do so many things that I never imagined I could do. I don’t think I would ever been asked to be a part of PETA if it wasn’t for my past decision of coming here and I got to do a campaign spay and neuter your dogs.
Shekhar Gupta: Stray dogs and cats. So you reduce the number of street animals
Sunny Leone: Ya, too much sex could be a bad thing. So that was my type.
Shekhar Gupta: Too much unprotected sex could be a bad thing.
Sunny Leone: Exactly. And I believed and I pull both my pets home are from a shelter and in US as soon as they come in a shelter they are spayed and neutered because you don’t want to carry on that forward.
Shekhar Gupta: So are you following this controversy that is going on right now in our southern state of Tamil Naidu. You have a view on it?
Sunny Leone: Yeah I got glimpse of it but I haven’t read the whole article. I think any sport or festival or whatever it is that puts an animal is wrong. That animal doesn’t have a voice. That animal doesn’t have a voice to say, ‘No, I don’t want to do this.’ They don’t have a choice. They’re forced into this, they’re abused, abandoned, they’re hurt, they’re not fed right and they’re treated so poorly.
Shekhar Gupta: Like circus animals, this is worse.
Sunny Leone: You know I just watched a video of a trainer beating the lion and it’s disgusting behavior and I don’t understand how human beings have their own mind , they’re own thought. They can speak, they can feel different things, how they would want to hurt something that doesn’t have voice?
Shekhar Gupta: You know what Sunny, you tell people give me just five minutes. I think we’ve talked for about 25 minutes and I can tell you, you don’t need more than five minutes because lots of film stars have featured on Walk the Talk and I have to say this – that you are probably the most articulate of the women stars to appear on Walk the Talk.
Sunny Leone: Aww, thanks.
Shekhar Gupta: And I am very happy to have had this conversation with you. I know I’ll be trolled for this but all the millions of people who’ll be trolling me for this will always be secretly searching you all the time.
Sunny Leone: Yeah, I hope so. And I don’t want you to be trolled.
Shekhar Gupta: That we can’t help. If I am or you are not trolled that means we are not wanted. Thank you so much Sunny, you’ve been wonderful.