This festive season we meet one of the most searched personalities online but is Sunny Leone also one of the most loved? Let’s find out.
That’s what we were going to call the first-ever digital cover for in.com. The reason was pretty obvious, we had Sunny Leone as our first cover girl and for a country that’s third only to the US and the UK in porn consumption, that’s a whole lot of mirchi lights added to many a Christmas and New Year celebrations. But (and a big BUT at that), there was a catch. Sunny wasn’t ready to discuss her career in adult entertainment. She may owe all of her stardom to that industry, may remain one of the most searched performers on the internet in the category as well, but no. She wasn’t comfortable and we were going to respect that. Christmas-only questions then and we were already hitting a firewall with this one.
On the day of the shoot, Sunny is bang on time. A trait few celebs showcase when it comes to media interactions. We have five hours with her. Ace photographer Rafique Sayed is ready with his troops and tripod. Leone doesn’t take too long considering the limited hours.
There’s an ease about her, she mingled with our crew while her own follows her around, taking care of everything that the star might require - sipping on some mineral water with a straw, for instance. Sunny doesn’t waste time in-between shots; doesn’t reach out for her phone every time there’s a break. Instead, she interacts with people around her making her a crowd favourite, instantly.
Ok, onto the Christmas conversation then. “My earliest memory of Christmas is holding on to the ladder when I was really young, while my father put up the lights on the Christmas tree in Ontario," Not very different from other kids around the globe. Yours truly has something similar to share only I remember doing that around Diwali. But even growing up in a multi-cultural society like India, celebrating Eid or Christmas wasn’t really a part of the festival calendar for us. It clearly wasn’t the same for Sunny who was born to a Punjabi family in 1981. “Well, there is nothing wrong in enjoying someone else’s festival, really. It adds to a whole lot of fun. I knew that I had to go meet Santa because then I would get a candy cane. Having said that I have a hard time finding candy canes in India. Mumbai, where are the candy canes?” she quips.
It isn’t just the sweets that are giving Sunny a hard time in India. It may be close to 7 years for Leone in the country but we aren’t quite sure if she has been able to shake off the title of a porn-star from her various monikers. When Sunny walked onto the sets of the Salman Khan and Sanjay Dutt anchored Bigg Boss Season five-five, five-five, five-five, Google reported a substantial increase in the search for Sunny Leone. India’s obsession with her has only grown in the past years. In 2018 she was, yet again, the most searched Indian celebrity on the internet.
While her popularity refuses to scale down, Sunny is a soft target for people looking to use her for their own vested interests. Self-promotion being the top agenda for most. Case in point being the Bangalore protests recently held by Karnataka Rakshana Vedike Yuva Sene (KRVYS) who were protesting for two reasons — first, her performance would spoil the culture of Bengaluru and second, because she was playing a lead role in the multi-lingual movie Veera Mahadevi.
“Well, when it comes to people’s safety, then I have to rethink whether I should attend an event or not. But, if there is general hate then the only way to move past it is to push forward,” says Sunny. “You never know what motive people have in using a celebrity’s name. One moment there are threats of mass craziness and the other, there are interviews on national television saying there they have no issues with Sunny. She can come to Bangalore anytime, we will protect her.”
There are few issues that a selfie with the celebrity can’t solve but Sunny has faced issues either way. “A selfie often works but sometimes there are issues when you don’t oblige for one. I remember once at one of the airports the head of security threw a fit because I refused a selfie. It so happened that the gent in question wasn’t sporting a badge and my security refused him access saying ‘we can’t take a photo right now’. The official got really upset and caused a ruckus."
While foes are aplenty, the same can’t be said about the friends that Sunny has managed to gather over the years. We remember how Bollywood stood up for Sunny post the infamous television interview. While Aamir Khan said that he would love to work with Sunny, Shah Rukh Khan actually went ahead and worked with her in Raees in 2017. However, we seldom see her at Bollywood parties. Haven’t seen her at the many Bollywood weddings either. Has Sunny managed any friends in the industry then?
“Well, that’s a weird question . . . but Bollywood people live in their own bubble or maybe I live in my own world. I can’t say that I have made any friends who are huge celebrities but the ones that I have made, I will keep them for life they just don’t have a famous name attached to them,” she says. “I don’t know if we celebrities can make the greatest of friends because we are always gone. Who wants that friend?”
Right now it is her work, her production house and her family that keeps Sunny busy. She is a new mom of three kids and Leone is making sure that she is there for her two sons and a daughter. She is protective of them and there is very selective information on the kids available on the internet. Unlike some other celebrity kids of course. “It’s by design. They have no idea what their parents do. The boys are very young but Nisha has no idea that her parents are in entertainment. She doesn’t know who are taking pictures. We only post pictures that are very, very selective and Daniel and I discuss with each other before we do post any of it. They are going to be overexposed anyway one day but right now it’s time for the kids to be kids.” Celebrity parents, are you listening?