The dashingly suave and dangerously handsome Siva Kaneswaran, member of the uber-popular British boy band The Wanted, initiated a critical decision at the height of the band’s fame that sent him on a 180 to discover who he could be in his most liberated form. The quest for “Siva” took flight as the band announced a shocking hiatus earlier this year to the despair of millions of fans worldwide.
This native of Dublin, Ireland has been in the public eye ever since Storm Models signed him at the age of 16 and brought him to the bustling metropolis of London, England. Hailing from Indian-Irish heritage, Siva’s exotic visage and towering stature has since earned him the “pretty boy” label amongst The Wanted ensemble, the band he joined in 2009 after being chosen from thousands of hopefuls during an eight month-long, grueling audition process. The band went on to sell millions of albums, have two number one singles, and 10 top 10 singles in the U.K. during their four-year tenure together. The band also reached number three on the U.S. Billboard Top 100 Chart with the single “Glad You Came” and starred in the TV series The Wanted Life on E! Entertainment in 2013.
I chatted with this formidable artist about his dramatic decision to go solo as well as his foray into the acting arena, during which, I got a strong feeling that he may very well be the next big, global pop culture icon!
CULTURAL IDENTITY . . .
You were born in Dublin, Ireland, and you hail from a family of eight, where your father is Sri Lankan and your mother is Irish. Tell me what it was like growing up in a mixed heritage family, especially since you grew up in Ireland and we all know that heritage is historically a huge part of the Irish culture also.
In some parts it was quite difficult and in some parts it was fun. For example, in Ireland growing up, in school I was the only brown person because we were one of the first mixed families at that time.
Yes. So, because people didn’t really know us, I would get a lot of bullying in school. But I had my older brothers to look after me and I learned to deal with it.
I had to understand that I was different from most of the other kids and I liked being different. I learned early on in my life that being different wasn’t a bad thing because it made me stand out and it allowed me to be whatever I wanted to be, and I liked that. It also gave me thick skin to deal with things in life, you know what I mean?
Absolutely, I think a lot of people from our community would say that they have had similar experiences growing up and that these experiences have made them stronger in the long run. So I can get a better understanding about your early days and what helped mold you at that time, can you tell me if your upbringing was Irish, Sri Lankan or a combination of both?
Obviously because I lived in Ireland I had a lot of exposure to the Irish culture but because we were one of the first mixed families in Ireland, my father would make it a point to teach us about the culture.
How did he do this?
He would teach us how to speak Hindi and we would keep in touch with his family who would keep us updated on things.
I think a lot of people would be surprised to know this about you.
Well you need to know about your culture on some level because it’s a part of the identity that makes you who you are.
Let’s talk about modelling darling. That’s exactly where everything started for you way back. You have striking bone structure that you’ve become really well known for around the world. It’s absolutely no wonder that modelling was your first move into the professional arena. Before we talk about this particular phase of your career, I have to admit one thing to you. Before I met you, I had a preconceived notion that perhaps you may be a little conceited because you’re hot, and you’ve got this overwhelming girl-magnet persona that has been talked about a lot in the media and across your fan base. But when I met you, I was quickly corrected because what I met was a humble and down-to-earth guy, which leads me to believe that clearly you’ve managed to keep a distinct line between who you know yourself to be and who you’re perceived to be in the public arena. So bearing that in mind, what keeps you grounded?
I think because of the people around me. I had friends and family that kept me grounded and I’m also a down-to-earth kind of guy. I do normal things like most people, like take out the trash and go shopping for groceries. Also, when I moved to London, I was surrounded by a mix of culture, and my looks helped me of course, but my looks are normal to me.
And I think that’s the point here. You’ve always looked this way so for you, it’s normal and you don’t know that it’s out of the ordinary until you get reactions from the outside world.
Yes, and I didn’t really know that there was anything special about the way I looked until I moved to London for modelling. When I was growing up, I didn’t have any girlfriends and people didn’t fancy me. I always felt like the odd one out, you know?
I can understand that and relate to it also having had similar experiences growing up. But I can also understand the perspective of the Irish community that you grew up in because different is more often than not, not understood and ignorance creates fear-based reactions.
Of course, yes.
At 16 years old, your first exposure to the modelling scene came while you were in Ireland through one of your older sisters who was already modelling at the time. Talk to me about this.
Yes! I was approached because I looked different. So I said, “Let’s do it!” And then I moved to London and it changed everything.
In what way?
It changed the idea of who I was. My whole perspective about myself and my life changed because there I wasn’t so different. There were so many cultures in London, which was so different from Ireland.
So how did that make you feel?
I felt like I fit in.
Of course! That particular phase of your life when you got signed by Storm Models in London, before The Wanted and post Ireland, what was the experience like for you?
I was sent on a lot of jobs so I was really lucky. I got to work a lot because I had a certain look. It was a busy time for me and I loved it!
During that time, did you face any challenges that you had to learn to navigate through? If you did, what were they and did you learn to overcome them?
In modelling, you’re being judged on what you look like rather than who you are which can be difficult because you can get drawn into a one-sided opinion about yourself, living in that bubble day in and day out. It’s not a good lesson to learn.
So what did you learn about the industry that led you to learn more about yourself at that time?
To be nice to everyone and to not burn any bridges because when you’re respectful and you go to every job with a polite and positive attitude, people will use you again for other jobs.
You’re absolutely right. It’s just simple manners and attitude. That may seem like an old-fashioned concept, but it goes a long way which shows that people still value old-fashioned ideology. That’s refreshing considering all the things we hear about how people manipulate situations to get their way.
I don’t think you should have to change things that are good about yourself to get what you want.
Amen! You went through a bit of a hiatus from modelling during The Wanted years, but then you decided to go back into it in 2013 when you signed a worldwide deal with the London-based agency, Next Models who also have the likes of some of today’s mega music stars like Rita Ora, Lana del Rey and Iggy Azalea on their roster. Next Models made a statement at that time that they were excited about taking you on and positioning you as a fashion and style icon. Who can blame them considering you have a very distinct look, coupled with a huge star status to bank on. Why make this decision at this stage in your career and why choose Next Models specifically to collaborate with?
I joined forces with Next Models because I wanted to get back into the fashion industry; I love fashion. When I was with The Wanted, I didn’t have time to focus on the modelling side of things because our schedule was always hectic. It just made sense when I decided to take a hiatus from the band and focus on building my solo career that fashion would be a big part of that. I chose Next Models to sign with because I have 100 per cent control with what I can do with my career and what I want to do.
FASHION & STYLE . . .
What are you planning in regards to the fashion side of your career?
I’m working on launching my own clothing line. I feel that everything I’ve worked for and everything I’ve done so far has led to this as my next step.
What would the key ingredients of that line need to include for you?
I’m going to start off with a casual line, a small range with things like T-shirts. But not ordinary ones, one’s with my own personal style.
Tell me in a few words exactly what this line would be indicative of that aligns with your own personal style?
Affordable, clean-looking and well-fitted.
I read that you like a mix of high street trends and luxury brands. What are some of your favourite menswear designers?
[Laughs] That’s a good question; so many! Tom Ford because of the cuts and details of his clothes. I also like D.Gnak for their details. I think you should always wear styles that fit your personality for them to look right on you. If you can do that, you’ve succeeded.
Siva, you were specifically chosen to grace this annual Fashion & Style issue of ANOKHI magazine because of your tremendous sense of effortless style. You’re amongst a rare commodity in this regard because before you, there was only one other male personality that has gotten this honour back in 2010 when Jay Sean broke the mold of eight straight years of female oriented Fashion & Style covers.
Oh really, I didn’t know that!
Yes, it’s why we decided to come to L.A. to shoot you for this cover and story.
That’s amazing. I had no idea!
What this means is that you’re our Fashion & Style Personality Of the Year, 2014!
Wow! That’s quite happening. I’m honoured, thank you! I hope I do you proud!
THE MUSICAL ARTIST . . .
Let’s talk music. Prior to The Wanted which started in 2009, your musical background started from your Irish heritage much earlier. Did you train or do any gigs or anything like that prior to joining The Wanted?
I used to play at fairs and carnivals and see my brothers play for fun and stuff like that. I was never scared to perform or audition because I looked at it as a bit of fun. I used to write a lot of music and songs as well as perform when I was younger.
The Wanted has been a massive coup in your professional music career thus far. There was an eight- to nine-month grueling auditioning process after which you were chosen as one of the final band members. Tell me what that process was like from the beginning.
I went to the audition with my twin brother and my older brother. There were 9,000 people who went and it got down to 12 people. In those 12 people were my twin brother, my older brother and me.
Yeah. We were all scared but all three of us worked our arses off for months so we agreed that if just one of us could get in that would be great and good luck to all of us.
We got to the last stages in the last month and I got picked and that’s how it all began.
At that very moment, how did it all feel looking back over the insane auditioning process, having come out on top?
Because I knew the team behind the project, I knew it wasn’t going to be a normal boy band and that it could be great. I didn’t want that normal structure of a boy band; none of us did. We didn’t think that it was going to be that big. You want it to be. You aim for it to be. You work your arse off for it, and then when you get in, all I could do is walk, walk, walk.
So then came the string of hit singles, albums and touring, whereby the band annihilated the pop music market share across the UK and beyond. It didn’t stop as it was more work, work, work than walk, walk walk as you learned. With your work schedule now going into sling shot mode, how did you get through it all?
Literally 80 per cent of what we did was below water, which was the business and stress, and 20 per cent was above water and was glamorous, which was what people would see. You’re a business at the end of the day so you have to take care of business and each other. People don’t realize that being a part of this industry at the level that we were was so much work. For the first year, I think we had four days off, there was just sooo much work.
Wow, that’s insane! How did you deal with the whole public hysteria side of things that is indicative of the ‘boy band’ business model, and was definitely in the microscopic forefront in the case of The Wanted too?
Well, I know who I am, where I came from, who my friends are and where it all began, so if anything bad comes out in the media that’s negative, I just think that people don’t really know me so I don’t take it to heart.
And what about your loved ones reading this stuff when you’re not around to put things in perspective?
The people that have written about me or the other band members don’t know who we are or even want to know who we are, but because I know who I am and my family and friends know who I am, any negative press doesn’t affect me or the people that I care about. I’m lucky that way. I just don’t believe that you should ever change yourself for your career, for your relationships, or for anything. Be yourself and everything you do will be real, so when people write bad or wrong things about you, you will know the truth because you never changed yourself for things outside; only for things inside which change to make you grow.
Poignant words for someone so young; can’t wait to get into ‘The Man’ section of our chat and explore your perspectives on life further, so I’m going to steamroll on. After the U.K. explosion, 2012 to 2013 had you guys jet over to the States with singles and a plan to tour in 2014. Almost immediately afterwards, in January of this year, the big shocker came when you guys decided to take a hiatus from the band to explore solo direction, initiated by you! Why heel to the fork in the road at this stage when you guys were ready to take on the U.S. big time with your next level of domination?
I feel like it was the need for freedom for me. Not that I was trapped or anything like that but I was tied to a very strict schedule that didn’t leave room for additional exploration. With The Wanted, we had to be a certain way and act a certain way that was for the overall look and feel of the band. Don’t get me wrong, it was incredible and I’m so lucky to have had the experiences that I’ve had that most people don’t have all their life.
So I craved freedom. And I love this phase of my life where I get to grow as an individual instead of as a group. Now, I have a new outlook and a new team around me and I feel more healthier, you know?
Yes. What I say is that it’s always difficult to be in a box that’s created by other people, where all of you have to have a place in that box. And there comes a time where — you used such a poignant word, ‘freedom’ — when your being, your soul, whoever you are, makes a decision that you need to be who you need to be. You wrote a whole bunch of songs during your time with The Wanted and you had the experience prior to The Wanted in terms of singing and all the underwater vs. above water experiences; it’s no wonder that naturally as you grow as a person, there’s the creative side of you that wants to explore where it could go. And I truly believe that with you, having spoken to you thus far, the move into your fashion, the move into who you feel you are as a musical artist, the acting side which I haven’t talked about yet, these are Siva. The Siva is coming out. The person who you are is exploring who you need to be across many different creative genres. Would I be right when I say that?
You’d be right! You’d be right! It’s a great way of putting it all. You get it Raj! It’s my way of expressing myself when I couldn’t do it in the past.
Okay, so on that pantheon, I’ve read that your musical sound and solo album as Siva, is referenced as being within the indie pop space. Define what this is for you since indie is such a huge arena of musical perspective?
I’m creating and experimenting with different styles of indie pop to create a new sound, so it’s always molding and changing into something else. But what I can tell you right now is that some parts are folky, some parts are pop. I know what people like because I’ve being doing it for four years now, so I’m excited about that. I’m going to keep moving and make people think; make people think of Siva [Laughs].
It all sounds so intriguing! Is there any element of The Wanted’s reminiscent sound in your solo album considering that you penned a bunch of The Wanted songs yourself? Or would you say it’s a completely new sound for you?
That’s a good question! Well, when I wrote for The Wanted, I wrote with the band and its members in mind. When I write for Siva, I right just for me so it’s all Siva; it’s all me! I can develop my sound to be fully me. In the process, I’m learning so much more about me.
You’ll have to wait till the album comes out; it will all be in there! [Laughs]
Can’t wait! Are you collaborating with any artists for the album, as I’ve heard that you’ve already recorded tracks with Rita Ora and Anusha separately?
I’m not sure if I’m going to include collaborations on the album yet because I want it to define the Siva sound and not have people get confused. Saying that, if J-Lo came along and said: “Hey you wanna do a song?” I can’t ignore that! [Laughs]
[Laughs] Of course not!
I’d be stupid to ignore that! I’d keep an exception for J-Lo.
So to confirm, as I speak with you now — this may change as we go into print — your headspace is that your debut solo album is going to be 100 per cent Siva?
When can we look forward to singles? Any ideas yet?
I want to make sure that the album is right first so single release could be as early as the end of this year or early next year.
What do you hope people get out of the album?
My reward is that people like it; really like it.
Any advice for music industry newbies?
- If you create music with passion, it will always be great.
- Respect who you are as an artist because that’s what sells.
- Be very meticulous and very strict on your business.
Such mature and wise words coming from such a young man.
It’s what I’ve experienced.
I think it’s more than that. I think you’re an old soul.
That’s nice, thank you. That’s a compliment!
THE ACTING BUG . . .
Let’s talk acting, darling. You’re taking acting classes right now in L.A., Spill; what are you planning on?
I’ve got a lot of people interested in working with me in the mainstream acting arena in film. A lot of people don’t have these opportunities so I want to be prepped and ready for the right opportunity.
What kind of opportunities are you considering at this juncture where what you choose now could potentially pigeon hole you into a certain type of actor, especially since you look like that!
[Laughs] I’d like to do drama roles. I’ve been offered some parts but I’m waiting to see how I come along with my acting classes because I want to do my acting career justice. And I’m focusing on my music and my sound right now also, so I’m taking it slow.
So if J-Lo came along and said, “I want you to be in my next movie,” would you say, “Not now because I’m learning the craft and I want to do my craft justice?”
Would anyone say no to J-Lo [Laughs]?
FITNESS & DIET . . .
Good looks you were blessed with due to your genetics. Being in great shape you work to create and maintain. What does your fitness regime look like?
The key is to keep consistent for me. I just keep at it. I moved to L.A. and I’m boxing now too as well as surfing.
Yup, we’ve seen ya surfing sweets — the photos have been all over the media all summer long. The media likes to capitalize on the surfing Siva right?
From the sounds of it, fitness-wise you seem to keep consistent by mixing things up.
Totally. I used to go to the gym and change up my routine now and again. I remember thinking I looked good but looking back, I didn’t look good. I didn’t have any definition and I didn’t feel healthy.
So what did you do to change that?
More than just hitting the gym. I decided to become more active which I think makes you more healthy. More than the cardio, your stamina lengthens. For diet, I’ve done things like change from white rice to brown rice. You have to make changes like this otherwise all the physical work you put in, it doesn’t show.
What’s your cheat food and drink of choice?
I love going to the movies so a large popcorn and coke.
THE MAN . . .
Let’s talk about the man Siva. We’ve talked a ton about your professional persona. Who, if you had to describe him in one sentence, would you say the personal Siva is today?
Oh wow! Tough question. [Pause] I would say he’s a very charismatic, down-to-earth, kind, loving and expressive personality.
Four words that unequivocally describe your personality?
Grounded, spiritual, playful, geek!
A mutual friend of ours told me that you’ve coined the phrase, and I quote, “That’s a first world problem.” Your definition?
When people think that they have a problem, which if they put into a global perspective, isn’t one. For example, “OMG! My dishwasher’s broken.” That’s not a big problem because you’re a phone call away from fixing it so it’s a first world problem. In Africa and India, people are without food, water, medicines and homes. These are big problems because you need much, much more than a phone call to solve them. You need social, religious and political change. These are third world problems. So when people complain, especially in my industry, of first world problems, I say “That’s a first world problem” to make them think about what they are complaining about in comparison to those who really have something to complain about.
What ideology do you subscribe to?
I believe that you get what you give or put out there.
If you were given one wish, to change anything in this world, what would you change, and why change it?
Money. I’d take money away. No currency because as long as we have currency, we will always put a value for buying or selling on everything. We will always exist, never live.
THE PERFECT WOMAN . . .
Describe in general terms, the perfect woman.
Grounded, good with family, really knows how to cook, passionate and active in everything that she does.
And Nareesha, your fiancée, is that perfect woman for you, right?
Yes! She’s beautiful, very loving, passionate, very independent and she always does the right thing and makes people better. She’s a teacher; she teaches people what she knows. She’s my heart.
THE FUTURE . . .
If you could write the future, what would it say for you?
I don’t write it, I let it happen because I believe that the future is going to be great.
LAST WORDS . . .
Mantra that you live by?
“Nowadays people know the price of everything and the value of nothing.” ~ Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray
I adore you too!
First Published in Fall/October 2014, The Fashion & Style Issue. www.AnokhiMedia.com
Shot on location at Andaz West Hollywood Hotel
Creative Director: Hina P. Ansari
Photographer: David Jakle
Stylist: Amy Mach
Hair And Makeup: Michelle Draper Global Makeup Artist For Laura Mercier
Stylist Assistant: Marga Esquivel
Photography Assistant: John Teichert
Cover Photo: Wardrobe: Brown Leather Jacket And Pants, Salvatore Ferragamo; Cashmere Turtleneck, Ports 1961
Photo i: Classic Suit in Prince of Wales Virgin Wool,Giorgio Armani; Classic Button-down Dress Shirt and Shoes, Ports 1961
Photo ii: Wool Cashmere Coat, Ports 1961; Shirt, Salvatore Ferragamo; Pants, Ports 1961; Napa Holdall Bag, Ports 1961; Wayfarer Sunglasses, Ray-Ban
Photo iii: Sweatshirt with an Ivory Topstitch, Silk Satin Silhouette and Pants, Lanvin; Chuck Taylor Leather Shoes, Converse
Photo iv: Sweatpants with Chevron Print, Giorgio Armani
Photo v: The Wanted On The IHEARTRADIO Music Festival Red Carpet In September 2013. Photography by Keystone Press Agency(The Wanted)
Photo vi: Pants, Giorgio Armani; Bonded Hoodie Jumper Jacket, Ports 1961; Wayfarer Sunglasses, Ray-Ban
Photo vii: Siva With Fiancée, Luxury Shoe Designer Nareesha Mccaffrey, On Set For People.Com Interview
Open ChestTM is a registered trademark of RG Media Enterprises Inc.
PUBLISHED IN THE FASHION & STYLE ISSUE, FALL 2014