Celebrity MTV veejay Anusha Dandekar became India’s most sought-after television host over a decade ago when she took over from Malaika Arora Khan, the first to turn heads on the network, skyrocketing Indian television into the pop culture orbit. Some said they would be “difficult stilettos to fill.” But not for this wide-eyed, type-A Capricorn, who arrived fresh from Sydney to Mumbai at the tender age of 19, specifically to enter and win a national MTV veejay search as a stepping stone to her dream job. Since winning, she has hosted a slew of mega successful MTV shows across Southeast Asia (including the long running, uber successful Style Check, which she took over from Malaika herself!) making her a household name.
Viewers found the tantalizing combination of Anusha’s foreign accent and western looks to be a welcome change from the brave new world of Indian television personalities they were used to. And she came with a big wallop of wacky glam. She also coined the phrase “Keep it stylish,” catapulting her to the top of India’s style influencers list where Bollywood stars ask her for fashion advice. This landed her on the covers of top fashion magazines like Femina and Fashion Bloom and led to a conveyor belt of lucrative endorsement deals with Lee Jeans and Reebok to name a couple. Then Bollywood came calling offering her a role in Viruddh (2005) opposite heavyweights like Amitabh Bachchan and Sharmila Tagore. She garnered critical acclaim for her performance, winning the Maharashtra Times Sanman Best Debut Award in 2006.
The ever-insatiable starlet refocused her attention to the mainstream music industry where she is currently working with multi-award winning producer RedOne and her music manager, Anjula Acharia-Bath, to launch her musical career here in the West. Her debut single is slated to be a cover of a Lykke Li track, which she sings alongside The Wanted’s, Siva Kaneswaran. Time for a chat? I think so!
Read on . . .
THE EARLY DAYS . . .
You’re a Marathi girl by origin but you were born in Khartoum, Sudan and grew up in Sydney, Australia. Tell me about this early part of your life as I haven’t interviewed an Indian from Australia before; I’m intrigued.
I was born in Africa after which we moved back to India for one year, followed by London for two years before the big shift to Australia. One of my earliest memories when I moved to Australia and went to kindergarten was that people would make fun of my skin colour and call me “milk chocolate.” I couldn’t understand it. I didn’t actually understand racism at that time, as it was the first time I had ever faced it, and the only time I have actually ever faced it.
What about cultural differences inside the home versus at school?
There was a lot of going back and forth from my culture at home and the culture at school, which was quite confusing at times. Everyone would heavily celebrate Christmas at school and even though I ate traditional Marathi food at home and could understand and speak Marathi a little bit, I still felt very western in the way I would present myself like, for example, the way I would dress. Sydney didn’t have very many Indians so I leaned more towards the Australian side of me.
How did you make sense of the Indian side of you, if at all, during this time?
I would love my time being around Indians, as it felt comfortable.
In what ways?
You didn’t really have to explain yourself.
What, looking back, would you say are the pros of how and where you grew up?
I think the pro of living abroad was being very comfortable in your own skin. I think that the one thing we get as women growing up and living abroad is learning how to be confident in who you are.
Give me an example of this.
What you are wearing, for example, in India you have to be very conscious but in Sydney, I wouldn’t have second thoughts about what I’m going to wear. I couldn’t imagine walking around in a bikini in India but in Australia, we could be in a bikini and walk across the road from the beach to McDonalds. There was no shame in it. Also, I played a lot of sports growing up so these kinds of things really molded me into the girl I am today on many levels. I have a lot of confidence, maybe no inhibitions at that time also. And we really got to speak our minds and stand up to boys. I was allowed to do pretty much what I wanted if I gave my parents the one thing they needed.
What was that?
Did you ever break or compromise that trust?
I broke that trust at 14 years of age when I went a little off track and went through my rebellious phase.
What did you do?
I thought I was the queen of the world and I thought that whatever my mother would say was wrong. I also had my first taste of alcohol; it was cold Passion Pop.
Yes! We were at a party, an underage party, and I drank a whole bottle of Passion Pop then ended up in the hospital. The nurse at the hospital told my dad, “Don’t be mad at her. I can tell you one thing for sure, this girl is never going to drink again.” I didn’t even enjoy it. I didn’t like the taste and I haven’t acquired one since. I’m a Capricorn and we don’t like to do the wrong thing, generally speaking, as we are very ambitious and very focused.
That’s the extent of the lost trust factor?
That and getting suspended [Laughs]. Well, it goes with the territory of puberty, pimples and raging hormones.[Laughs] But the great news was that after that I met my first high school sweetheart, the love of my life, and we dated.
What was he like?
He was one of those guys who was disciplined and the teacher even asked him, “What are you doing with Anusha?” [Laughs]. It was from that point onwards that I started getting back on track and coming into my own. When I graduated grade 12, I actually won the Lion’s Den Award for the Most Charitable Work [Laughs]. It was such an honour for me.
Tell me about your immediate family that you grew up with.
I grew up with my older sister but not my younger one.
My younger sister was adopted by my dad’s brother. [Pause] I have never spoken about this to the public but I feel comfortable talking with you and sharing it with the world now.
I’m honoured darling. Tell me the story.
At the time that my mom was pregnant with my younger sister, my dad’s brother couldn’t have children, so he asked my father if he could have his third child. Wow! [Pause] It’s actually not an uncommon practice in India. I didn’t know it was commonly done in India but apparently lots of people have similar stories as this.
So what happened?
My dad said “yes” without consulting with my mother or getting her consent.
Yes Raj, it was very hard in that sense as my youngest sister was given away at only two weeks of age. The worst of it was that we were all living in the same house together at that time. So that wasn’t too bad then. It would have been much more challenging if the two families lived countries apart. My dad thought keeping everyone in the family was a good thing.
Were you in Australia when this happened?
London. We tell people we moved from London because of the cold but the real reason was because my mom couldn’t handle seeing her child being raised by somebody else, so she wanted to get away to the farthest destination. I missed growing up with her.
I understand that. You want to move on?
VEEJAY DOMINATION . . .
At the age of 19, you bagged your first veejay gig in Mumbai with MTV India no less. This was always your dream since a very young age. Bridge the gap for me from finishing high school to this.
I’m a firm believer in willing things to happen, and I willed this to happen ever since I was 10 years old — to become an MTV veejay. I even told family and friends that this is what I am going to do when I grow up [Laughs]. Nine years later, I got my chance literally within the first week of being in India. I put going to college on hold to try my luck in Mumbai for three months. I got called to audition and it went so smoothly that I walked out thinking, “Yeah I got this!”
No, listen to the rest. They didn’t call me back for two months and my three months were coming to an end. Channel V had also auditioned me during the first week and they also hadn’t called me back. Then finally, MTV India called me back totally unexpectedly saying that I had progressed to the interview round. They told me there were 40 of us in total that had gotten this far. I was shocked because there were only 10 people at my audition. I found out that they had auditioned 11,000 people across the nation over those two months, which is why it took so long for them to get back to me.
What happened next?
They narrowed the 40 down to 14 finalists — seven boys and seven girls. Following that, I got a call at eight in the evening saying that I will be leaving at two in the morning for the reality TV shooting which was the next stage. So I packed my things and as I was leaving, there were cameras at my door when I opened it.
Where were they taking you?
We were taken to Goa and thrown into MTV India shows where we had to write our own scripts and perform them, and the nation would vote for their favourite. By the end of it, I had two days left for my visa to expire and there were two days left before the finale as well. Oh, and two days before the final, would you believe it, Channel V called me and they offered me a job [Laughs]. They were going to pay me much more. They even said that they would bring a contract to wherever I was at that very moment if I was to just say “yes.”
History dictates that you chose MTV India, why?
I have a loyalty and a need-to-win issue. I had worked my ass off for MTV India in this veejay hunt for a whole month. My whole life flashed before me during this time of decision-making but it was always MTV for me. How you win is you get a pie in your face; MTV is very classy [Laughs]. I was the highest voted amongst the 14 and the first to be pied in the face. I won!
That’s fabulous! So what was the first show that you hosted for them?
The one I used to watch Malaika Arora Khan host, Style Check.
That’s incredible! Many more on-air opportunities followed in a slew of TV shows like MTV’s House of Style, MTV Dance Crew, MTV Teen Diva and MTV News to name a few, catapulting you into homes across India and many parts of South East Asia, making you an instant household name. What was this phase of your life like, bouncing from one TV hosting gig to the next?
Fantastic! I remember at the beginning, I was in Planet M music store and this crowd had gathered to come and see me. People asked me if they could have my autograph and I looked at them and asked, “Are you sure you want my autograph?” [Laughs]. I couldn’t really believe it, as I hadn’t even done anything at that point. MTV Asia also offered me a job so I worked there for two years too. It took me to Japan, Malaysia, Thailand and Philippines. I also remember that at the head office of MTV Australia, when I went back home, I said, “By the way, I did call you when I was in the 10th grade!” They asked me to come to the VMAs in Australia on an all-access VIP pass — in my own country; insane! Full circle. Oh, and a highlight for me was interviewing Amitabh Bachchan on a bed and him saying, “This is a compromising position.” I think I am the only person in India to ask him if he wears boxers or briefs [Laughs].
[Laughs] And what was his answer?
He said, “Nothing, I go commando!” [Laughs].
And then when I asked him, “What are your five must-haves in your wardrobe?” he said, “boxes of briefs, G-strings” [Laughs].
Well you asked for it girl!
[Laughs]. He was amazing!
You’ve accomplished something very few people can say they have, apart from interviewing Big B on a bed. You’re not someone who was brought up in India yet in the past decade, you’ve accomplished quite the enviable position as India’s most glamorous and sought-after veejay, even going on to win the 2009 Best Veejay at the Cosmopolitan Fun Fearless Female Awards. Judging by your personality during this interview, I feel you understand how to make celebs feel relaxed, comfortable, special and valuable. Thoughts?
You’re right! The most beautiful thing that you’ve said here is about making celebrities feel special because at the end of the day, they have worked hard to get to where they have, and if MTV wants them on the channel, then they are important enough to be there. I am happy if you are a beginner, done one thing or 50; your career is important to you and you have worked to get here just like I have worked to get where I am.
As a veejay, what has been the one most rewarding aspect of your career so far?
Making people feel comfortable while being interviewed. I remember once outside MTV India on a google chat with Aamir Khan, MTV presented him with a couple of host options. I don’t know how true this is as I just heard about it, but apparently, when they said my name, he said, “Yeah, I want her to come and interview me.” He knew I was coming so he brought me a t-shirt that he wanted me to have. This may seem small to most people but to me, since this is my job, a job I have wanted since I was 10, this was a huge validation that I’m good at what I do.
What has been the most unexpected change that you’ve had to adjust to going from obscurity to celebrity status in a matter of a few short months?
I have never had a problem with attention [Laughs], but when people write non-truths or dirt about you, it can be hard to disassociate from it. But honestly, I feel like it’s just high school in a bigger playground with bigger people.
So how have you learned to deal with it because it’s clearly a part of being in the public eye?
A life lesson I got was from my big sister, which I have never forgotten and helps me whenever I’m in a similar situation. An article was written about me, which made me cry and my big sister asked me, “Is it true?” I said, “No!” She said, “So why are you crying about it then? Because only the truth can hurt you.” THAT moment, I completely stopped crying.
STYLE ICON . . .
It’s no secret that the name Anusha has become synonymous with style in India, with media incessantly photographing you and commenting on your wardrobe for years now. You’ve also coined the phrase “Keep it stylish,” hosting one of the longest running style shows in India, Style Check, which has been running for over 12 years now. Why, in your opinion, do you think media and the public in India have projected you as a style expert? Is it your personal style sense, being that you came from a different country thus have a different perspective on style than those brought up in India, or do you think it’s your knowledge of fashion that has garnered you this title as style influencer?
I think it’s a bit of both to be honest. I didn’t know shit about fashion when I was growing up. At MTV India, my first ever producer threw me into fashion week. I knew nothing about designer clothing. Then Style Check came along. My biggest lesson on fashion is observing. I did that well and incorporated it into my understanding of what fashion and style is. My perspective, which is not being the same as people in India, got attention.
What fashion designers influence you and why?
I am not a big fashion designer person. I will always be just a basic shopper. But I do love seeing people in beautiful gowns by Roberto Cavalli and Prada. I don’t have a favourite in the West because I don’t really know or understand it in a big way, but when it comes to Indian designers, everyone knows that Falguni & Shane Peacock have been my rock in fashion since I started. They are like family to me. They have dressed me for everything. Why I love them is because they are just so out of the box. The combination of chains, lace, peacock feathers and net that they combine into such sexiness and rawness is what I love about their styles. Their designs make me feel like this unbelievable sexy rock star where you get to travel into this beautiful fairy tale for a while and feel like a modern day Cinderella.
Which one Bollywood and one Hollywood star, one male and one female from each, do you feel have the best sense of style and why?
I love Bollywood, but when it comes to style, I think we still have a long way to go, so I probably wouldn’t choose a fashion icon in Bollywood. In Hollywood, I’d only pick from women. I think Miranda Kerr is very stylish.
You’ve been the style consultant for Reliance Brands’ Miss Sixty, Energie, Killah and Diesel. What did you do for them specifically?
They basically had the exposure to me because I was the ambassador for Lee Jeans, which took me on as their brand ambassador for their skinny jean campaign. Reason was because one day, they showed me their styles and I hated them. I believe in always endorsing products you believe in. I started putting my input in for Lee Jeans in India at the time when skinny jeans had just hit the world but they hadn’t come to India yet. I told them that I couldn’t endorse their product if they don’t come out with skinny jeans because I felt that we gotta be ahead of everyone else. So they sent back their stock, turned it around, made skinny jeans, and brought them back. They had 90 per cent sales on them. We also had celebrities walking into Lee for the first time, like Kareena and Karisma Kapoor. So the boss went to Reliance and that’s how I got approached to come up with style possibilities for them.
Would you ever design your own collection?
Yes! Four of them actually:
1. An underwear collection because India has a lack of good underwear. Most women wear underwear for themselves not
for men, so I want to design comfortable, fun and hot lingerie for them.
2. A luggage collection that is practical, fun looking and affordable because I feel every girl should have great luggage. I’m not interested in making it a designe label; I’m not a designer girl. And it has to have a section for dirt laundry [Laughs].
3. Accessories line like makeup bags that are practical.
4. And I want to have my own perfume.
SOUGHT AFTER MODEL . . .
It’s only natural that the next progression or parallel progression for you would be to foray into modeling. You already touched on being a brand ambassador for Lee Jeans but that’s not even the half of it as there’s also been Reebok, Tuscan Verve, Pond’s, Crocs and Toni and Guy. Tell me about this part of your career?
Well, like I said, I never endorse a brand that I don’t believe in and yes, I have been blessed for being an ambassador for so many internationally renowned brands, especially since I’m not a Bollywood star so to speak. I take it all in stride and count my blessings.
What wouldn’t you endorse?
Fairness creams are a massive no-no for me. I have been offered fairness creams but always said no because I don’t believe in what they stand for.
Amen sista! You’ve also graced the covers of some of India’s most prominent magazines like Femina and Fashion Bloom as well as been featured in Cosmopolitan, Elle and Seventeen. Tell me how you prepare for a model shoot versus a veejay shoot since, although both are very different in terms of the genre, they are both public forums where you are, for want of a better description, on display to the masses?
That’s a fantastic question! I can honestly tell you that I hate photo shoots because I’m a very impatient and fidgety person so I find it hard to stay still for too long, which is required in modeling so that the photographer can get the shot. I much prefer the on-air genre because I get to be my energetic and wacky self!
I read that you were invited by Nigel Barker to shoot for his Raw series (2012). Were you able to keep still for him? [Laughs]
[Laughs]. Anita Chatterjee, who has a great relationship with Nigel, recommended me. When I got the call, I was so excited. I mean, I have watched America’s Next Top Model so much that it was surreal to be a part of his book. That shoot day was such a great day for me. I remember Nigel was surprised that I was an Indian girl that wasn’t stereotypically timid because when I entered the room and got in front of the camera, I was the confident wacky girl that I am, and he was like, “Wow!” [Laughs]
ACTING STINT . . .
Let’s talk acting. Why get into this when you already had so much going on career wise?
When I got the call with the offer to do a film, I went on set where Mahesh Manjrekar, the director, narrated the whole story to me. For someone who has a short attention span, I was engrossed from beginning to end. To add to this, he started dropping the actors names that were going to be in the film.
Amitabh Bachchan, your bed buddy [Laughs], Sharmila Tagore, Sanjay Dutt and John Abraham?
[Laughs]. Yes! How could I decline such a mega opportunity? So I accepted of course! And then I was driven to meet Mr. Bachchan so he could see who is going to be cast in the film and I got the approval in just a couple of minutes from him. And then I did the film.
It was great, scary and exciting all at the same time! I did a couple of other Hindi films and a Marathi one but yes, this one, Viruddh (2005) was the big one.
You were nominated for the Stardust Best Newcomer in a Supporting Role Award in 2006 and won the Maharashtra Times Sanman Best Debut Award the same year. Clearly you made your mark in Bollywood with this film. What was it like working with such mammoth stars? Were you nervous at all as many new actors are who are faced with working with such legendary talent?
I was truly blessed and surprised all at the same time. Watching Mr. Bachchan and Sharmila Tagore is a moment that will go down as one of my career highlights.
Give me some insights as to what they were like on set.
I remember Mr. Bachchan would always sit in a corner on his chair before a shot. He would be getting into character and I would just watch him amazed. He’s a real character actor and the ultimate professional, as he would always show up for all of the rehearsals with the rest of us. You know Raj, he doesn’t demand respect he honestly commands it. I remember, he would walk on set and everybody would stand.
I know! In one of my scenes, I had to cry and it was really nerve wrecking. In the scene, I had just lost my husband and Amitabh and Sharmila had just lost their son. Raj, I was standing at the top of the staircase and we had to run down. Sharmila was standing in front of me when I said, “I’m pretty nervous; I don’t know what to do.” She said, “You know Anusha, don’t act just react.” When they shouted “action!” Sharmila and Amitabh had to run down the stairs first and I had to go about two minutes after that. I remember this so vividly, as they ran down the stairs, my tears naturally started coming in my eyes because I was reacting to watching them losing their son, and because their performances were so honest and so real, I truly felt the pain as if I had lost someone close to me.
What a great story! Your most famous cameo was the Delhi Belly (2011) number “I Hate You Like I Love You” which you performed with Aamir Khan.
Yes! After I did that song, Aamir came on my set at MTV and said, “You are a great actor because you make people laugh with you not at you.”
Coming from Aamir Khan, I don’t think there’s a bigger compliment.The interesting thing about this song was that it got huge international play and catapulted you beyond India into the global arena. Was this in part what led you to take your career beyond the Indian and Asian spotlights into the North American arena with your mainstream musical career being launched soon?
I always thought international was next somehow; I just didn’t know how. I did a musical, the first of its kind, “Miss Bollywood,” around Europe with Shilpa Shetty and that’s when I started getting my first exposure to foreign audiences. We’d get standing ovations every night in Germany and all over the U.K. It was a different kind of feeling but equally as wonderful as in India. The last and final show happened at the Royal Albert Hall in London to a packed house, which was surreal. Then I started doing Shah Rukh Khan tours abroad, which was a whole other audience and experience. You’d think that it’s only going to be an Indian crowd but no; Shah Rukh is loved by many people that are not Indian. My first massive crowd was 20,000 people in Amsterdam where I remember feeling petrified on stage because each time they would hear his name, they would scream so loud that I actually had to take a step back because my heart would start beating really fast off of their adrenaline. So it was all of these experiences combined that gave me a taste of the foreign market that made me start wanting it even more.
THE NEXT CHAPTER:
MUSICAL ARTIST . . .
You chose to expand your repertoire both audience-wise and geographically by working on a looming career launch into mainstream music in North America. Tell me about how this all came together.
I decided to come to America for my first vacation from veejaying in eight years, where I met Anjula from DesiHits. We went to the Hamptons where I started doing an impersonation of Ke$ha and she said to me, “Why don’t you do this for a living?” Anj then took me for a meeting with RedOne, which was a life-changing moment. It’s funny when I look back because every producer I’ve met in New York and L.A., when I would walk in, I would be like, “Listen, I know I’m not Mariah Carey or Christina Aguilera and know very little about singing professionally, but I can tell you that I am a really hard worker.” I have to thank RedOne for pushing me and giving me his team completely and utterly, and Anj who constantly says, “Yes you can and you will!”
Your style of music?
Indie-pop is definitely my genre now. Artists like Lana Del Rey and Lorde with a mix of Britney, Beyoncé and Nicole Scherzinger. A fusion of these styles.
What will be your debut single and when should we expect it to hit airwaves?
Definitely this year. I’m expecting my first single to be a duet cover of a Lykke Li track. I’m very excited about that. Also, one of my favourite songs that I’ve recorded so far with RedOne is called “Schizophrenic Love” which I really hope to release very soon too because I know that everyone can relate to the notion that love is schizophrenic.
You’ve recorded a duet with Siva from The Wanted. Tell me about this?
Oh, he is the one I did the cover song duet with, which is scheduled to be my debut single release. I never got to meet Siva in the studio because he recorded the song in New York and I recorded it in L.A., although I met him later in Dubai. We are so excited to be doing a song together, and he’s the most encouraging because he has come from a massive boy band but is the humblest guy ever. So inspiring.
What do you want to accomplish as a musical artist?
I want to accomplish becoming a formidable and credible brand that people the world over can resonate with. My entire business portfolio has been leading up to this moment. My plan is to build a brand off of all that I’ve done and been exposed to professionally speaking, so in short, the coming together of fashion and music. I’m really excited about that.
Being that you’re extremely image conscious and clearly brand savvy, will your musical artist image be different from your current public image or the same? I don’t want to change who I am because it will be too confusing for me and my audience, so who I am is exactly what you’re gonna get but with music
THE WOMAN . . .
Who is Anusha Dandekar the woman behind the persona?
I’m a pajama-loving, junk food-eating, movie-watching kind of a girl behind all the lights and makeup. I have a big pajama fetish and I always say that you never know who’s going to ring the doorbell in the morning; it just could be Justin Timberlake and you want to look your best right? [Laughs]
Are you whom you want to be on a personal level or is she still manifesting?
I think I’m still manifesting her in the sense that I really want to just stay as positive as possible which isn’t always easy to accomplish in the industries I work in. I’m still manifesting that whole “stay positive all the time” thing, you know? I don’t think I’m an insecure person at all, but I do think that insecurity can get to me at times. And I say that I’m only competitive with myself, and I don’t have an ego, but I do feel that negativity sometimes gets to me when I don’t want it to.
Who would you want “her” to be in her most actualized manifestation?
As Disney as it may sound, I’d like to always be in a fairy tale. I do feel even now that I live in a bubble. I don’t watch the news or read newspapers because I don’t really want to know all the bad stuff that goes on. I’m not saying that I don’t know what’s going on, what I’m saying is that the negative stuff can weigh the spirit down so rather than consume that energy, I prefer to be positively proactive and make things better in my small way by focusing my energy in good things. So, in sum, I want to live life in a bubble with a fairy tale around me and hopefully spread that fairy tale, that fairy dust to everybody else.
You’ve worked so hard for so many years, constantly on the push in so many varied careers. Looking back, do you feel that maybe you have lost or sacrificed aspects of the personal you along the way?
I don’t feel that I’ve had to change much really, except when it comes to my love life that is. You know — who’s watching, what’s being assumed, will a photo end up in the media? And that’s because you’re consistently under a microscope.Yes, because if things are always being written about you or your photo being taken, I think, “Is anyone going to want to date me?” Probably not. Are they gonna be okay with me travelling everywhere, and that too, with other guys — crew and hosts, etc.? Also, what about wearing a bikini on the cover of a magazine or lingerie, you know? Which Indian guy, or guy period, is gonna want to take that on?
So, if you could change any one thing about your personal life, what would it be and why change it?
Having my younger sister grow up with me. I wish sometimes, if she only just grew up with me, I think life would have been much simpler. Just to have known her since she was a baby, you know? It’s weird because now, we are so close. Later in life, when she finally moved in with me, even though the place had three bedrooms, I asked her if we could share a bedroom because we’ve never shared one before. I just desperately wanted to get to know her, wake up next to her, knowing what she likes to do in the morning, that kind of stuff.
In retrospect, any regrets outside of not growing up with your sister because you can’t regret something that was beyond your control?
Never regret anything. Because everything you’ve done is a learning lesson, and you’ll just grow from it. I’m such a strong believer that the universe gives you want you want whether you’re being positive or negative. Every lesson in my life has taught me something and brought me to where I am today, so I don’t want to actively regret any decision I’ve made.
Absolutely! Clearly there’s a strong spiritual side to the personal Anusha.
Yes! In my house, I have Jesus sitting right next to Ganpati Baba and Buddha sitting right next to him. I have to share a quick story with you Raj. I used to get a lot of allergies, then one day, I said to myself that I’m going to get rid of them by believing that they are not for me. I don’t get allergies anymore. A friend gave me the book, The Secret and I read it and my whole life kind of came full circle. Then I read The Magic and practiced it. If you don’t let negative be, you’ll conquer it!
THE PERFECT MAN . . .
The perfect guy is the one that lets me be who I am and at the same time, who I let be who he is. Yes, we can say they’ve got to be good looking, funny and have a good job; be open-minded and worldly, but for me, this IS what I want. This may sound like the biggest fairy tale but I want that fairy tale because my perfect man is my fairy tale and he’s the one that I don’t want to change because he comes pre-packaged this way [Laughs].
Have you met him?
Yes, and you’re the first one I’m telling!
Oh my gosh, is there anything you feel comfortable sharing?
Of course, I’ll share it all! [Laughs]. It’s the first time I’m opening up to anyone about it because it’s very new. It’s been almost three months in three days.
Awe, how cute you are, “three months in three days!”
[Laughs]. We actually met over the phone, and Raj, I have to tell you this, which I’ve never spoken about before, this is one of the things I put out there in the universe — no more negativity, I’m going to find the love of my life because I also deserve a happily-ever-after. That’s all I kept saying and would you believe it, he literally crossed my path on Valentine’s day. Isn’t that insane?
On February 14th, he had booked this presidential suite and we had dinner on the terrace, just a table for two with roses and love hearts. I don’t think I’ve ever had a guy do that for me before. He also had a necklace made for me with my name in Arabic. The perfect guy!
Well, you deserve it babe and I’m a firm believer that you get what you believe you deserve. You put it out there and brought it to you!
Yes Raj, and he’s an Indian guy too! I think I put that out there too [Laughs] because that’s what I want. He lives in Dubai. He’s great!
What’s his name?
Gaurav and he’s in the finance industry so we never get bored talking to each other because our worlds couldn’t be more far apart in terms of what we do each day. And he lets me be.
What’s the most valuable lesson you’ve learned about romantic relationships, be it this one, or anything historically speaking?
Don’t mother them too much. I have a tendency to mother people; it’s my Capricorn-dominating nature. I’m an alpha-female so when a guy normally comes into my world, I’ve always tried to dominate them completely with my opinions. I’ve changed that since I met Gaurav because I’ve learned how to balance things from him.
FUTURE . . .
I was on your twitter and read a tweet you posted on May 4th where you said that you’re launching a web series called Beauty and the Blogger. Tell me about this.
Oh of course! I’m leaving tomorrow to shoot it actually. I’m super excited, as it’s the first web series of its kind in India. There’s going to be models and bloggers who will team up together in a competition where they have to perform tasks. The winners will be announced and win lots of money. I’m going to be the mentor to the models, which I’m so excited about because it lets me tap into my Capricorn side of leadership. I love being bossy [Laughs]. It can be seen on YouTube at FameboxFashion. I’d love people to tune in, as the challenges will be a combination of on the ground and online. Oh, and I have some huge news Raj!
Tell me doll!
India’s Next Top Model is coming to MTV India, aiming to go on air this September and I will be the host! Yay huge!!!
Congratulations sweets, you’re the natural choice. Keep us posted about developments. How exciting! And with regards to your musical career launch, are you almost done recording the songs for your first album?
I’ve done the first single as I told you, but not the first album yet as we’ve still got a bit of work left to do for that. America works on releases of singles first and then the album, so I am working on that roll out process.
Anything else that you’ve either got in the works or that you want people to know about?
Other than the four items I told you I want to create as part of my brand, I really want to open a fast food joint [Laughs]. I’m a fast food connoisseur [Laughs]. One last thing, one special thing I haven’t told anybody about is that when I hit it, I want to open up a school for girls. I also want you to be a part of it, to come and teach one day as a guest teacher!
I would be honoured dear, thank you for thinking of me as a mentor!
Of course! The girl child empowerment cause is very important to me. Raj, I’m not going to share this with you from an ego perspective because there’s no ego attached to doing your bit if you can, but the story is so compelling to illustrate why this cause is so crucial. I heard that my housekeeper was going to pull her daughter out of school because she couldn’t afford the fees. There are two rules in my house: education and medicine. So I told her, “You’re putting your daughter back in school so bring me the paperwork and let’s sort it out.” The daughter was four years old at the time and I remember when her first report card came because the mother brought it to me because she couldn’t read it herself. Her daughter got straight As, a girl who may never have known her abilities. I started to cry as I told her mother, who also started to cry and thank me. I said, “No, please let me thank you because you didn’t stop her from going to school because she’s a girl. You kept her in school and I love you for that. You’re a hero, not me.” That is my story that I will take to my school when I open it up one day, where thousands of girls like this girl will get a chance to be educated and empower their own life. I took school for granted because I grew up in Australia. Looking back, I didn’t realize just how important having a book is because I never knew what it was like to go without. I want to open up this school because I think nobody should be held back.
LAST WORDS . . .
A quote that exemplifies your life’s mantra.
I have two and they are both by me [Laughs]. One is: “Love yourself or change till you do.” And two: “I might be a nice cover to look at, but I have pages inside worth reading, understanding and loving. And I will have my happily-ever-after one day!” Yeah, I’m letting it all out with Raj! [Laughs].
Thank you babe!
You know, there’s a time in your life when you feel super comfortable and true to yourself and you’re going to let it all out. THIS is that time! I love you. Great interview, you’re fantastic!
First Published in Summer/July 2014, The Health Issue. www.AnokhiMedia.com
Cover and photo i, iii, v, viii: Portrait Photography by Prasad Naik; Hair & Makeup by Geraldine B. Ghai ; Wardrobe & Styling by Anusha Dandekar
Photo ii: Anusha Performing In Mumbai
Photo iv: With Amir Khan, Photography Courtesy Of Anusha Dandekar
Photo vi: With Deepika Padukone, Photography Courtesy Of Anusha Dandekar
Photo vii: Anusha At The MTV VMAs India, Photography courtesy of Anusha Dandekar (MTV VMA INDIA)
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