Sunny Leone who has made her mark in Bollywood was initially hesitant to come to India. She now admits that she loves what she has going on for her in India and says that she is enjoying the attention she gets everywhere she goes. Moving here was a big risk for her and her husband actually encouraged her to do so. When she got an offer to participate in the prime-time reality show ‘Bigg Boss’ in India, Leone initially declined. She says, “I thought it was absolutely insane because I’d got so many hate mails from the Indian community. Because I had got so much hatred, I said I don’t want to go through it again. We had the viewership and the reach details. We started doing further research. I think at that time ‘Bigg Boss’ was watched by 25 million people in 10 different countries or something. It was huge. By the time I finished researching, we both came to the conclusion that if we didn’t take this chance, it might be one of the biggest regrets we would ever have.”
She was taking a chance and she was scared. “There was a lot of negativity and backlash for Bigg Boss and Colors for bringing me here because it was the first time someone from adult content industry was coming to mainstream television. Meanwhile, I thought if I work for a couple of weeks, make money and then go home, I could put a down payment on a house and go back to living in my bubble. I didn’t think anything was going to come from it.”
But when she started working in ‘Bigg Boss’, she realised she was breaking into a market that she has been trying to enter for years. “Our research showed that majority of the traffic that came to my website or different social media sites was from India. We were not capitalising the traffic. Nobody made it to the ‘join’ page or purchased anything. Bigg Boss was my chance to break into a market that I had never been able to tap into. There is definitely a disconnect that happens when you are someone from abroad. Living here is being a part of the Indian culture and there is a connect that happens. Hence, moving to India was very calculated.”
After Bigg Boss, Leone bagged some Bollywood movies and debuted with Jism-2. She has also done a song for Shah Rukh Khan-starrer ‘Raees’, which is expected to hit the screens next year.
While she is getting many offers today, she is worried that it will all end one day. She is considering branching out and we know Sunny is a businesswoman. She says, “Once we got a handle of how it works in India, after signing a bunch of movies and doing different brand endorsements, we have tried to think of ways to branch out.” Apart from movies, she does a show every year. At present, she co-hosts ‘MTV Splitsvilla’.
As part of the expansion plan, she has launched a perfume line, ‘The Lust’. “It is manufactured by me. Taking the Kardashian model and some of the other artists out there in the US, the goal is to keep growing. When the movies or something else ends, I know that we have created something here above, beyond and bigger than us.”
After perfumes, Leone plans to venture into women’s cosmetics. “I plan to create products for women such as nail polish, skin care and lipsticks. I’m not sure about clothing right now but it is something we keep talking about,” says Leone. “We have invested a lot of time and money in it. I personally would like to invest more money in merchandising and branding because it is something that can continue forever.”
She recently wrote a collection of short-stories titled, Sweet Dreams, the stories are “fictional stories of power… emotions… desires”. “It was a little more difficult than I anticipated. It takes a lot of work to be a good writer.” She also wishes to produce movies in India and says, “But I am in no rush because there is a shift happening in the entertainment industry and if you don’t have great content and dialogues, usually it doesn’t work.”
Leone has stopped working in the adult content industry. Her focus now is on building her brand. “I stopped working in that industry long time ago. But we have a lot of traffic and we don’t know what to do with it. Now we have a reach of around 100 million people. Hence, let’s say, there is a company that wants me to tweet about something or put it on Facebook, I use this traffic to monetise now. We also found that the traffic is now monetised because those people are donating or spreading the word. We are able to do so many things now, which we were just not able to do earlier.”
Leone has over 1.5 million followers on Twitter, a reach she uses for promotions and branding. “Every day, we use social media to get across something that we want to say. A brand will call and say we want you to tweet about our brand once, which we do. There have been some directors who come and say ‘I want you to keep tweeting every 20 minutes the same thing over and over’. I say it is not going to happen because you are not going to get traction with this. It is not going to work. You are not even letting it get absorbed before having me tweet again. We don’t want to block the followers or get them to unfollow.”
Wow, surely looks like Sunny has it all figured out and all we can say is that we are glad she came to India!