The Indo-Canadian porn star, Sunny Leone, has faced booming success in both the adult film industry and Bollywood, despite India’s very conservative values.
Born in Ontario, Canada, Leone grew up in a traditional Indian home, but the family moved to California when she was in her teens. She was actually studying to be a paediatric nurse before entering the porn industry.
Leone started out shooting pornographic stills before moving on to films: shortly after becoming Penthouse magazine’s Pet of the Year in 2003, she signed a contract with Vivid Entertainment – one of the top adult film agencies in the business – and her career soared from there.
Her first film with Vivid Entertainment (Virtual Vivid Girl Sunny Leone) was released two years later , which went on to win ‘Best Interactive CD-ROM – Game’ in the Adult News Awards.
Leone said she thought her initial meeting in the industry was for a regular film, but when it turned out it wasn’t she went on to join the adult entertainment industry anyway.
“It was something I wanted to try and I liked the pictures, images, and production,” Leone told Artefact.
Leone eventually became one of Maxim’s top 12 adult entertainers, but her transition into Bollywood wasn’t easy and gained wide media attention.
Despite receiving a lot of scrutiny from the Indian media she has now become one of Bollywood’s number one stars.
Artefact asked her about her journey from porn to Bollywood and how she felt about the anger that her choices provoked: “I experienced some backlash from the Indian community during my early years in the adult industry. People make their own choices in life, and I don’t let that bother me. I’m happy with all my choices,” she said.
Leone still continues to face criticism from parts of the Indian community due to her porn star status – on a trip to Indore in 2014, she was banned from entering a shopping mall where she was due to promote a new film.
The militant Hindu organisation, The Bajrang Dal, threatened violence if Leone continued to promote her erotic horror film Ragini MMS 2 anywhere in the city.
Despite those who have been less accepting of her entry into mainstream entertainment, the actress has managed to win the hearts of her audience with her charm and humility: she added that she has ‘been blessed’, and that with ‘each passing day she has experienced more acceptance.’
Aside from Bollywood, Leone has a foot in both the mainstream and adult industries, co-owning an adult film company, Sun Lust Pictures Inc. with her rock star husband Daniel Weber.
The couple are always seen together, whether in holiday selfies or red carpet events, and appear to have a fairy tale romance – when asked how they balance their home and work lives, she responded “we always make sure to find ‘us’ time”.
She recently told Indian media that although this career choice was initially hard for her family to understand, they have been supportive of her choices and that her brother has been her strongest supporter.
Sunny Leone has four movies due to be released in 2015 and is tipped to be the next big star of Bollywood.
Images courtesy of: Daniel Weber – Sun Lust Pictures Inc