Model Saira Mohan has walked the runway for prestigious international labels including Chanel, Valentino and Victoria’s Secret. Born to a Punjabi father and French-Irish-Canadian mother, Mohan has been hailed by Newsweek as the ‘new global standard of beauty’. She shares her thoughts on modelling, Bollywood and the joys of motherhood with Priyanka Gill.
What are you doing at the moment?
I’m preparing for motherhood. I will also be featured in Vogue this April. I am also doing a lot of television in the US and UK. I have a ton of young girls writing me and asking me about the fashion and entertainment business. I’m also reading some pretty compelling film scripts from Hollywood and Bollywood.
What books are you reading now?
I’m knee-deep in pregnancy books and baby books. They are fascinating.
What films do you have in the pipeline? Are you eyeing Bollywood?
I enjoy acting when the part fits an aspect of who I am. I am doing a film called When Harry Tries To Marry. It’s developing nicely. It is written and produced by Nayan Padrai. It has Hollywood and Bollywood talent, on both sides of the camera. It’s a very exciting project.
You have said that your Indian background has been a complete non-issue in your career. But you also say that you have been capitalising on the Indian angle. Why the contradiction?
My Indian background has not played any part in my success as a model. Nobody cares about that beyond a point. However, with my particular looks, an art director can make me look like I am from almost any background. I have sold products in Spain, South America, Italy, France, and UK — anywhere that the demographic will respond. At the moment, I have some exposure in India and, therefore, am capitalising on the fact that I can look Indian as well.
After the Newsweek cover, you seem to be the flavour of the month (or months) for the Indian press. How do you feel about this?
I feel very lucky that I have been given an opportunity to share myself with my distant country. India has always had a special place in my heart and I am grateful for the chance to share my hopes and dreams with her. I like to think of myself as a bridge between the East and the West—using the attention that I have received to further a better understanding of our cultures.
You told the BBC that you are the first of many (models) to come. What advise would you give to the aspiring Saira Mohans in India?
I believe this because I see it with my own eyes. Take models like Ujjwala Raut and designers like Anand Jon for example. Indians continue to contribute to the business world from Hollywood to Hewlett Packard. Advice to aspiring models of India: if you want to be judged solely on your outer shell and you have the correct height, weight, etc, then follow your dreams and go for it. But, beware of the sharks and trust your parents’ instincts.
What do you love best about India?
I love her mystery and her depth. India is a different country every time I visit her— both inspiring me and amazing me at the same time. This question will be more provocative 50 years from now. I wonder if I would still be as stuck on the answer.
How do you describe your ‘Indianness’?
I would describe it as ‘subtle and mysterious’. I have Punjabi blood in my veins and discover more and more of what that means everyday. I love everything about India, Kerala is my favourite destination and if India were a stock, I would buy the hell out of it!
Do you wear clothes by Indian designers? Would you walk the ramp for any of them?
I wear clothes from Indian shops and mix them with my western wear. I love Indian fabrics and colours. I would be delighted to walk the ramp for any designer who requests me to do so.
You are a painter too. Tell me about Saira the artist.
Saira the artist is very passionate. I enjoy the solitude and focus that comes along with creation. I love to sit and think deeply about what I am doing and what colours I may want to use to express the particular mood that I may be in at that time. For me, painting is an escape from the hectic world that we all live in, and when I am painting I am getting to know myself better — my limitations, my deepest darkest thoughts… it’s very inspiring.
Your e-book How to Seduce (and Marry) the Woman of your Dreams has had quite a few satisfied readers. How do you cope with all the letters you receive?
I continue to give advice every day to the many fans from across the globe who send me their questions — teenagers and young adults that are having a difficult time understanding the opposite sex and want to know how to deal with each other in the most productive ways. I care about these letters so deeply; in many instances, I can help, and I want to share.
What part of Saira has not yet hit the public domain?
When someone is in the public eye, I do believe there is a degree of responsibility that goes along with that and one must be careful with what one says and does. I am a very sexual and sensual person. But I am not sure that expressions of these should be discussed when unsolicited.
What do you want to be remembered for?
I want to be remembered for what I have given back to the global community. I am currently forming The Saira Mohan Educational Society. Its purpose is to bring knowledge and knowledge-seekers together in a variety of ways. To make this goal a reality, the SMES has formed an operating partnership with The Round Table Group, a network of thousands of professors, deans, and trustees from the world’s most prestigious universities. The idea is to bring state-of-the-art knowledge and processes to parts of the world that need it most. Think of it as a knowledge bridge between the East and the West, the rich and the poor.