Born as Karen Malhotra, she was rechristened "Sunny" in 2001. The "Leone" in her name came from Bob Guccione, former owner of Penthouse magazine when she was named as the "Penthouse Pet of the month" for March 2001. Sunny has had a mixed parentage. Her father was born in Tibet but raised in Delhi, dying later of cancer while her mother was from Sirmaur in Himachal Pradesh. A tomboy in her childhood, she was happiest playing street hockey and ice skating on frozen lakes. She moved to California at the age of 11. Her foray into the adult entertainment business was courtesy John Stevens, an agent to Jay Allen, a photographer for Penthouse magazine. She went on to pose for the Penthouse magazine and also appeared in other magazines including Cheri, Mystique Magazine, High Society, Swank, AVN Online, Leg World, Club International and Lawrider and others. She became a household name in India with her entry into Big Boss, the popular reality show on television.Here she talks about what travel means to her and how she views India as a travel destination.
What has been your experience of being in India as a traveller and tourist? What has appealed to you?
My experience of traveling in India has been amazing. It's a completely different world as compared to California. The rich culture, hospitality, and food here is eclectic to say the least. I as also other Americans like me, hardly know what India is truly all about. The food here tastes, smells and looks different from what we are used to back home. Sometimes I did miss my familiar sights, sounds and smells but the overall hospitality and warmth of the Indian people more than made up for any sense of dÃ©jÃ vu that I may have experienced.
Do you think India has the potential of being on an international traveller's 'must visit' list? What are the things that are not right on this account?
I believe that India is on every persons "must visit" list. There is something to suit everyone's tastes and preferences. It's just a question of how well you do your home work and how much planning you have undertaken. One thing in India that you must factor in is that things can go awry at the last minute - flights can get cancelled, hotel bookings can get messed up, your guide can become anything but a trusted aide and yet, on the flip side you can find generosity, love and affection from quarters you least expected. To that extent India is like a "heady drug".
Which according to you are the five sexiest places to visit in the world?
Hawaii, Italy, Paris, New York and Goa.
What are the 'must-do's' on your list when you take a vacation?
Definitely access to a spa, learn something about the culture (tour) and try and find the most local/authentic restaurant without tourists.
Which according to you are countries where 'sex tourism' is promoted in a nice and safe manner?
I think Brazil is on the top of my list. I have never been to a more sexually driven country ever. They make you want to embrace your sexuality as a human being. In Brazil everyone I met always promoted safe sex. There is a playful vibrancy in the place that is far removed from the seedy look and feel that might be apparent in some of the Oriental countries. It's all very open, friendly, natural, spontaneous and festive. You feel like celebrating your sexuality, freedom and the sheer joy of being alive.
Do you combine leisure with official work/travel. Any tips on maximising the travel experience while on work?
I do that all the time. Sometimes the work component is heavier and at others it is the leisure. So I try and make the most of whatever I am doing at any given point in time. One way of maximizing time in another country is no matter what is going on make the time to leave the hotel to do something. If you think your employer is not going to give you the time, always ask for it. You'll never get anything you want unless you ask. Make that extra effort to squeeze in a bit extra, even on a work trip. God knows whether you will get a chance to revisit the place at a later date. I know folks who travel on business around the world but they could not be any wiser for they board the plane, get into a limousine, check into a hotel, attend meetings and return. A lot of times people are wary of doing simple leisurely things alone. But this is just a mindset. One can explore, even if one is alone.
Where did you go on your last holiday? What was special about it?
The last holiday I had was in Cancun, Mexico City. life can become quite monotonous when engulfed with work and responsibility. Having the incredible opportunity to live on the Caribbean Sea is not something I take for granted at all, so I would have to say I gain complete escape and pure tranquility when diving in the ocean, or in the incredible caverns of a Cebite (sink holes) in the Riviera Maya. The crystal clear water and incomparable beauty of the underwater world is one of my favourite places to be. I went because I had a little time to relax and really needed a vacation.
Any off-beat places that you have discovered in India or overseas, which you think turned out to be memorable?
One place that I loved was a small resort in Belize where everything in the resort was made on the property, every meal you ate was what the cook wanted you to eat, the owners of the hotel were the ones to take you on the tour and they took you to places that were not regular tourist spots. It was an unusual break.
As a child what are your memories of travel and any lasting memories/impressions?
While growing up my parents did not have a lot of money to take us to places but during the summer almost every weekend they took us camping and on road trips. It was always a lot of fun and in the process we had some very unusual and exotic vacations. We also leant to undertake affordable travel, to amass a wealth of experiences when least expecting to. Whether it is camping on the roadside, or staying over in a rundown village motel or living in a dormitory or just driving through cities, villages and towns and sleeping in the car itself - we could laugh and have fun in all situations.
Places that have stayed with you...any special memories that you would want to share.
My stay in India has changed me at many levels. It's hard to pin point exactly how and where but overall I know I have become more introspective. My visit to Israel too had a deep impact on my psyche. Floating in the Dead Sea was a memorable experience. Going to Jerusalem and visiting the Holocaust museum and the Wailing Wall triggered deep emotions. A place should touch you at different levels. Both India and Israel did that for me.