Nostalgia with Sonu Walia: “When I was 22, I signed my first autograph on top of the Eiffel Tower!”

The actor goes down memory lane as she talks about being Miss India, focusing on becoming financially independent and not buying her dream house for her career
Sonu Waliaat 22 (top) and at 57 (above)
Sonu Waliaat 22 (top) and at 57 (above)
Published on Oct 02, 2021 10:25 PM IST
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ByDinesh Raheja

Where were you career-wise?

I was Miss India. I think that was the best thing that happened to me at that time. It was like a dream come true.

Sonu Walia was crowned Miss India in a Hemant Trivedi outfit
Sonu Walia was crowned Miss India in a Hemant Trivedi outfit

Did your parents’ impetus give you the confidence to enter the pageant?

My mother didn’t compliment me. The previous generation wasn’t hugged and complimented as kids, and they didn’t know how to. My father insisted on education and being a good person. I had to become Miss India to feel validated in my mind.

Sonu shopped for neon nail paint and outfits from Stephen Sprouse’s collection in the US
Sonu shopped for neon nail paint and outfits from Stephen Sprouse’s collection in the US

What was your equation with money?

My focus then was to become financially independent. Women should have their own money as then they can lead lives on their own terms. When I was 13, my dad said, “I’ll support you till you’re 18. After that, you have to fend for yourself.” Because he believed in me, I found the confidence and got into modelling.

At the NASA space station in Houston
At the NASA space station in Houston

Did you go by the name Sonu then?

My parents Satinder Singh and Damanjit Kaur called me Sonu, but didn’t give me a proper name. When I was in class 5 in Carmel Convent, Chandigarh, my grandfather decided to change my name to Sanjeet Kaur. I was 10, but I put my foot down, saying, “I want to be Sonu!”

With Miss Lebanon and their chaperone during the Miss Universe pageant in Miami
With Miss Lebanon and their chaperone during the Miss Universe pageant in Miami

Your high fashion shopping hub?

I shopped in the States because American sizes were perfect for me. I remember Rohit Khosla taking me to a garage sale in New York.

In her mother’s arms when she was a toddler
In her mother’s arms when she was a toddler

Your most prized possession then?

It could have been a sea-facing flat in Versova that I was going to buy. But I needed 50 costumes for the pageant. I had to make my own wardrobe, which made a big dent in my savings.

With Chunky Pandey and her sister Monu
With Chunky Pandey and her sister Monu

A memorable anecdote from then?

After the Miss Universe pageant, I went to Texas, New York, London and Paris. I signed my first autograph while I was on top of the Eiffel Tower! Imagine, I am on top of this amazing edifice and somebody comes up and says, “Are you Sonu Walia, Miss India? Can I have your autograph?” It was a precious moment.

Flanked by Kimi Katkar and Kitu Gidwani for a magazine cover shoot
Flanked by Kimi Katkar and Kitu Gidwani for a magazine cover shoot

Your idea of handsome then and now?

I adored Shashi Kapoor. In my Miss India pictures, I’m smirking as I couldn’t believe I was standing next to him! I’m waiting for Taimur Ali Khan to grow up; he will be a worthy successor!

From HT Brunch, October 3, 2021

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Tuesday, November 30, 2021