Leone in 2020
Karenjit Kaur Vohra
May 13, 1981
|Other names||Karen Malhotra|
|Occupation||Actress, former pornographic actress|
|Years active||2001–2013 (pornography)|
|Known for||Bigg Boss 5, Jism 2, Ragini MMS 2, Ek Paheli Leela, Splitsvilla|
Karenjit Kaur Vohra (born May 13, 1981), known by her stage name Sunny Leone (//), is a model and an actress in the Indian film industry and a former pornographic actress. She has Canadian and American citizenship. She has also used the stage name Karen Malhotra. She was named Penthouse Pet of the Year in 2003, was a contract performer for Vivid Entertainment, and was named by Maxim as one of the 12 top porn stars in 2010.
She has played roles in independent mainstream events, films, and television series. Her first mainstream appearance was in 2005, when she worked as a red carpet reporter for the MTV Video Music Awards on MTV India. In 2011, she participated in the Indian reality television series Bigg Boss. She also has hosted the Indian reality show Splitsvilla.
In 2012, she made her Bollywood debut in Pooja Bhatt's erotic thriller Jism 2 (2012) and shifted her focus to mainstream acting which was followed up with Jackpot (2013), Ragini MMS 2 (2014), Ek Paheli Leela (2015), Tera Intezaar (2017), and the Malayalam film Madhura Raja in 2019.
Apart from her acting career she has been part of activism campaigns including the Rock 'n' Roll Los Angeles Half-Marathon to raise money for the American Cancer Society and has also posed for a People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) ad campaign with a rescued dog, encouraging pet owners to have their cats and dogs spayed and neutered.
Karenjit Kaur Vohra was born on May 13, 1981 in Sarnia, Ontario, Canada to Sikh Indian Punjabi parents. As a young girl, she was a self-described tomboy, very athletic and played street hockey with the boys.
Although the family was Sikh, her parents enrolled her in Catholic school as it was felt to be unsafe for her to go to public school. When she was 13, her family moved to Fort Gratiot, Michigan, then to Lake Forest, California a year later, fulfilling her grandparents' dream that the family be together in one place. She had her first kiss at 11, lost her virginity at 16 with a basketball player, and discovered her bisexuality at 18.
When picking a name for her adult career, she has said that Sunny is her real name and Leone was picked by Bob Guccione, former owner of Penthouse magazine. She posed for Penthouse magazine, and was named Penthouse Pet of the Month for the March 2001 issue, followed by a feature in the Holiday 2001 edition of Hustler magazine as a Hustler Honey. She has also appeared in other magazines including Cheri, Mystique Magazine, High Society, Swank, AVN Online, Leg World, Club International and Lowrider, while her online credits include ModFX Models, Suze Randall, Ken Marcus and Mac & Bumble.
In 2003, she was named "Penthouse Pet of the Year" and starred in the video Penthouse Pets in Paradise alongside Tera Patrick and Kyla Cole. In 2005 Adam & Eve appointed her as their West Coast Internet Sales Representative.
That same year, Leone signed a three-year contract with Vivid Entertainment with which she transitioned into the world of hardcore pornography, stating that she would only do lesbian scenes. Her first movie released was titled Sunny and was released in December 2005. Her next movie, Virtual Vivid Girl Sunny Leone, was the first interactive title for Leone, who was the first Vivid Girl to make such a movie. Taking only four days to film, the movie won her her first AVN Award (Best Interactive DVD). She followed this with Sunny Loves Cher, which featured her first on-screen squirting, and The Female Gardner co-starring Mikayla Mendez and Daisy Marie.
Leone's last two movies under her contract with Vivid were It's Sunny in Brazil, which was filmed in Brazil, and The Sunny Experiment also starring Monique Alexander and Brea Lynn. The movies were released in October and December 2007 respectively.
In May 2007, upon re-signing her contract with Vivid for another six films, Leone agreed to perform for the first time with men on camera, but exclusively with her fiancé, Matt Erikson. That summer she also received breast augmentation, and shot her first movie under the new contract titled Sunny Loves Matt. The movie led to her being nominated for three (out of six) AVN awards in 2009 in addition to being a choice for Female Performer of the Year. She followed up her first boy-girl title with The Other Side of Sunny in October 2008, which would be the last time she would perform with Erikson.
In 2009, Vivid released her only movie performing with other male actors titled "Sunny B/G Adventure". Her final release under contract with Vivid – "Undress Me", once again made her exclusive to performing with just one male actor, Daniel Weber (he was performed under the stage name Ariel King), who subsequently became her husband.
In August 2009, she announced the launch of her own studio, Sunlust Pictures, with Daniel Weber as her partner. With her new venture Leone announced her plans to write, direct and create her own brand of adult movies with Vivid Entertainment as her distributor. Her first independent production, The Dark Side of the Sun, was released in March 2009, and was debuted at the Erotic Heritage Museum in Las Vegas. In June 2009, she held a casting call in Las Vegas for her second independent production titled Sunny Slumber Party (released September 2009). She followed up with three other self-produced features Gia Portrait of a Porn Star (2010) which was nominated for multiple AVN awards, Roleplay (2011) and Goddess (2012) which featured her first anal sex scene.
No longer exclusive to Vivid, Leone began working with other studios and performers since 2009. She leveraged her online popularity by striking deals with firms like PPPcard, AdultPokerParty.com, Brickhouse, Flirt4Free, Totemcash and Imlive to sell and distribute her content over the internet and other media. She won the "Web Babe of the Year" at the 2008 Xbiz Awards. Her websites and business interests are run under her banner company Leone L.L.C. She indicated in an April 2012 interview that 80 per cent of the traffic on her website, and 60 per cent of her revenue comes from India.
In addition to her film career, Leone has been part of the Vivid Comedy Tour, and has modelled for the Vivid Footwear collection. Leone has also participated in events like the Vivid/ClubJenna Lingerie Bowl and Vivid's Hot Rod Night. Doc Johnson launched a pocket pal in 2006 moulded to her vagina, and in 2008 released the Sunny Leone Exciter vibrator. Control MFG currently uses Leone's image along with other Vivid girls to market their line of skateboards. She is paired with Gab Ekoe, one of the Team Control riders. She also indicated that she plans to launch her own line of lingerie and other Sunny-branded products including a diamond jewellery line.
In September 2009, an iPhone application consisting of a collection of non-nude photos, some videos and a porn star-penned blog was approved by Apple for sale in the iTunes store, making it the first officially sanctioned application featuring a porn star. By February 2010, the app had been removed by Apple from the store.
Leone was voted number 13 (up from number 41 in 2007) on Genesis magazine's "Top 100 Porn stars" list, number 34 on Desiclubs.com's Top 50 Coolest Desis of 2004, and one of the "40 under 40" ranking on AVN Online magazine. In 2010, she was named by Maxim as one of the 12 top female stars in porn. She was voted number 82 in the Top 99 Women for 2012 in AskMen.com's list.
In 2013, she announced her retirement from the adult industry stating "I am lucky that the audience is accepting me. I have come my way from there (porn industry). I don't have any plans as of now to go back there."
Mainstream appearances prior to 2011
Leone's first mainstream appearance was in 2005, when she was a red carpet reporter for the MTV Awards on MTV India. She has also had a cameo in the film The Girl Next Door, performed in Ja Rule's video Livin' It Up and a video for Kidd Skilly. Other credits include E!'s "Wild On!" and the Sundance Film Festival's 'After Dark'. Leone was a contestant in the second season of the Fox reality show My Bare Lady 2: Open for Business, in which a group of adult actresses were given classes and training on how to pitch investment ideas and competed for success in the business world. In addition to filming her scene for Debbie Does Dallas in 2007, Leone was also part of a Showtime documentary of the same name detailing the production of the movie and the personal lives of its stars.
She indicated that for the right price she would seriously consider a career in Bollywood. She was courted by Indian directors in the past but felt uncomfortable with the roles that she would have played. Director Mohit Suri reportedly asked Leone to play the lead role in his film Kalyug, but instead cast Deepal Shaw as he could not afford Leone's $1 million acting fee. She has mentioned that Aamir Khan is her favorite Bollywood actor, and that over 60% of her fans are from South Asia.
In 2008, Leone announced that she would be starring in a mainstream action adventure movie titled Pirates Blood, which was shot in Oman. The shooting was completed in two weeks and was to be released in winter 2008. Leone also landed a role in Middle Men, producer Chris Mallick's indie feature about the birth of the online porn industry set for wide theatrical release in 2009. She appeared in the 2010 film The Virginity Hit playing a version of herself, where she is hired to take the virginity of the lead character.
Leone has made appearances at events such as the 2002 SEMA International Auto Salon, the 2002 Extreme Autofest Pomona and the 2006 World Series of Poker in Las Vegas. Sunny has also been the hostess at events in clubs like the Mansion in Miami and the Highlands in Hollywood.
In 2005, she was mentioned in Forbes magazine for a story on Vivid Entertainment. Leone has also been featured in mainstream publications like FHM, Front and Jane magazine. In 2007, along with the other Vivid Girls, she was seen in a 48' high holiday Billboard in Times Square at W. 48th Street and Seventh Avenue. Leone is also one of the Penthouse Pets who appears in the 2007 video game Pocket Pool. She was also featured in a coffee table book titled Naked Ambition: An R Rated Look at an X Rated Industry by Michael Grecco.
Indian film career
Bigg Boss and Entry in Bollywood (2011–13)
In 2011, she participated in the Indian reality series Bigg Boss 5, entering the house on day 49. However, she refused to divulge her porn star status, and replied to fellow house-mate Pooja Bedi that she was a model and a TV star in America for the last ten years or so. It was reported that she caused a stir in the larger populace with her Twitter feed gaining 8,000 new followers in just 2 days and Google saying searches for her experienced a "breakout". There were also complaints lodged with the Indian Ministry of Information and Broadcasting alleging that the Colors TV channel was promoting pornography by having Leone appear on the show; among those who filed are the Indian Artistes and Actors Forum and Anurag Thakur, member of Lok Sabha and head of the Bharatiya Janata Party's youth wing. She was evicted on Day 91.
During her stay in the Bigg Boss house, Leone was approached by Bollywood film-maker Mahesh Bhatt who entered the house briefly to offer her the lead role in Jism 2 (the sequel to the 2003 film Jism). She accepted it, which resulted in Pooja Bhatt's production house, Fish Eye Network and Leone's agent discussing the movie further. Leone entered Bollywood in 2012 with the film Jism 2 to weak critical reception but was commercially successful. Sunny Leone signed her second Bollywood film, Ragini MMS 2, sequel to Ekta Kapoor's crossover horror movie Ragini MMS. Sunny Leone featured in an item number in the Sanjay Gupta and Ekta Kapoor's 2013 film Shootout at Wadala. She further started filming for Kaizad Gustad's Jackpot in which she plays a femme fatale. Jackpot released on 13 December 2013 and was panned by critics.
Ragini MMS 2 and further success (2014–present)
Her first release of 2014 was the much anticipated horror film Ragini MMS 2, which proved to be a box-office hit. Leone's performance received all round praise with critic Mohar Basu calling her work a "revelation". Critic Taran Adarsh also noted that Leone, "carries off her character with supreme confidence". In November 2013, she had confirmed that she would make her Tamil film debut in Vadacurry which released in May 2014 and featured her in a special appearance. She next appeared in the item number Pink Lips for the film Hate Story 2, . After giving a hit number Pink Lips, she appeared once again in Shake That Booty opposite Mika Singh from his film Balwinder Singh Famous Ho Gaya. She made her acting debut in the Telugu film industry by appearing in a cameo in Current Theega opposite Manchu Manoj and Rakul Preet Singh where she played a school teacher.
Leone then appeared in item song Sesamma Bagilu Tegiyamma in Kannada film DK, which marked her debut in Kannada film industry. In April 2015, Leone appeared in Bobby Khan's musical thriller Ek Paheli Leela, where she portrayed dual roles as Leela, a village belle and Meera, a supermodel from Milan. The film was released on April 10, 2015. The film met with mixed to negative reviews but was a commercial success with collections of ₹27.47 crore (US$3.9 million). After a little gap, post the release of Ek Paheli Leela , she appeared in Devang Dholakia's Kuch Kuch Locha Hai was released on May 8, 2015. She essayed the role of a film star opposite Ram Kapoor, Evelyn Sharma and Navdeep Chabbra. The film emerged to be a critical and commercial failure. She did her second Kannada song "Kamakshi" from the film Luv U Alia. Last in 2015, she appeared in a cameo in Akshay Kumar's Singh is Bling. In January 2016, she appeared in Milap Zaveri's adult comedy Mastizaade, released on January 29, 2016 where she portrayed twin sisters, Laila and Lily Lele along with Tusshar Kapoor and Vir Das. The film released to mixed reviews and was an average earner. One critic said "Leone may not be better than this film, but she's the best thing in it." Her next film was Jasmine D'souza's One Night Stand with Tanuj Virwani released on May 6, 2016. The film was released to mixed reviews but was a flop commercially. Her last release of 2016 was Rajeev Chaudary's Beiimaan Love opposite Rajneesh Duggal that released on October 14, 2016. Her performance was widely praised but the film met with negative reviews and flopped. She also appeared in song "Tu Zaroorat Nahi Tu Zaroori Hai" with Sharman Joshi in Fuddu and item song "Choli Blockbuster" for the film Dongri Ka Raja. In December 2016, her song "Laila Main Laila" from Raees with Shah Rukh Khan was released.
In April 2017, she appeared in a cameo for Sonakshi Sinha's Noor where she is portrayed the role of an actress. She then appeared in song "Piya More" with Emraan Hashmi in Milan Luthria's Baadshaho. In addition, she appeared in song "Trippy Trippy" in Sanjay Dutt's comeback film, Bhoomi released on September 22, 2017. She also made her Marathi and Bengali film debuts the same month with songs "Kuth Kuth Jayacha Honeymoon La" in Vishal Devrukhkar's Boyz and "Chaap Nishna" in Swapan Saha's Shrestha Bangali. She then appeared in song "Deo Deo" for Rajasekhar's Telugu film PSV Garuda Vega Her last appearance was her mainstream film Tera Intezaar along Arbaaz Khan directed by Rajeev Walia. The film released on 1 December 2017.
Sunny Leone was voted by the Network 7 Media Group jury as "Indian Affairs Actress of the year 2018" founded by Satya Brahma at the historic 9th Annual India Leadership Conclave & Indian Affairs Business Leadership Awards 2018.
Sunny Leone's auto biopic titled "Karenjit Kaur – The Untold Story of Sunny Leone", an original web-series by ZEE5, was released on the platform on 16 July 2018. The series narrates her journey from a middle-class girl in Canada to becoming India's most googled celebrity. The series starts from her childhood as Gogu to her foray into the adult film industry to her exciting journey into Bollywood. The series will also be available in Bengali, Tamil, Telugu and Marathi languages.
In January 2018, Leone started filming for the Hindi remake of 2012 Punjabi film Jatt & Juliet opposite Manish Paul. She is also stars in Veeramadevi a period war Tamil film in full-fledged lead role directed by V.C. Vadivudaiyan. The shooting for the film commenced in February 2018 and will be released in Telugu, Hindi & Malayalam.
Sweet Dreams is a collection of 12 short stories written by Sunny Leone. They were published digitally as an e-book and launched on 22 April 2016 by Juggernaut Books through their mobile app. A story was made available on the app at 10pm every night. A 200-page paperback edition was also launched in 2016.
The work was well received by the Hindustan Times, which commented, "Sunny's stories are relentlessly optimistic. The characters are not complicated or unpleasant and exist in a world that veers on the border of Valentine's Land with its floating pink hearts and soft focus lighting."
Sunny Leone in an interview to Press Trust of India explains that the book is written from the perspective of both men and females, as well as being written for both genders but mainly for women; "I wrote these stories, from what I thought a woman would like to read." Sunny Leone add that it is "the first time (she has) written something like this." In the interview she mentioned how Juggernaut Books had come to her with this idea of writing the book.
Sweet Dreams was Elle's 'Book of the Week' in April 2016 and in the review they go on to write "don’t go looking for creative fantasies or fetishes; as a writer, Leone is playing safe." Another review in Bollywood Hungama goes on to note if there was any real contribution from Sunny herself towards the book other than her picture on the cover. The review goes on say that there is "no note by (the) author, acknowledgments section, or forward from some known entity."
In 2004, she was part of No More Bush Girls, in which she and several other popular adult actresses shaved off their pubic hair in protest of the George W. Bush presidency. In May 2008, she shot a promotional video for Declare Yourself, a nonprofit, nonpartisan voter registration campaign targeting 18- to 29-year-olds. She indicated that Barack Obama would be her choice in the 2008 U.S. presidential election, primarily because she felt he was more business friendly to the adult industry than his opponent John McCain. She also released a public service announcement on behalf of the ASACP, reminding adult webmasters to protect their sites from children by having an RTA label on it.
In 2013, Leone posed for a PETA ad campaign, encouraging dog and cat owners to have their pets spayed and neutered. In an interview for PETA India, Leone said, "I believe that every single dog should be spayed and neutered. You don't want to continue the cycle of homeless dogs or cats. And spaying and neutering also keeps them healthy." PETA named her their "Person of the Year" in 2016.
In June 2006, Leone became an American citizen, but stated she planned to remain a dual citizen of Canada. On 14 April 2012, Leone announced that she was now a resident of India explaining in an interview to The New Indian Express that she was an Overseas Citizen of India and that she was eligible for overseas citizenship because her parents lived in India. She applied for it prior to filming Jism 2.
Leone has a strong interest in health and fitness, and has been featured in several mainstream fitness publications. Leone has modelled fitness clothing for the sports brand Fantasy Fitness and shared that she keeps her body in shape by working out as much as she can despite her busy schedule and as quoted in Men's Fitness magazine, "I try to eat very healthy – lots of vegetables, drinking my milk every day."
Although bisexual, she has stated that she prefers men. Sunny Leone had dated Indian-Canadian stand-up comedian Russell Peters up until they broke up in 2007. Leone was then dating Matt Erikson, a vice-president of marketing at Playboy Enterprises. After being engaged to Erikson, they broke up in 2008. She mentioned in an interview at the start of 2011 that she was married to Daniel Weber. During her stay in the Bigg Boss house later that same year, Leone indicated that she had married; Leone said she "purposely arrived late" to their first date as she was not impressed with him, but he changed her mind by sending 24 roses to her hotel room.
A 2008 Eye Weekly article reported that "Leone does her best to maintain a link to Sikh traditions, even if more in theory than in practice. But she's unlikely to disavow her career path due to religion" and that Leone said "Girls will leave the industry claiming that they found God. Well, the fact is, God has always been with them the entire time." In a 2010 interview, she said
It's a community-based religion. You walk into a temple and you're greeted with the utmost respect... But, just like any religion it doesn't want you to shoot adult material. I mean, I grew up going to temple every Sunday. When my parents found out they knew my personality which was very independent. Even if they tried to stop me or tried to steer me the right way they would have lost their daughter. I'm too headstrong. And it wasn't a plan. It just happened and my career and everything just kept getting bigger and bigger.
In July 2017, Leone and her husband Daniel Weber adopted their first child from Latur, a village in Maharashtra. The baby girl, whom they named Nisha Kaur Weber, was 21 months old at the time of adoption. Actress Sherlyn Chopra first confirmed the news by writing a congratulatory message on social media on 20 July 2017. "Never in my life did I think that I want to adopt a child. People doing such amazing work at the orphanage changed my mind," Daniel Weber told Hindustan Times."
A police first information report was filed against her in May 2015 after a woman at Mumbai, India, complained that Leone's website, sunnyleone.com, was destroying the Indian culture. Thane police's cyber cell at Ramnagar booked her for sections 292, 292A, 294 which could land her a term in jail, fine or both. Senior police inspector JK Sawant stated, "We cannot block the website, but will ask the operator to remove objectionable content."
In the 2017 new year, a pro-Kannada group Rakshana Vedike Yuva Sene protested against the event Sunny Night in Bengaluru NYE 2018 in Bangalore. Sunny Leone was to perform at this event and the group argued that due to her pornographic past, she shouldn't be allowed in the event. The protesters threatened a mass suicide and Karnataka home minister Ramalinga Reddy denied her permission to appear at the event.
In 2018, a social activist lodged a complaint against Leone at the Nazarethpet police station in Chennai. He stated that the actress is promoting pornography which is against the Indian nation's law. He also added that this will majorly dent the Indian culture and spoil the moral fabric of the society.
Producer and distributor Bharat Patel has accused Leone of not returning a signing fee which she had taken to do a special dance number for his movie Patel Ki Punjabi Shaadi after her role was cancelled.
- Sweet Dreams (2016)
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