It is no surprise that Sunny Leone, real name Karenjit Kaur Vohra, is one of the most searched celebrities in India for the last few years. The Canadian-born, Indian-American (born to a Sikh Punjabi) is a household name in India, mostly due to her glorious porn past. She tried her hand in the mainstream Bollywood industry in 2012, starring in the sequel to the hit movie “Jism,” Hindi for “body.” She has since starred in a series of movies and documentaries and garnered huge audiences in the process even as her detractors question her acting skills. But how has been the transition from porn star to Bollywood star?

The busty star is beloved and reviled by men in equal measure, but her popularity in her parents’ native India is not debatable. The entire country is fixated on her every move regardless of their divergent opinions. Some love her, others hate her and even the friends who knew her as a child growing up in Sarnia, Ontario, had a hard time embracing her choice of career. Today I look at her career trajectory.

Most in-Demand actress

Half a decade ago, Sunny’s porn career could have been termed as ‘moderately successful.’  But that changed when she entered the Bollywood industry where she is now making millions of rupees, hosting her own shows and landing massive endorsement deals.  In a country where homosexuality is still illegal, and even public display of affection is still seen as taboo, it is interesting how they fell in love with a porn star.

We never had someone like Sunny Leone before, that’s for sure,” said Prabhat Choudhary, who runs leading Bollywood talent agency Spice PR. Sunny is not only getting loads of work in her new role, but also social acceptability. She has turned from just another porn star with Indian roots to a mainstream celebrity in a relatively short period. What has changed in the country that has some fiercely traditional attitudes towards sex?

It all goes down to revolution in the way the country views sex. According to renowned Indian author, Ira Trivedi, taboos around sex in the country are slowly lifting which can be illustrated by the clothes being worn and the television shows.

As a matter of fact, Pornhub statistics indicate that Indians rank third regarding porn consumption after the US and Britain. It is a sexually curious country, and the recent attempt by the Indian government to ban hundreds of porn sites drew a wave of outrage, which is precisely where Sunny Leone comes in. She is not only the most searched porn star in India but the most searched person in the country, period.

How it all started

Her unlikely path to stardom started in the small Ontario city of Sarnia. Interestingly, she was studying to become a pediatric nurse when someone introduced her to a Penthouse photographer. Before long, she was signed by Vivid Entertainment and started making adult films.  She went on to star in hundreds of scenes and her super-hot desi porn videos show why she is one of the world’s most famous porn star.

It was in 2011 when she launched her incredible career after she appeared on Big Boss, the Indian equivalent of Big Brother. She avoided telling her housemates her true profession, describing herself as an ‘actress and model.’  That didn’t stop people from running their mouths and complaining outside the house, but it was not long before her first Bollywood contract was put on the table and a new Indian poster girl was born. She has gone on to make a name for herself in the mainstream scene although there is no denying that her porn star past has played a huge in making her a hit in her new adopted land.

That’s not saying it has been a smooth ride. She has had to deal with critics and detractors, chief among them India’s Community Party leader Atul Kumar Anjan who argued that one of her condom ads was ‘disgusting and dirty’ and led to the rise of rape cases in the country.  Others think Sunny is “completely antithetical to what we perceive as the ideal of an Indian woman.”

When I first got into the industry it was definitely not a good feeling when a lot of people are not so happy about your choices in life,” she said in an interview with AFP. “When I first came here there were a lot of people who didn’t want me here, and there were a lot of people who had lots of crazy things to say about me,” she continued. “But I have so many more fans who care about me, that like me, that like the movies that I’ve put out, or songs or photo shoots. I’ve had more supporters than I’ve had haters.

The detractors don’t look like they are stopping Sunny Leone from making waves in Bollywood and dominating into the foreseeable future. While not many will be encouraging their daughters to follow Sunny’s choices in life, the deeply traditional country has accepted her as a person which is heartening.

Finally

Sunny Leone is one of the few porn stars who has made a successful transition from porn to the mainstream movie industry. It has not been smooth, but she has managed to light up India and looks set to continue her domination. You can watch her in XXX action here and see what the fuss is all about.

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