Words by Tanishka Juneja
Words by Tanishka Juneja
Sophie Choudry stepped into the entertainment industry in the early 2000’s and has managed to gain a loyal fan base over the years. Apart from being a film actor, she’s a renowned singer, television presenter, songwriter, and a former VJ. That’s a whole lot of talent squeezed into one person but we’re not complaining.
Sophie may come off as a glamourous diva and it can be intimidating for some, but she laughs it off by saying that she is the complete opposite of that and calls herself a ‘homebody’.
One look at her Instagram is enough to tell you all you need to know about her love for fitness and staying healthy. Aiming to stay true to her love, she co-founded and became the face of Lifetox Wellness, a new-age wellness brand with an Ayurvedic Heart.
In a candid and insightful chat that was filled with laughter, Sophie spoke her heart out on the ongoing (unhealthy) trend of remixing tracks, her top 3 fitness mantras, sustainable fashion, a social cause she stands by, and much more.
You started your singing career at a very young age and have released many chartbusters. I’d like to know your opinion on the ongoing trend of remixing tracks and in many cases, not giving credit to the original singers. Is this healthy for the music industry?
So, firstly, I’m gonna be straight up and say that some of my biggest hits – Ek Pardesi, Jaadugar Saiyaan, Mera Babu Chhail Chhabila are remixes, but obviously, all due credit was given at that time. They propelled me to another level of success at that time. But I think when remixes were done 12 or 15 years ago, the scene was very different because it was being done in the non-film space and was really about trying to bring those black and white songs back to a newer audience. The time and effort that was being put into those videos, into recreating those songs, was like a whole movement. And today what’s happening is that anyone and everyone is making a remix, basically, every movie has a remix. I’m seeing remixes of songs that were new 10 years ago and it’s crazy to hear remixes of songs I was dancing to a few years ago anyway. It’s really sad because movies are someplace where we’ve always looked to people doing original music and create the next wave of music. Somewhere, that’s kind of dying! Moreover, not giving credit is the most unhealthy thing one can do. It’s so crazy, that I actually heard a story about the person who wrote one of the most incredible classic songs made in the Asian subcontinent, Duma Dum Mast Kalandar. He literally died on the streets with no money. And here we have everyone singing left, right and centre but people don’t even know who wrote the original song. So, the onus is really on the filmmakers or music companies to give credits where they’re due. But I think it’s also on them now to make new music, which I know is more expensive for them, but as audiences, I think we all deserve that and need that.
Recently, you turned a year older and fans showered you with their love. If you could advice something to the 10-year-old Sophie about life, what would you say?
(laughs) I think the 10-year old Soph wasn’t concerned with life and her only concern was school and watching Hindi movies. That’s what she was doing back in London! But to the teenage Sophie? I’ll obviously tell her a few things. I’ll tell her to make the most of each and every day. Not take anything for granted. I’ll also tell her to follow her dreams, which I think she did anyway, but really follow them. And I think something that’s really important is to be kind to others but be really kind to yourself. We put so much pressure on ourselves and we’re judgemental of ourselves. So, it’s really important to look after yourself, mentally, physically and be kind to yourself. And there’s one lesson that I learned which was when I was younger, I would fight with my family and they’d tell me that if you have 2-3 good friends you’re really fortunate. And I would tell them as a teenager that I have hundreds of friends and I’m so lucky to be surrounded by them. So, with every passing year, there are fewer and fewer people that really stand by you. So I’d tell the teenage Sophie to really invest in good solid friendships and become a good judge of people.
For you, fitness is simply a way of life and your Instagram posts are proof of that. Tell us something about working out with your mom and grandmother in London as a teen and how has that helped you stay close to fitness?
You know, my mom was an absolute diva. I grew up with a mom who was in her Gucci leather pants, high heels and I literally never saw my mom wearing flats until she was in her 60s. So, because of this, she was really into fitness. My mom was doing Pilates 35 years ago with someone who actually brought Pilates to England. So, I got used to it from a very young age and it very much became a part of what was happening in the house. My mom would not go a day without working out. So, I saw that and I remember there was this new gym that opened near our house and we got our membership there. It was amazing because my mom, my nani and I would walk on the treadmill, next to each other. It was something we liked doing and it really kept us connected and bonded. That has really inculcated the fitness thing in my life from an early age but as I’ve gotten older, I’ve gotten more and more into it, by my own choice. But definitely being surrounded by it, influenced me.
If you’re asked about your top 3 fitness mantras, what would they be?
Wow umm, no shortcuts! Because that’s not fitness, that’s just somebody wanting to get skinny and that doesn’t last. So, really work for it and believe me, being fit is the new sexy and not being skinny. It’s all about your health and fitness. There are people who are much thinner than me who are not half as fit and there are people who are larger in size and much fitter. So it’s really about your fitness and health so don’t take shortcuts.
I don’t believe in any extreme diet, crash diet or juice diet. I don’t believe in any of it. My aim to be consistent. Don’t work out 5 times this week and once next week. That’s not gonna help you at all.
And I guess my main mantra is that ‘fitness is a lifestyle, not a fad’. It really has to become a part of your everyday life. The way you go to work, the way you eat your meal, the way you go to sleep, fitness has to become a part of your life and you’ve to find something that you love. If Pilates is for me, maybe yoga or swimming is for you, or dance is for you. You’ve to find something that you like and that’s the only way it’s going to happen.
You’re the co-owner of Lifetox Wellness, which is a new-age wellness brand with an Ayurvedic Heart. What makes it different from other existing health and wellness brands?
Well, one, that it has got an Ayurvedic Heart as you so nicely said. Actually, my partner approached me before the first formula was even made to say that this is our idea and we want you to be our brand face. And I loved the idea so much that I became partners in the brand and we developed all the formulas together. The fact that it’s got 100% natural herbs in it so everything is healthy and safe. It really helps you with your metabolism, your water retention. When COVID happened, everybody was pumping themselves with Vitamins and we realized that it’s not practical as a lot of people were gonna take 1-2 Vitamins on a daily basis. So, we developed a line of Vitamins where we have Vitamin C, we have an Immunity booster with turmeric in it and then for people who work out, we have something for joint health. So, what makes it different is that we recognize the needs of younger people with active lifestyles today. We recognize that people want to detox, they want to lose weight but none of us believes in starving or doing anything extreme. Everything is done in a really healthy, natural way and that’s what makes it different.
Since you’re a public figure, you’re automatically in the public eye and can’t escape the press. How do you think every decision or step a celebrity takes affects the minds of their fans?
That’s a really good question! A lot of this is because of the way social media is today. A lot of stories are spun out of control or maybe not portrayed in the correct light. And I think we have an added benefit of being able to reach out to our fans directly and set the record straight of what we want to say. For example, during this lockdown, I decided to take a very positive approach to life. I was working out, I was working on my mental health, I was interviewing my celebrity friends. I was trying to be as positive as I could because I know how easy it is to get down. I had my low moments as well and I would share those, but it was really overwhelming for me when I received lots of messages saying ‘your positivity keeps us going. So, I guess, what we do does affect other people in some way or the other. But as public figures, it’s not my job to unload all my problems on everybody. If I’m somebody that can be aspirational, then I want to be somebody that’s positive, somebody that can inspire. If you just go through my Instagram, it’ll make you feel better for 2-3 minutes – I’d rather be that person. Yes, I like to discuss issues but I always like to be empowering and to be positive. I’ve never done things according to how the press will perceive me. But I’m mindful of the fact that outside, there are a lot of people watching and I hope that I can inspire them in some way whilst staying true to who I am and while achieving my own goals. I don’t feel I’m answerable to anybody but yes, if I can use my place to inspire and spread some positivity, then I like to do that.
You’ve set an example for women to love and accept themselves the way they are, to be happy in their own skin. What is a social cause you are passionate about and what are you doing about it?
Mental Health is definitely something that I’ve become passionate about because I realized how affected we all were. And you realize that more and more people who have these happy smiles are not necessarily happy on the inside. I’ve associated with a couple of charities that work on that. Another thing for me is education, especially, kid’s education. So I’ve been associated with a foundation in Lucknow for the last 14 years called Ehsaas that works towards rehabilitating runaway kids and providing them with education. I’m also an ambassador of the British Asian Trust which focuses on a lot of important issues in India and Southeast Asian countries such as empowering women, empowering women with small businesses, spreading the word about child labor and imposing laws that will stop it. So, I try to use my position wherever I can be it actively being involved or we have to try and raise money or raising awareness through social media, these are things that I do. And then, of course, pets and animals are a huge love of mine. So, anything that I can do for them, like feeding strays, finding them home or I do a lot of work with World For All Adoptions. So, anything I can do for that.
You’re a fashion icon and inspiration for thousands of women out there. According to you, how important is it for the fashion industry to understand the need for sustainability and implement it for a better future?
That’s a really great question. I think, it’s something that we weren’t really aware of and it’s something we’ve become aware of due to the current circumstances. We do realize that whatever we do in our life leaves a carbon footprint. And yes, I think sustainable fashion is the way forward, in the future. And actually, I think it’s great because I’m someone who’s always believed in quality over quantity and that’s what sustainable fashion encourages. Yes, it means that you’ll have to spend a little more money than you spend on fast fashion but it’ll also mean that you’ll invest in pieces that will last longer. It’ll also mean that there’ll be less wastage in the whole chain of supply AND it’ll also mean that people who are employed and working, will eventually be paid more because everything’s going to cost more when you produce quality work. So, it’s like a chain reaction which ultimately, is better for the planet. I know a lot of designers who are doing it. I mean, of course, not everyone is going to do it because there’ll always be demand and supply for cheaper goods. But the more of us that can incorporate it in our wardrobe, I think that’s definitely a start.
People have a feeling that sustainable fashion is really expensive and only celebrities can afford it. What’s your opinion on that?
Well, it’s definitely going to be more expensive than your Zara’s and Topshop’s for sure but even brands like H&M try and create a capsule for sustainable clothing. More and more brands are trying to do that but at the same time, you’re not paying luxury prices. And the whole idea of sustainability is when you’re investing in better clothing you’re also buying less. So, instead of buying those 5 tanks, invest in that 1 tank that will actually last and which you’ll actually wear. I’m someone who still has clothes that are 10 years old but they look as good as new. When a season comes, I buy 4-5 pieces that are in trend just for fun but in general, I like to invest in pieces that I can take out of my wardrobe 7 or 8 years down the line and still look fabulous in them. I encourage people to do that even though I know it’s hard when you’re younger because you want to be so on-trend and you get bored easily and you want to Instagram your outfit but once you’ve done that you can’t wear it again and I know it makes it really hard. But we have to be responsible in our own way and apart from buying fast fashion, we should slowly start investing in some sustainable pieces as well. I think it’s challenging to re-style them and there was a whole phase when celebrities were criticized for repeating an outfit. I was criticized for repeating my shoes and I was like, I really spent a fortune on them and I’m going to wear them as many times as I like. And today, people who are repeating their outfits are getting lauded. So in the end, you should go after what you feel is right and don’t listen to all the noise outside. Be environmentally conscious, be aware, enjoy your fashion and try and be a little responsible as well.
Assuming you’re very much single, we’d like to know how can someone get your special attention?
(laughs) I’m someone who’s incredibly private and so I guess, everybody always asks me this. There’s never really any rumors about me because I’m an extremely private person and I think one should only talk about their relationship once you feel it’s going to be the one. Also, a lot of people are intimidated to speak to me in the first place because I’m perceived as someone who’s strong, independent and glamourous. And once they do talk to me, they realize that I’m a completely different person. I’m super-friendly, easy-going, fun and more of a homebody; I’m not a party girl at all. So, what it really takes to get my attention is for someone who has the courage in the first place to approach me. Yes, I think physical attraction is really important, but for me, for anything to last, it has to be somebody who can turn my mind on more than anything else. Someone who’s supportive of what I do and who’s got goals and ambitions in their life. I don’t find people who are incredibly laidback attractive. I like someone who has goals in life because I’m that kind of person. So, these are the qualities that I find attractive and anyway, only that kind of person will have the balls to approach me in the first place (laughs).
You’re known for your sexy and glam image, and you carry yourself with a lot of class. So, how do you deal with online trolling from people who have nasty things to say about your style?
You know actually, I’ve to tell you, but I don’t get any nasty comments at all. And I’m lucky that way because I don’t get trolled at all. Yeah I mean when you put up a sexy picture, there are people who are referring to your body parts and whatever and that’s to be expected because people who’re living in the social media world, in anonymity, think it’s easy for them to express themselves that way. But by and large, I don’t have to deal with trolls. But let me tell you, and I’m not gonna lie, every single person who’s a public persona has at some point in their life been affected by trolling. If anyone’s saying they are not, they’re lying because this is a whole new world that we were not used to. Like, 10 years ago, this is not how fans used to express themselves. They used to send us cards and cakes and they used to ask you for an autograph. But today, they have access to you and they feel they can get personal. So, initially, when you get trolled, it really affects you but somehow, in my mind, I’ve realized that these people who are doing this must be so unhappy to direct their hate at somebody they don’t even know. Just imagine being mean to someone in your life you don’t even know and that makes you feel good about yourself. I feel sorry for them that I actually don’t feel affected by it at all. I try to not engage myself in any controversy but I just feel sorry for the trolls.
Your 3 am a friend
I do have a 3 am friend but if I reveal his name, I’m sure other people would want him as their 3 am friend (laughs). He is my secret and my 3 am friend.
A dance form you wish to try
Good question. Actually, I’d like to try belly dancing. I’m quite good with my hips but I’ve never done it professionally.
If you were asked to wear the same pair of clothes for the rest of your life, what would you pick?
Easiest one. Jeans and a white tee. I live in them. For people who think I’m glamourous and wear dresses all the time, no! My wardrobe is filled with every possible type of jeans and in various shades of blue and all kinds of white tops.
Your most memorable ramp-walking experience
Oh wow! I’ve walked the ramp for a lot of designers and it has been great fun but there was this one particular show where I sang and walked for Manish Malhotra in Pune. That ramp was circular and it was huge. I needed to sing 2 whole songs for me to complete the ramp, that’s how big it was. And it was spectacular. It was almost like those international shows where you have a pop icon singing and the models walking the ramp. So, that was special and Manish’s clothes are anyway magical so that’s the show I’ll always remember.
What piece of clothing do you spend your money on the most?
Shoes! (laughs) I’m a complete shoe addict and bags also for sure.
Do you prefer online shopping or in-store shopping?
I love in-store shopping. I love to browse and then reserve some stuff and then think about it. The reason is, I don’t buy fast fashion so anything I invest in is expensive so I like to think about it. But lately, because of COVID, there’s only been online shopping and I’m starting to like it, which is scary (laughs).
• Stripes or Polka dots
Oh my God! That’s really mean. Of late, it’s been polka, otherwise, it’s stripes.
• Colours or Neutrals
I like to live my life in color.
• Denim or Leather
• Heels or Flats
Heels, any day.
• Bold lips or Bold eyes
To all the single men out there with goals and ambitions, now you know what you have to do. Or maybe, Sophie is waiting for that Ek Pardesi jo unka dil le jaayega (if you know, you know).