In Dubai with the Delhi Bulls
Brand Sunny Leone is part of the star's 'Exist Strategy'
THERE ARE FRANKLY billions of adjectives which could be used to describe Bollywood and its associated events, but 'retiring' is not one of them. The larger-than-life dream factory's foundations comprise flamboyance, colour and volume. Mix the world of Hindi entertainment with India's other vociferous passion - cricket - and, before you can say "coin toss", you're ramping up the energy levels to 11. If you believe proceedings couldn't become any more frenzied, just throw one of the industry's most vivacious celebrities into the recipe. On Monday evening at the FIVE Palm Jumeirah hotel, just such a perfect storm occurred. Actress Sunny Leone was unveiled as the Abu Dhabi T10 cricket league's Delhi Bulls official brand ambassador for the upcoming third season commencing in the capital on November 14. Lights, a stage show and customary dance routines accompanied the huddled press-pack surrounding the Jism 2 performer's entrance - a scene to which the most Googled name in India, Leone, has become accustomed.
The Delhi Bulls (formerly the Bengal Tigers) will be striking forward with Leone cheering them on at every one of their 10-over-a-side matches. The Danube Group part-owned side will be looking to capitalise on their acquisition of ICC Cricket World Cup winning English captain Eoin Morgan on the field, but off it, Leone will lead the fans' charge combining her obvious mainstream media magnetism with a personal social network reach approaching the 55 million mark.
"It's a big honour. I never get to go to games!" Leone said at the event. "I work so much, I'm so excited to be yelling from a box or seat; going 'what the heck is going on here?' or screaming and cheering because I'm THAT person."
Despite her father's best attempts to impose the sport of his homeland on the family growing up in North America, cricket was apparently not a major event in the Leone household; that national games of baseball or football took precedence. It wasn't until moving to India around 2013, Leone realised what a draw the stumps possessed.
"To see how involved everyone is - it's basically a religion in India - it's unbelievable. You think for the championship baseball match everyone is out? Not like in India. There the streets are empty."
Leone's association with the Delhi Bulls came about through a previous working relationship between her husband and business partner, Daniel Webber, and team co-owner: Danube Group founder and chairman, Rizwan Sajan.
"We met him (Sajan) and his family a few years ago and it has formed into this. I'm so excited," Leone said. She went on to describe Webber's crucial role in much of the duo's extensive portfolio.
"He's the one that makes everything happen and the reason everything come true. I can say, 'okay Daniel I want to start a cosmetic company' and he goes 'okay, let's do it. He's the one that figures out the steps. I'm the creative side, he's the business side.
"Anything we do is revolved around brand awareness: brand Sunny Leone."
Taking care of business
The Sunny Leone label has encompassed or continues to produce myriad entities varying from skincare ranges, to a full-time website, to online gaming. Part of what Leone likes to term her 'Exist Strategy', despite emerging in show business as a teenager and still booking regular screen time, the actor was constantly aware crafting a well-strung bow was essential to maintaining the lifestyle to which she has become accustomed. Stating previously ageism affects a female performer's marketability, popularising the Sunny Leone marque ensures longevity.
"The brand - the name itself, is bigger than the person sitting in front of you. I feel if you went out and mention the name, they know the name but they don't know the person."
So, who is the person behind the name? What does Leone wish the public could see?
"I'm real! I exist. I put my pants on just like everybody else, one foot at a time and that I work very hard."
We can attest Leone is not afraid to put in the hours, given the long line of interviewers waiting for their chance to grab some face time after us would have no doubt taken her time at the gathering long into the night. Though, if she had to condense a rule for success into a sentence, how would it go?
"I always say 'If I can do your job better than you can, then I really don't need you anymore.' Both my husband and I have high expectations for the people that work around us. We're small compared to other businesses, but we believe in hard work and having the right people around us to elevate us."