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“I have continued despite fear.”
In an era of a fast-paced life and cut-throat competition, Lisa Ray dons the cap of an author, mentor and a wonderful speaker with Feministaa Media. As she walked down in her gorgeous gown from Pinnacle by Shruti Sancheti, styled by Who Wore What When, she made us almost believe that this is the versatile Goddess in her simplest form, donning her down-to-earth smile; the supposed “sex symbol” or “glamour goddess”, and actor, was an absolute delight to chat with and Feministaa Media is proud to speak about the woman behind unveiling industry masks and the epiphany of it all.
The model-turned-actor recently attained the status of an acclaimed author with her book, “Close to the Bone”. It isn’t a cancer memoir, she highlights, “cancer isn’t the only thing that defines my life and who I am”. Nor is it a celebrity autobiography, “I don’t look at myself as a celebrity, I don’t wake up and see myself that way.”
The book is rather a detailed yet a beautiful rendition of Lisa’s life so far, “a celebration of her broken bits highlighted in gold”. It hints at her life philosophy, drawn from the beautiful Japanese “Art of kintsugi” – which is repairing broken ceramic with gold such that it looks brand new – or in Lisa’s words, “More Beautiful for having been Broken”.
But as Feministaa’s Founder, Medha Mukherji asks, “Why write the book now?”
Lisa replies, “there is no perfect time to write” and an interesting thing that people didn’t know about her is that she had “only ever wanted to write”. Finally, Lisa feels that she is stepping into the shoes she was always meant to wear.
Lisa goes on to explain how her “half Bengali” upbringing set in her the notion that “the apex of human achievement is to write. Her father, an avid reader, inculcated in her the love for “words, literature and poetry” and she managed to keep that spirit “embedded in her blood”.
Yet there was an arresting calm about her that made her stand-out more, as a woman who has experienced much and finally found peace within.
However, Lisa’s life, as she explains, took a dramatic turn when at the age of 16 she found herself in the cusp of fame in Bollywood, which her father had described as “a sad state of affairs”. It was hard on her especially because it coincided with the car crash that left her mother paralyzed. Despite the success, she felt sad; “On one hand I was celebrated, and on the other, I was broken inside.”
This is because Lisa says, we look at success as a “template that the outside world defines” which is money, status, reputation, looks or other people’s opinions. “I experienced it overnight at 16, yet at exactly the same moment I was experiencing the depths of emotional trauma.”
On Defining Success and What it looks Like:
Lisa says, “Success is a very fickle mistress, success is very tempestuous”, pointing at her own journey, “One day I am considered a success, and one day, it’s like, who is she, she’s over.”
At that point of time even though she was seeking, the answers were undefined, things like self-love and self-worth didn’t come up in conversations. “What it means to be a woman? What does it mean to find your voice in the world?” All these were not discussed.
But being through it all “the fluctuations of other people’s opinions don’t affect me anymore” which is why Lisa has found a more lasting happiness. The key to this was “Self Love” and it has become her life mission all the more.
“If I could mentor my younger self, I would probably teach my 16-year-old self, a lot more about self-love,” says Lisa. She would definitely invest in self-love and not try to run away from all the hard edges like before. “Be patient, love yourself, the answers will come, keep asking the questions,” she adds.
So when Lisa went on to write her memoir, her relationship with self-worth and self-love took centre-stage. This in fact made her more relatable to the women of today. She says that a lot of young women struggle with it. “Maybe it’s also a part of being a woman is that even when we are successful we question it.” But she adds, “You are valuable and enough to love yourself without even doing anything.”
“I believe in women supporting women.”
In her long stint with the Indian Entertainment Industry Lisa talks about observing an almost positive evolution. Unlike older days, A lot of young women have chosen to define themselves in various professions thus, breaking the patriarchal format. They come from all over India to Bombay leaving behind their safe family environments and reinvent themselves.
“Financial independence is one of the keys to being able to make more choices in life,” holds Lisa. For an educated woman to choose to work after marriage is a powerful and an important choice and more women need to exercise that. Rebelling or finding one’s voice is actually a softer way of saying it.
“I try to invest in the process as much as I can as the goals”.
It was while working on Deepa Mehta’s “Water” which she calls transformational, which fueled her realization. “If you don’t enjoy every single moment that you are working, if you don’t enjoy the process, you are screwed.” No true happiness can be derived from it, Lisa explains.
“As human beings we are neither entirely black nor white, we are complex, we have a whole palette of colours inside of us,” says Liza.
“In my life I have internalized a lot of pain because I was taught by society and culture, to not show my emotions.” She says that we are celebrated when we do that in society. “Today my greatest source of strength is my vulnerability.” The fact that she is able to show her emotions, makes her confident and strong.
“Sometimes the things that make us feel uncomfortable are the things that we need to do the most.” Being still with the self is challenging, especially when you are living a life of adrenaline, constantly seeking outside things to satisfy your voids. Being still makes you confront yourself and all of the stuff that you are trying to avoid, Liza explains. It is the form of yoga which is Hatha based that helped her open her heart.
“Continuing in spite of fear is very important. I have also worked very hard on my faith muscle, it’s almost spiritual, seeing that there is purpose and meaning in life.”
“Here’s what I would say about myself and my book and what I tried to capture – I think that to make the choices that you want in your life and pay the price for them is a blessing, even though society will make you feel otherwise.”