How does it feel to win the Miss Universe franchise from Femina Miss India?
Femina Miss India is a separate franchise altogether and I have lots of respect for it...I myself had been a Femina Miss India. Today what we created (I Am She) is not in comparison or competition to Femina Miss India. The girl who wins from our platform goes to Miss Universe pageant and the Femina Miss India winner goes for Miss World. Now a girl can choose if she wants to go for a European pageant (Miss World) or an American pageant (Miss Universe).
Well, that tells which is the bigger one...
(Smiles) If you ask me without any comparisons, which one is bigger, I will say I Am She is the biggest show ever. And for the first time ever, the winner will get scholarships along with the glamour quotient. Through the platform of a beauty pageant we are creating a space for women empowerment...they will have the power to make a choice.
India so far has won only two Miss Universe crowns-you and Lara Dutta. What, according to you, lacks?
You are right. It's definitely time to bring back the crown. We have the prettiest, the most beautiful women in the world...we are beautiful from inside out...the whole world admits that. Despite that, we have won only twice...enough is enough! This time with the franchise we will give our best shot and if nothing else, we will learn how to be a threat again. I n fact, we will make Miss India a threat to the world. You know, after I won in 1994, when people used to see the line-up at Miss Universe, they used to ask 'Who is Miss India?' because she was a threat.
What made you enter Miss India?
I actually didn't plan it at all. A 17-year-old girl went to a night club and a man comes up to her, pats her back and says 'You must enter Miss India'. He gave me his card and asked me to meet him the next day at his office. He was Ranjan Bakshi of Times of India. I met him the next day and the rest is history. And let me tell you, I was really an under-confident girl at that time.
Yes. I never thought I would ever be considered as beautiful. When I won the crown (Miss Universe), there was that outbreak of joy, shock, tears, smile...all emotions punched together. I couldn't believe that I have been chosen as the most beautiful woman of the universe. That's why I took up I Am She franchise. It's an emotional connection.
Will it be easy to balance your acting profession with business?
It's a very busy life...films, my two daughters, and now a third one, I Am She. As for films, I don't see myself as an actor who will be acting her whole life. But I want to leave the industry on my terms...on a high.
Do you have plans to foray into businesses other than beauty pageants?
Well, I have already planned it all. I Am is the mother brand. I Am She is the preliminary to the Miss Universe contest. In times to come, there will be four other verticals-in hospitality business, education, publishing. So you see, it's not just about beauty, but brains too. And let me add here, my company Tantra Entertainment, which owns this brand (I AM), will be starting its production soon. We had kept it on hold because of the market situation and funding; now we brought it back. So essentially, you are going to have a lot of 'me' in coming days.
So, you are kind of making a statement with I Am She?
You can say that (smiles).
Ever thought of owning an IPL team like other actor-turned-businesswomen (namely Preity Zinta, Juhi Chawla and Shilpa Shetty)?
You should ask that to Lalit Modi (chairman of IPL).