Interview: Nargis Fakhri / by Tara Kaushal

November 2014: Life has been an unplanned adventure for the fun and feisty Nargis Fakhri, and she’s making the most of it, looking at the bright side and spreading some of her abundant joie de vivre.

The cover of  Women's Health .

The cover of Women's Health.

Laughter. It was the first thing I heard as I walked across the length of Suresh’s studio to where Nargis Fakhri sat getting her make-up done. And it would be the last thing I would hear when I left her interacting with the stylists readying her for the first shot, my own sides aching from laughing for the most part of an hour and a half.

There are multiplicities in Nargis that one cannot know to expect, no matter how much you’ve read about her or stalked her on Twitter. As her gorgeous face blossoms with make-up in to one that has the hormones of the nation aflutter, she’s sitting there in an old tee riddled with holes, a cartoon tiger in front, its backside at the back—“This is how I normally dress,” she says. 

“My friends say I’m an eight-year-old boy in a woman’s body.” While this eight-year-old is warm, keeps people around her in splits, does accents and finds farting really funny—“Like when you are in yoga class and someone bends down and lets out a fart, you just die laughing!”—Nargis is also abounding with deep wisdom, an empathetic old soul.

Travelling Beauty

This art major and a psychology minor from Queens, New York, started modeling so support her first love, travel. She has always enjoyed fashion, sees it as a way of creatively expressing ones individual self. She prefers androgynous styles, and, like a true New Yorker, the colour black is her favourite. “I don’t really like colourful stuff. Although everyone says ‘OMG, you look so beautiful in colour,’ I’m like, ‘Thanks, but I’d like the black dress please.’”

Looking good comes from the inside, for her, from genetics, of course, as well as from making healthy food and lifestyle choices. “I love fruits, sprouts and vegetables, and I prefer my veggies raw than cooked. I love eggs, have chicken once in a while.” She has cookies in her bag, leftover from what she bought the day before, that she brings out to share with the team. “Eat whatever you like in moderation. And get to know your body, certain foods don’t work with certain blood types.” Hers is AB, and modifying her diet according to her blood type has reduced the stomach problems she’s suffered all her life. She’s allergic to alcohol though she drinks on occasion, and is not supposed to have coffee (but she loves it and has it anyway) or too much meat protein.

She cooks her own food, preferring simple fried vegetables. “I eat asparagus, carrots and broccoli every single day, fried with a little bit of olive oil and salt.” Food is the secret to her skin too. “I do a peel once in a while, but haven’t had one in a long time because I just did an 11-day detox and my skin feels amazing. The truth is that you are what you what you put into your body.” She also works out, mixing an active life with lots of cardio, dancing, yoga and Zumba.

“Tai chi and yoga are great balancing exercises, because everything in life is about breath and we are not breathing properly. With fire breathing, you start burning calories just by breathing right.”
The  Women's Health  cover story.

The Women's Health cover story.

The Journey of Life

She has spoken often of how surprising Rockstar was, how she had never been to India (she believes she has a karmic link to the country) or thought of being in the movies before she got the call to meet Imtiaz Ali for the role of Heer opposite Ranbir Kapoor. Who would have thought?

“Nobody would’ve thought. My friends back home laughed because all my life I was always ending up in random places meeting interesting people, and I think it’s just my openness to accepting whatever the universe gives me meant I didn’t deny anything. Why I’m here is because I took a chance.” Though when her mum saw Rockstar, she couldn’t stop laughing: “She said, ‘You should have done this when you were born, 'coz you were always yelling and crying an putting on a big show for nothing!’”

She travels across the world to shoot locations now, but “it’s not travelling, it’s work. Travelling is where you stay for three months, make friends and meet people, hang out and work a little bit.”

“I can be refined and classy when I need to be, and want to be a kid and have fun when I want to. If I saw a patch of grass I’d be like, come! I’d make everyone take their shoes off and roll around on the floor, which makes no sense to people but it is so liberating and rejuvenating.”

Finding Her Place

One can see why this free spirit who loves nature has had a tough time adjusting to the unexpected fame and lifestyle, and she’s only recently started to see the positive side and make peace with it. “A lot of introspection that has happened in the past three years, a big spiritual growth, and I’ve come to say: okay fine, everyone makes sacrifices for something that they want.”

Guided by a guru, she has become very spiritual, learning about alternative medicine, holistic healing, yoga, mediation, earthing. “I started realising that the reason people say I am so young-looking and have loving energy is because I am still always trying to connect with Mother Nature.”

As a child, what she wanted to do was to help people. “I’ve realised that you can use fame to bring awareness to different causes, and to inspire and motivate people.” She is harnessing an inner power, of having lived many lifetimes and a full life “that’s going to help me help myself and me to help others.”

A Means to an End

It could be the tiger (she was recently part of NDTV’s Save Our Tigers campaign) or children, the elderly or just regular people. She recently helped US-based Vishen Lakhiani, of the Mindvalley Foundation, with a campaign to raise 10 million dollars for education projects in developing nations.

This is one of the reasons she’s a quotable-quotes kind on social media, “cheesy” even, not this goofy a-joke-a-minute girl—“It’s a platform where I can be positive for other people.” (Besides, she feels that, culturally, people don’t get her personality here, and her humour doesn’t lend well to writing.) “It feels so good when you get an email saying, ‘You have changed my life and helped me’ or ‘I thought about suicide but you saved my life.’” She gets to meet a lot of people, and tries to be more positive than she is and as smiley as she can be, because the energy rubs off.

This is a lot of pressure. “Sometimes I’ll be having a bad day, or have my monthly woman stuff and people are harassing me for photos, and I just wanna say, ‘I am bleeding, leave me alone!’, but I try being the most positive I can be.”

She’s says this unselfconsciously, first qualifying that she doesn’t mean to be narcissistic: “I’m now that piece of coal that is going through the stress of being diamonised.” And I agree: with Nargis Fakhri, the best is yet to come.

Some people tell her she should be a stand-up comic, but she believes no one gets her jokes.

On Romance
I’ve not had sex for god knows how long. How I wish my manager was a guy. It’s so funny because she and I are always working in the most beautiful, romantic places, having dinners together. One day we were walking through this beautiful hallway, perfect lighting, great mood, so I looked at her and asked, “Do you wanna hold hands?” She looked horrified and said, “No!” and ran off ahead of me. And I was like: “I am joking!”

On Housework
I love ironing. I have a weird fetish for ironing clothes, I iron my underpants and fold them nicely. I guess my maid gets upset because she then has nothing to do. She’s like, “Ma’am should I iron?” And I’m like, “No!” Then she looks at me really confused. Though I hate washing the dishes, and if I get married and I don’t live in India and have a maid, the guy has to wash the dishes. I will cook but I will not wash dishes; I will look at them and I will walk away. I have had dishes piled up for over a month with fungus growing on them, and I’m like, “I ain’t washing those.” And my then-boyfriend was like, “I ain’t either.” Eventually we had to do them together—I made him wash, I dried.

An edited version of this interview was the cover story of Women's Health in November 2014.