Former beauty queen Sahithya Jagannathan spills the beans on her life in the love department.
Sahithya Jagannathan is a top model and a film actor who has walked the ramp for designers like Sabyasachi Mukherjee and Ritu Kumar. This former Miss Chennai is now finishing up her fourth feature film. Everyone thinks she'd have got it made in the love department, right? Romance and dating should be easy-peasy? Suitors should be falling over you. But what if they're wrong? What if your beauty and fame are the biggest obstacles to dating? What if it means romance is really, really hard?
When was the first time you felt a man was hitting on Sahithya-the-model rather than Sahithya who likes to read and watch tennis?
This happened the night I won Miss Chennai. I think it was the after party and this was in Sri Lanka. I don’t even think the person saw me…they saw the sash and the crown and just wanted me on their lap. They wanted to tell me what was up and I wanted to tell them what could possibly be up their ass! I think it started with that night…
How is romance more difficult for women in the public eye? Is it different for guys?
Yes, it is. If there is a man in the public eye and he dates a girl, it doesn’t work out, he then dates another girl and it doesn’t work out, he can go through 15 of them in a year and people will says, ‘Oh! He’s macho, he’s dashing,’ or ‘He’s such a player. He’s so cool!’ Now, if my boyfriend broke up with me and I was seen with someone else, I would be the slut. And everyone will be like, ‘Oh my god! She just broke up and she’s already moving on? Maybe that’s why she broke up!’ So when a guy does it, it’s all fine and people think he’s cool. So what the fuck happened to me?
If a guy doesn’t know, do you tell him you’re a model if you want to ask him out?
This is India, and considering everyone’s so skilled, most conversations start with, ‘So, what do you do?’ So, it’s a bit hard to bypass that. But I would definitely ask someone out that way. Even if the person knew I was a model but didn’t know all the details, I probably wouldn’t mention all of that and would probably ask the guy out before I move on to any of those things. At the end of the day, if someone is an IT professional and they don’t mention it, no one’s really going to care. What you do is your work, it’s one aspect of you, but it doesn’t define all of you. It’s something I enjoy doing and it’s what I do for work.
Do you remember incidents when a man’s response to you changed dramatically when he discovered that you’re a model and actor?
Oh, yes! Okay, this is awkward and I can’t name the person since we still move in the same circles. So we go to a restaurant and we’re just hanging out, talking and suddenly, for no reason, he brings up the fact that I’m a Miss Chennai, I’ve got movies coming up…I mean, you’re my boyfriend, these are conversation we’ve had and I update you on what I do, so why is this randomly brought up in conversations? And it just kept getting louder so that everyone hears it. I mean, I have friends who are incredibly proud of what I do and they talk about what I do, but you can tell that it comes from a place where they’re proud of me. Here, I think it was more about look-who-I-came-out-with. More like, let’s forget her name, how she is, etc…let’s speak about her being Miss Chennai! It’s a very easy way to make you lose your appetite.
What was one of the worst dates you’ve had?
It was actually a blind date and I didn’t even know I was being set up on a fucking blind date. My friends decided that I’ve been single for a while, so all the information I was given was that we’re going to a farmhouse party thrown by a friend and I was asked to come along. I went there, only to find out that I was being set up with the birthday boy. And things got incredibly awkward because I knew he liked me and I’d avoided him at parties before. It was like having a puppy follow you around. It was his birthday party and I kept looking for a corner to stand in to talk to someone and he’d be standing right behind me. And he’d keep smiling and in my head I was like, ‘This is just getting stalker-ish. You need to stop following me around!’ It was his birthday, so I didn’t want to ruin it for him.
Do you have to deal with men who assume you’ll be an ‘easy’ catch since you work in the glamour industry?
Of course! I’ve had men who wanted to pay me to sleep with them. Their thing was that I’m a model and an actress so they can pay me to sleep with me. I was once asked, ‘So how much.’ So I was like, ‘What are you asking me? How much my dress cost me? How much my shoes are for?’ And he was like, ‘No, how much? You know what I’m talking about.’ The guy then goes on to ask me how much I’d charge for the night. He went ahead to give me a list of names of actresses telling me that he’s paid them a certain amount to sleep with them. Now, I don’t know if any of this is even true, I have no idea and I have no way of verifying this. But quite frankly, I don’t care what someone else does. It’s their business, not mine. Stop thinking that I’m available for money! It’s incredibly creepy when someone walks up to you and asks you how much. You think they’re talking to the bartender but instead, they’re talking to you!
How do you shut down people’s prejudices about models?
I think there are two approaches to shutting up these prejudices, at least that’s what I feel. One, when someone tells you something and you have a comeback or you’re smart or something of that sort and you shut it down at that point. Also the other is how you conduct yourself. I have a reputation in the industry that nobody can mess with me. I’ve been about to sign a really big deal and this guy propositioned me to which I said no. He thought I was playing hard to get. Apparently, saying no is playing hard to get. I want a t-shirt that reads ‘When I say no, I mean fuck no and I’m not playing hard to get’. He then started to put his hands on me and I know mixed martial arts, so I flipped him on his ass and I told him to stay right there. I said, ‘I’m walking out of this room and if you get up, I will flip you again.’ So people know of this fact!
What aspect of male beauty do you find appealing? What’s sexy for you?
I like it when a guy has a good head of hair and really nice eyebrows. I don’t even know why. It is unusual but I somehow think that if you have really nice eyebrows and you do all those expressions, it just brings it to life. So eyebrows or dimples, either of the two. They just add a whole different layer to someone’s expressions. I find that incredibly sexy. See, even if it’s superficial and just facial, you somehow get a hint of a person’s personality and brains.
What’s the weirdest or funniest pick-up lines men have tried on you?
I don’t really remember and I don’t know if this helps. I dated this guy who called me a douchebag, actually that’s how he asked me out. I’m not a fan of people swearing at each other, unless it’s in jest…I don’t like it when they actually mean it because I think it’s disrespectful. So there was this guy and we were into each other. The thing is he had realised it but it hadnt struck me. I was happily thinking that we’re friends and hanging out. So suddenly one day we were talking and I wished him good night and that I’d speak to him later. He just simply said, ‘Really? You’re going to stop being a douchebag at some point, right?’ To this I wondered what was it that I did that was so douchy. He said, ‘You’re completely ignoring the fact that I like you and I’ve been trying to tell you this in every way humanly possible but apparently it’s not going through your head. So?’ I was shocked, so I told him I wasn’t sure because I hadn’t even thought about it. But then we did land up dating! It was an incredibly weird proposal.
What’s the most romantic thing to do in Chennai?
I’m a total beach babe and I love it and I love the fact that I live in a coastal town, so I think that the most romantic thing to do here is that there are a lot of these private cottages and farmhouse along the ECR (East Coast Road) stretch in Chennai. Some of them have their own private beaches. I don’t think it can get sexier and more romantic than that.
Which is worse for romance – beauty or fame?
That’s a tough one, because with both of them you will have people coming to you for either just the beauty or just the fame. And hopefully they will stay long enough to find out that there’s more to you than just either of them. But if I had to choose, I’d say fame. I have friends who’re incredibly famous and I know how much of a shittier time they have dating and they have all of my sympathies. So fame it is. I’ve had people who’ve reached out to me saying that they’re in the city for just a day and would love to have a date with Miss Chennai. And I go like, ‘This isn’t a visa office that you contact to get a transit visa.’ And sometimes I just feel like saying that there have been Miss Chennai’s after me but I don’t even feel like diverting the calls to them. I don’t know if they will handle it any better so I just put the phone down.
Do you sometimes sense that someone might have feelings for you but is intimidated by your public persona? How have you dealt with that?
Yes, but I usually try to catch up with that person in a very normal setting, let’s say a mutual friend’s house or catch up over a game of poker or something like that. Basically, in a place where they feel like they’re in their zone and are a lot more comfortable. And I’m definitely not dressing up at that time. Sometimes with boys, it pays to not dress up and put on makeup and heels. Rather just wear a pair of jeans and t-shirt and walk in there without even wearing kajal. They’re happy.
Do you find it easier to date within the glamour industry since there are shared experiences? Is there less pressure?
There’s an advantage to dating someone within the industry because then they understand the hours, and how things work, which otherwise difficult for others to understand. Sometimes your shoots get confirmed at the last minute and then you have to cancel your other commitments. Now, if you’re with someone who’s not from the industry, they might think that you’re always cancelling because you don’t want to do anything with them. But then again, if it’s someone from the industry…I’ve done that and it’s so exhausting matching both your schedules and trying to find time for each other. There is a different kind of a pressure here because you have to work towards making the relationship happen since you both have your careers to focus on and still find time for each other.
Are you in a relationship now? What has worked between you?
Yes, I’m seeing Cary Edwards for a little over two years now. I think we’re both a little bit kooky. I call him strange and he calls me weird. And I think that just works because everyone has their eccentricities and because of that things just keep popping up and it doesn’t hurt that I’m dating a stand-up comedian because he makes me laugh a lot. And that’s unfair. We’re having a fight and he makes me laugh. It’s not fair.
By Sid Verma
Cover Photo Credit: Karthik Srinivasan