Sunny Leone on what it takes to be unstoppable 

From struggling as a ‘C’ grade student to launching her own cosmetics brand, the entrepreneur recounts how she’s come a long way.

By Sunny Leone
15 October, 2023
Sunny Leone on what it takes to be unstoppable 

In the world I inhabit today, people often perceive me as a savvy businesswoman, a captivating actor, and a striking model. Yet, reality is far more intriguing than this glossy facade. In my formative years, I was far from the epitome of brilliance...I found myself struggling as a ‘C’ grade student, grappling with the challenges of reading, and feeling like that somewhat out of-place child with a unique complexion in my classroom. 

However, amidst this seemingly unremarkable beginning, there was an incredible talent waiting to bloom—I possessed an innate ability to transform a mere quarter into a full-fledged dollar using my street smarts. This journey began with a humble lemonade stand. At that point, my venture was primarily underwritten by the ‘bank of mom and dad’; they supplied the lemons and sugar. So, selling just one glass of lemonade could swiftly tip the balance in my favour. 

From this pivotal moment, I became an unstoppable selling force. I ventured into various undertakings—from shovelling snow to fundraising for my school basketball team, embarking on a newspaper route, tending to lawns, and babysitting, there was hardly a task I hadn’t dabbled in. You might wonder what motivated such a relentless childhood. Well, it was twofold: first, to acquire the sweet indulgence of candy and any other whimsical desires that caught my fancy, and second, to cultivate my own sense of independence. 

My early years unfolded with a seemingly ordinary backdrop. My father, an industrious Sikh sardar, had journeyed from India to Canada in pursuit of employment, eventually bringing my mother from Nahan, Himachal Pradesh, after their swift arranged marriage within a week of the meeting. They diligently slogged—my father as an engineer, and my mother juggling various jobs, even part-time ones. They provided us with the essentials, emphasising needs over wants. It was during these formative years that the notion took root in me: if I desired something, I would have to take the initiative to obtain it. 

I’ve previously mentioned that my academic journey was far from stellar, and while enrolling in college was a necessary step, it wasn’t one I completed. During my time on campus, a chance encounter with a fellow student introduced me to a modelling agent, and it was as if a switch had been flipped within me. In that moment, I realised that modelling was a business, and if I approached it intelligently—steering clear of its darker aspects—I could truly thrive. I understood that my success or failure rested solely on my shoulders. And so, the persona of Sunny Leone was born. 

Sunny Leone

I embarked on a journey of self-education, delving into HTML, mastering the art of building an affiliate programme, honing my skills in photo and video editing, and perfecting the art of watermarking. I also learnt how to attract various affiliates to drive traffic to the brand Sunny Leone online, all with the aim of generating income. It all made sense, but financial success remained elusive. At the tender age of 18, I made the bold decision to leave my family home, purchased my own car, shouldered all my bills, and also invested everything I had into my growing business. 

Yet, there were additional financial responsibilities on my plate—supporting my father in meeting household expenses, given my mother’s battle with alcohol addiction had left him in need of assistance. My father never asked me for money, but I took it upon myself to discreetly handle some bills. This way, he wouldn’t have to grapple with the guilt of accepting financial help from his daughter. 

Looking back, I realise my mother was trapped by addiction, unable to control her mind, body, and soul. I’ve forgiven her for not choosing us, her family, over her struggles. I hope she can forgive me for the choices that caused her and my father pain. In 2018, my mother passed away from organ failure, and about a year and a half later, my father passed away from cancer. Before his passing, I believe my father forgave me for my life decisions, and for that, I am grateful and at peace. 

I hold a belief in a theory that even in the face of God taking my parents from me, he sent me an angel named Daniel Weber [actor, musician, producer and Sunny’s husband]. From that very moment, we became an unstoppable force. My own knowledge of business, paired with his remarkable acumen, and his innate ability to navigate complex situations (what he calls “connecting the dots”), paved the way for a significant decision that would shape our future: relocating to India.

 In my eyes, the Bigg Boss House represented a pivotal opportunity. I believed that if I could just get a foot in the door, my business would ascend to unprecedented heights. India, with its remarkable market potential, offered boundless opportunities for success if harnessed in the right way. The growth was so rapid that it became a challenge to keep pace. 

Ten years ago, my hairstylist gave me some wise advice: never turn down any work and keep moving forward. I followed that advice. I accepted both great and less glamorous projects, exploring every opportunity. However, despite my determination, the decisions I made in my personal and business life in the US made it challenging to establish myself in the mainstream brand scene here in India.

 ...Coming to terms with the fact that big players weren’t interested in someone like me was a profound struggle. People often wonder how I manage to maintain a positive outlook, and the answer lies in a lesson I got from my mother. She taught me the importance of not succumbing to sadness and depression, to prevent these emotions from seizing control of my mind in a way that could harm my husband and, especially, my children. Therefore, I had no choice but to strive for positivity, even when I felt like I was falling apart inside. 

It was during one of these moments of reflection that I turned to my husband and posed a simple question: “If these companies won’t hire me, why can’t we do it on our own?” We embarked on our journey with fragrances, leveraging our network to achieve remarkable success. As a young girl, I would flip through the pages of Cosmopolitan magazine, gazing at models and make-up brands, harbouring the wish that one day, I could be part of that world.

Sunny Leone

 ...Thus, the concept of a cosmetics brand was born, and we chose to name it Starstruck. Why Starstruck? Because I wanted people to be captivated by any woman who entered a room using my cosmetics... 

The process of crafting cosmetics is far more intricate than it might appear at first glance. I carefully delved into each aspect, from formulating the products and selecting colours to rigorous testing and designing the artistic elements. I evaluated numerous products from various manufacturers across India. I take immense pride in the fact that all Starstruck formulas are crafted right here in India. I’m deeply engaged in every facet of creativity and marketing, ensuring that each idea aligns with the brand’s essence.

 Throughout the years, we’ve assembled an exceptional team that dedicates countless hours to the mission of delivering high-quality cosmetics, catering to diverse skin tones and individual preferences...My commitment is to provide you with top-notch products at prices that won’t break the bank, so you can revel in your beauty without emptying your wallet. 

I’m well aware that there are numerous sceptics who may perceive me solely as a celebrity brand ambassador. This is a perception that my entire team and I tirelessly strive to challenge. I dive directly into the cosmetics domain, immersing myself in its complexities, actively participating in industry expos, and fostering partnerships with seasoned experts. My ultimate aim has always been to eliminate any room for doubt, making it crystal clear that I am not just a symbolic figurehead but a fervent driving force propelling the brand onward. 

Over the past two decades, my journey through the domain of digital and online marketing has been a source of immense pride. Regardless of the various paths I’ve taken to navigate this landscape, it has consistently served as a powerful catalyst for propelling my brand to new heights. What truly astonishes me is the enduring loyalty of fans that have stood by me for the past twenty years, and the astounding growth we’ve experienced since venturing into India. 
The overwhelming response and unwavering support from individuals who share our mission of inclusivity and uncompromising quality have been nothing short of awe-inspiring. 

Sunny Leone

Today, Starstruck By Sunny Leone has evolved from a mere brand into a beautiful manifestation of love, stemming from the dedication of my husband Daniel Weber, my incredible team, and myself. As our brand has flourished, so has our web of partnerships and creative collaborations. I feel incredibly blessed to have joined forces with talented make-up artists, influential figures, and seasoned experts who have played pivotal roles in expanding our horizons. 

Our footprint has expanded into retail establishments and online marketplaces, making our products globally accessible to a diverse and enthusiastic customer base.
Throughout my entrepreneurial journey, I’ve gathered several priceless insights, leading the charge among them is the unwavering virtue of persistence. Building a business, especially in the fiercely competitive world of cosmetics, is a marathon, not a sprint. We faced our fair share of hurdles, yet we clung tightly to our grand beliefs, weathering the storms with firm solutions. Moreover, I hold in high regard the importance of resolute authenticity. In a constantly shifting sea of trends and external pressures, it is tempting to divert from the path of one’s core values. Yet, it is this very authenticity that distinguishes a brand in the bustling crowd. My vision for Starstruck By Sunny Leone extends beyond merely reflecting my heartfelt passion for cosmetics; it also aims to embody my steadfast dedication to diversity and unwavering commitment to quality.

I delved deep into the profound significance of collaboration and the magic of teamwork. Surrounding oneself with a passionate and highly skilled team has been the secret sauce behind the brand’s remarkable journey. Every team member brings forth a distinctive skill set to the table, nurturing growth and sparking innovation at every twist and turn. In this ever-shifting market landscape, we adapt and evolve, attuned to the evolving needs of our cherished customers. Nothing remains etched in stone, and we take pride in our relentless pursuit of excellence for both the Starstruck brand and the personal brand I crafted over 24 years ago. It’s a journey marked by unceasing dedication and an unwavering commitment to being the best.