Sunny Leone can lay claim to a number of awards, records and firsts. She won the 2007 AVN Award for "Best Interactive DVD," was the first Indian woman to be selected as a Penthouse Pet in 2001 and, as the 2003 Penthouse Pet of the Year, was the last woman to receive that honor under Bob Guccione's regime.
But even her most ardent fans might have a hard time believing this young, petite woman who has done everything from modeling in adult magazines to starring in her first boy-girl scene for Vivid this year does her own laundry. "I didn't have time to take everything to the dry cleaners," she said, pointing at garments hanging up to dry in the backyard. "I just figured I would hand-wash them myself. I guess it worked."
At first, it might seem to be a bit of a contradiction: The glamorous Sunny Leone surely spends her days lounging around, eating caviar and dripping in jewels, just waiting for someone to put a camera in front of her, right? The reality is far from that, as Leone points out that she loves getting her hands dirty and doesn't shy away from hard work. "Up until about a year and a half ago, I handled my career all by myself," she said. "I don't mind doing the hard work. At first, it was pretty easy because when I was working with Penthouse, I was getting a lot of referrals. And I had a lot people around me telling me, ‘You can totally do this on your own.'"
The exotic 27-year-old said she began working with L.A. Direct Models owner Derek Hay in an effort to keep track of her hectic schedule and simplify her life a little. "I hate situations that are disorganized," she said. "Usually, I am a pretty good judge of character and can weed out the people who will flake, but there were a few situations where people were giving me the runaround. I decided to start working with Derek, and he's been great. Now, instead of putting my energy toward weeding out people, I can focus on work."
However, relying on someone else is something Leone needs a little time to get used to. After all, she has spent most of her career booking her own appearances, handling her own content shoots, creating and maintaining her own websites - SunnyLeone.com and SunnysGirlfriends.com - and managing her own affiliate program, SunnyCash.com. She regularly attends webmaster conventions and was one of the first adult stars to do so on a regular basis.
And with the mainstream work she does - most recently, she participated in the second season of the Fox Reality Network show "My Bare Lady" alongside Casey Parker, Veronica Rayne and Brooke Haven - it all keeps her in the spotlight but as busy as hell, too.
Leone credits her parents for a lot of her drive and refusal to let anything get in her way. Though her parents were born and raised in northern India, they taught their Canadian-born children to never rely on others. "I think that backfired on them, though," Leone said with a chuckle. "They always told me, ‘Don't depend on anyone else for anything. Always make sure you can take care of yourself.'"
That message clashed with the Sikh Indian culture in which they were raised. There, a woman is expected to either marry and move into the home of her husband's family, or attend school and then marry or return to her parents' home until she is wed. However, the repeated message from Leone's parents prompted the future adult-industry star to break out on her own at a young age. "Even before I could really have a job, I had a job," she said. "The neighbors used to hate me because I was always going door to door selling something."
Though Leone was allowed to play sports as a child - she still plays soccer whenever she gets a chance - once she hit puberty, her parents tried to keep her away from activities and focused on academics. But it was too late, she said. When she was 18, she began her adult modeling career. Her independent spirit didn't win her many Indian fans early in her career. "In the beginning, they wanted to put me on a stick and crucify me or something," she said. "They hated me. But now, it almost seems like a lot of people in the Indian culture have embraced me."
That change of attitude led to Leone's starring role in the Bollywood movie Pirates Blood. The English-language thriller was filmed in Oman and also stars veteran Bollywood actor Salim Bahwan.
It's one of many major moves Leone has made in 2008. In March, Vivid released Sunny Loves Matt, in which Leone performs her first boy-girl scene on film. While there are more boy-girl scenes to come for Leone, the first one solidified her relationship with Vivid, where she has been a contract star for three years. "It was another area where I wanted some control," she said. "I was lucky, too. I called up Vivid and asked for a meeting. Steve [Hirsch] was kind enough to take a meeting with me himself. He doesn't do that for everyone. I guess he saw something in me, and I was a Vivid Girl, which is great because you just can't get any bigger than Vivid."
Despite having spent the past eight years in the industry, conquering every facet - she's had molds made of her for novelties, she's maintained her own websites for years, and she's done both adult and mainstream movies - Leone shows no signs of slowing down. "There are a lot of things still planned for 2008," she said. "I don't want to talk about too many of them just yet because I don't want to jinx them, but there are still some big things to come."
This article originally appeared in the August 2008 issue of AVN Online Magazine. To subscribe, visit AVN Media Network.