“I’m an accidental actress, model, nomad and covert activist.”
The only child of a Polish mother and Bengali Indian father, Lisa was raised in Etobicoke, Ontario. She was named one of the top-10 most beautiful Indian women of the millennium.
You may recognize her from the Indian/Canadian film Bollywood/Hollywood, or as the acclaimed lead in the 2005 Oscar-nominated film Water. In 2009, Lisa was diagnosed with the rare blood disease multiple myeloma, just a few months after the passing of her mom. In 2010 she celebrated her cancer-free diagnosis following a stem cell transplant.
What’s next for Lisa?
I feel the purpose of life is to be happy. It sounds simple, but it doesn’t always happen. I have dark moments and difficult days like anyone. It’s at those times I concentrate on ‘the light.’ I’d like to have a little downtime now at my refuge in Nelson, BC, and spend time writing. I love nurturing my relationships. In the past this suffered because of my work and travel schedule, but I’ve reprioritized. I’m grateful to be given this second chance at life so I’m going to make the most of it, in the way that it makes sense to me.
Your new projects after this two year sabbatical?
I just returned from filming in India; a role that is completely different for me, a lot of work but a lot of fun. I love doing diverse projects that deliver a deep message; stories considered left of centre or of empowerment, that’s why I accepted the role in Water. It’s a natural extension of my belief system. This makes sense of the movie business for me. I don’t have anything against blockbusters, I enjoy them but I don’t see myself being a part of them.
Other than working on my memoirs I’m appearing in the play Taj with the Bollywood star Kebir Bedi, at Luminato. I have a role in a Canadian short film slated for release at the 2011 Toronto Film Festival. And, an unscripted, six-part documentary-style series shot in India for TLC will air later this year. And of course, my first entrepreneurial venture – Moksha Yoga Brampton opened at the end of May.
What are some of Lisa’s indulgences?
I’m a big time ‘foodie,’ always searching for the latest, kooky food trends. Yoga is really important to me. Beyond that, I love to kick back and enjoy myself with friends. Lots of massages. And since I am in between relationships, I’d like to sort out my personal life. Put the word out. (We have another big laugh)
How has your view of you changed?
I’ve become gentler with myself. I was pretty self-critical, that attitude has softened. Now I have a way of contributing. I’ve been involved with other charities before, but now, I am in the fight for my life.
If you could change something in your script, what would it be?
I can’t. I’m the culmination of all the experiences, this is who I am. I just turned 39 and I don’t have any regrets, what’s done is done, there was a reason at the time and now I’m moving forward. I definitely have a different feeling about my birthday now. Not, “Oh, I’m a year older,” but, “I’m HERE! Another year lived.” It’s awesome!
And look at all that you’ve accomplished in the past two years: diagnosed in June 2009; harvesting your stem cells; chemo to kill the bad cells and then the transfusion of your stem cells in January 2010. Now you’re cancer-free. You’ve been an advocate for your life, getting the best treatment, you’re a cancer graduate and a spokesperson for everyone touched by any high risk disease.
I didn’t look at it in that way. That is good. I should sit back to introspect on that. All I know is this is what I can do, how I can contribute. There’s such a sense of gratitude for the term cancer graduate, it got me through the darn program. I want my degree now! As much as I’d love to personally thank each person who supported or gave me positive energy along the way, it’s not realistic. What I can do is to pay it forward and pay back from my platform as a celebrity. I’m blessed that I’m able to use it to educate and inspire people.
You’ve said, “Love is an action.” Is this what you’re doing?
I think so. I’ve had romantic notions of love, as we all do. Love is actually a force, an energy that must be put into action. I don’t believe you need to say it all the time, it is more important to show it by putting the energy in motion and it will expand to others.
Consciously navigating the world is challenging. What would your bumper sticker read?
“I must be a mermaid. I have no fear of depths but a great fear of shallow living.” Anaïs Nin said that. Another part of it would be “Honk if you like what you see!” (Another hearty chuckle)
Your five highest values?
Relationships. Relationships. Relationships. Honesty. Service. Honesty with self and others. Service as a spokesperson and in my yoga practice.
You’re a phenomenal woman Lisa. It takes a lot of courage to step up and say all that you say and expose your beauty in every manner. Even with your shaved head, your beauty shone through.
One of my mantras is: “Never stop fighting.” I mean for your voice in the world. Find your most authentic self. Be what you desire to be, instead of what others think you should be. Don’t stop this fight, life is an ongoing challenge. It’s all about love – internally and externally.
(Source: Canadian Health & Lifestyle / Barbara Goodman)
(Photos: Gabor Jurina)