May 26, 2011

Lisa Ray: actress, former model, cancer-survivor and yoga entrepreneur

Lisa Ray on the site of her new yoga studio - Moksha Yoga Brampton / Photographs: Angela Lewis
We joined Lisa Ray for a downward dog session at her brand-new hot yoga studio in Brampton. (So brand-new, we had to lay our yoga mats over construction dust.)

How long have you been a die-hard yogi for?

Ironically, when I lived in India for a decade in my twenties, I never did yoga. I discovered it at my local gym when I moved to London in 2002. I was skeptical. Back then I was really into pumping iron—anything to get that buzz.

You seem busy enough already. Why take on another project?

I am busy, but that’s why I didn’t do it alone. Paris, one of my two business partners, is a total task-master. She’s been dealing with the day-to-day details. I’m busy working on a few TV shows, a book and trying to memorize my lines for Luminato: I’m in a play called Taj, with the Bollywood star Kabir Bedi.

You’ve said that your yoga practice played a huge role in helping you get through multiple myeloma cancer in 2009. How so?

There’s really nothing like yoga for re-energizing, both in terms of body and mind. I taught classes right up until I went in for chemo and started again right after I had my stem-cell transplant. There is so much to get out of it.

Like a tight butt.

Exactly! And there’s nothing wrong with doing it for that.

What do you do outside of yoga to stay healthy?

These days a lot of good livin’. Lots of time with family and friends. It’s corny, but when you go through cancer, you really do make bucket lists and figure out your priorities.

Do you have a beauty regimen?

Not really. Moksha is great for the skin though.

Under Construction - Lisa Ray's new yoga studio - Moksha Yoga Brampton / Photographs: Angela Lewis

You must get sick of people telling you how beautiful you are all the time.

I guess it depends on how I’m feeling about myself that day. I think it’s important to learn how to take compliments, because you don’t want to diminish yourself. It took me a long time to learn that.

Don’t tell me you’re one of those pretty people who insists they were a big ugly dork in high school.

Well, I really was chubby.

You truly are ridiculously gorgeous.

Thank you.

You host a TV show on OMNI about the best Bollywood movies. You must have a favourite.

I do. It’s a mid-’90s hit called Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge—which translates as “The Big Hearted Will Take the Bride.”

Is it a comedy?

They’re all comedies.

There’s such a big difference between Indian humour and North American humour.

Ya think? Paisa vasool, in Hindi culture, is a concept that basically means getting your money’s worth. An audience expects everything stuffed into two hours: laughter, tears, action, beautiful women, menacing villains. There’s a saying—there are good films and bad films, and then there are Bollywood films.

What do you miss most about being in India when you’re in Toronto?

The sounds in the early morning—like the milk-man on his rattling bike. Life is more communal there. You just show up. There’s no calling ahead, no making appointments. In India the guest is god, so the level of hospitality is just amazing.

What do you miss most about Toronto when you’re in India?

I miss the peace and quiet I have in Toronto. In India, I don’t have as much freedom, and it can feel like I’m living in a bit of a bubble. I don’t enjoy that aspect of fame.

The Indian press does seem to be obsessed with your love life.

My main contention is when there’s someone else in the story who doesn’t want the attention, whether it’s a friend or a lover. For me, I asked for it. I’ve been in the business for 20 years.

Okay then—care to tell me who you’re dating?

No comment.

You said once that the best hope for world peace is interracial marriage. Do you still think that?

I stand by it. You only really get an insight into someone else’s culture when you have to. Sharing the same bed really helps the process along.

Is there a particular race that you’ve found yourself attracted to over the years?

I’m very open and I’ve been fortunate to get a taste of many different—oh wait, not that kind of taste. Ha! This is totally irrelevant, but I was just in Regina. I did a shoot there and afterwards this woman said, “So, are you going to stay for a Taste of Regina?” They actually have a festival called that!

Hexe, a German shepherd, belongs to Ray’s business partner, Paris Moghtader / Photographs: Angela Lewis

LIGHTNING ROUND!

Favourite Toronto bar?
Blowfish.

Favourite cocktail?
A mojito.

Late nights or early mornings?
Early mornings.

Time spent getting ready for a night out?
No more than 15 minutes.

William or Harry?
Harry.

Favourite season?
Summer.

Favourite seasoning?
Chili flakes.

Favourite swearword?
Kurczeblade. My mom is Polish—it means pasty chicken.

Samosas or perogies?
Can’t I mix them?

Chocolate or candy?
Chocolate.

Chocolate or sex?
That’s obvious.

Lisa Ray’s yoga studio, Moksha Yoga Brampton, is at 50 Peel Centre Dr., Unit 205.

(Source: The Grid / Courtney Shea)

(Photos: Angela Lewis)

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