Leone is used to a certain level of fame. For a decade, fans have asked her for autographs and pictures. But they never brought their children. “Whoa,” she recalled a few days later, in an interview in the swank Mumbai hotel where she is now living. “That’s just weird.” (via Why this Canadian porn star’s past isn’t holding her back in Bollywood - The Globe and Mail)
In her case, that’s make money. Leone was a C student in school, she says, but always an entrepreneur: selling candy, lemonade, and organizing her brother and his friends to shovel snow for $3 an hour.
She was 19 and in nursing school, aspiring to model, in California (where her parents had moved when she was a teen) when a photographer pointed out that she could earn plenty more modelling without clothes on. He sent around her portfolio; her first-ever nude shoot was for Penthouse.
At first, she didn’t tell her conservative Sikh parents about her new career. But before long, she came to the attention of Bob Guccione, publisher of Penthouse. (He gave her the name she uses now; she was born Karen Malhotra, or Karenjit Kaur Vohra – her “people” won’t confirm which, for security reasons, they claim.) It was in 2003 that she won the title of Penthouse Pet of the Year, which put her on the cover of the magazine and led to appearances around the globe. She could no longer put off that awkward conversation with mom and dad.
“I wanted to tell them before the rest of the family told them. This was the least I could do,” she says.
How did that conversation go? “My mom didn’t get it. At all. She had no idea what I was talking about at first. And then – she did. Then she was upset. But I don’t know any mother who would say, ‘You’re naked and you’re in a magazine – yay!’” Her father was distressed, she says, but soon reiterated the maxim he had always told his children – Do your best.
In a way, she says now, she was living up to the immigrant ideal: She took home a $100,000 (U.S.) cheque as Pet of the Year. When she started making adult films a few years later, there were bigger cheques. And before long, she had her own production house; SunLust Pictures earns about $1-million in annual revenue, says her partner, Daniel Weber.
“It was what they taught me,” Leone says about her parents: ‘Don’t rely on anybody. You’ll have to do everything yourself. Be self-sufficient.’”