- Saira Mohan (pronounced SI-ruh)
- 26 years old
- Grew-up in Vancouver; Now lives in Gramercy
- Model, Actor, Entrepeneur, Philosopher, and Author
How would you describe yourself? Model? Philosopher? Activist?
Gosh, I like the way all three sound! How about “I’m an active model philosopher”? Nobody has ever called me that before. Next week, can I be something else? But ok … here it goes: for the moment, I’m an Actor, Model, Entrepreneur.
Acting: because it’s hard to ignore the growing interest. So, I say to myself “why not”? Modeling: because it pays the bills; I’m not over-the-hill; I’m good at it; and I enjoy it. Entrepreneur: because I’m knee-deep studying business and entrepreneurship at University of Chicago at the moment, and the business plan I am working on is a billion-dollar idea. What do you have to say about THAT?
You began modeling at 13. What was it like to begin your career at such an early age?
It felt like a dream-come-true. What else would a 13 year-old think? A 13-year-old certainly doesn’t have any concept of “choice” or “ramification” at such an age. I thought “cool," and went on my merry way.
You’re Irish-French and Indian. Yet you identify more with your Indian side. Why? Has being of mixed ethnicity helped (or ever hurt) your career?
When I’m in India, they so want me to be Indian. When I’m in the United States, they don’t care what I am, as long as the client is happy. However, what my ethnicity has done for my own sensibilities has been invaluable. East and West are two diametrically opposed cultures; the world’s "yin" and "yang." Instead of choosing “which to be,” I made the decision in my life a long time ago to assimilate the best of both cultures into who I am and leave behind the bad. But, my image gets reused often in various cultures because nobody knows where the hell I’m from.
In 2003, you were on the cover of Newsweek with the headline “The Perfect Face: How a global standard of beauty is emerging and what people are doing to get it,” and you're quoted in the accompanying story. Is there such a thing as a global standard? What’s your definition of beauty? How does one talk about this subject without seeming narcissistic? Do you obsess or pinpoint over your own flaws?
Talking about beauty without seeming narcissistic is the most natural thing in the world when one understands that "beauty" is nothing more than math … "natural symmetry." If such harmony exists in the visage of a woman, then she probably has something that all men and women naturally respond to, right? So, if this is so, then a global standard absolutely exists. The misconception would be the “new” part. The global standard of beauty is not “new.” People have been wired this way for a long, long … long time.
Dr. Stephen Marquardt, also mentioned in the Newsweek article, was really the first to fully quantify the facial symmetry idea I am talking about. He has been so nice to me, and the information he puts out is just fascinating.
When one realizes that there is an intelligent way to talk about and "see" beauty, it becomes very easy to sound "un-narcissistic." If one were to talk about beauty properly, it can probably turn into a dry conversation on mathematics really quickly.
You’ve been on the cover of Stuff, Maxim and FHM. What’s your opinion of these “lad” mags? How does appearing in a mag like Maxim differ from being in a layout of a fashion or women’s mag?
The letters I get from the “lads” themselves are so sincere and sweet. So, my impressions of the mags are quite high. Also, the particular magazines you mention are extremely successful in a very competitive industry. One has to respect that.
Meanwhile, you recently attended the Indian Economic Summit in New Delhi. What brought you there, and why were you invited?
I was contacted by The World Economic Forum to come to Delhi and address their annual pow-wow they hold in India. I was asked to lead discussions and sessions on 21st century women’s issues, Indian fashion, and Indian-American issues. It was pretty intimidating, especially with the Forum’s founder Klaus Schwab listening to me in the back of the hall. I can’t believe I got through it without throwing-up from nerves.
I think the purpose I served was quite critical actually: I was the youngest person there by far, and 60% of the Indian population is under the age of 25. Need I say more? The Indian-American’s are the most affluent, fastest-growing cultural demographic in the United States. This community alone has over 200,000 millionaires and a total annual purchasing power of over $50 billion, and they’re just dying to be sold to.
Are people surprised when they realize you’re more than just a pretty face? Has your modeling career ever been a detriment to some of the more "intellectual" work you do?
I don’t consider myself an intellectual at all…and my memory sucks. I find that there isn’t much of a middle ground. I mean, I find it hard sometimes to take risks with new knowledge and information, especially when I am speaking into a poker-faced reporter’s tape recorder. It’s kind of like trying out a new vocabulary word for the first time in front of millions of people. It’s uncomfortable.
For example, I was talking the other day with a business reporter who read that I have a casual interest in the stock market and asked me about it. I know some things about the market, but not enough to espouse wisdom to their readership, for heaven’s sake. But, he assumed that because I am a young, pretty girl who happens to know what an “advance-decline line” is, I know something beyond that, and when I don’t know, I sometimes feel as if I should have. I am at a place in my life right now where 100% of my “intellectual work” is learning about life.
Have you always been creative? You’ve also been writing, photographing, painting and it sounds like your trying acting now. Do you just have a lot of energy to channel, are you eager to try everything?
I have always been very creative. I’ve been taking my clothes off and painting with my body for years and years. I’ve been writing a journal for even longer. Journal writing has always been the clearest way for me to express myself. Also, I can take back the words I utter in my journal, but in speaking to a crowd, there is never a time to take words back. This is why I don’t think I will be getting any awards for public speaking any time soon. I make better impressions one-on-one anyway.
You know, life, in my book, is definitely about trying new things and tasting all that life has to offer, I’d better leave it at that.
You’re also busy with your website www.saira.com. One of your sidebar activities on it is dating advice. How did you get started with that? Is that what led to the creation of your eBook, “How to Seduce (and Marry) the Woman of Your Dreams”?
The eBook was a little thing that has been sitting around a long time. I decided to do something with it. I have never marketed it or let it define my image, but man, has that book helped a lot of people. I really can’t believe how much mail I get from people writing to thank me. I was even invited to one guy’s wedding who claimed that I helped him “seduce” his new bride. I love helping people find love.
What’s cool is when someone in the military buys the book, and then someone from an opposing army buys the book. It is really weird getting e-mails from the front-lines of strange conflicts. It’s ironic how men fight many others on the outside, but look for the love of just one woman on the inside.
Are all your suggestions tried and true? Were they tips that worked on you? Any particular favorites?
I fell hook, line, and sinker for Tip # 19. [Ed note: Tip #19 states, "Make Her Desire You.]
Who’s your intended audience? Have you found more men or women checking it out? What sort of response have you been getting either, financially or feedback wise?
Women love the book because there is absolutely nothing that offends them as whole. Actually, the advice is probably more useful to them because many aren’t exactly sure about what they should expect on a date from an interested man. I can tell you that the book has been read by all walks of life from all over the world: government, military, teachers, CEOs, students, parents, etc. It’s even been excerpted in an in-flight airline magazine.
In general, I have no intended audience. I know it sounds like bullshit, but it’s not. Things are much more organic that way.
Why make it available as an eBook. Had you considered traditional publishing?
I’m not a “love doctor.” I don’t want to be known as “Saira, the Seduction Expert.” But, I’ve got to tell you, the advice I’ve given to my male friends over the years has so gotten them laid.
In the "SEE" section of your site, there are "Images of Me" and "Images By Me." Which set makes you more proud?
My husband taught me how to take pictures. He really hates it when I talk about him in interviews, but I can’t help it. He has a certain style to his photography that was simple enough for me to understand. So, when learning, we’d be with our fancy cameras each trying to get the better shot. I knew I had a talent for it when he would look at my photos in the album and would exclaim out loud, “Boy, that’s a great photo I took.” I’d be like, “Uhh, honey, I took that one!” Those are the shots I’m most proud of.
What I think I’m going to do is turn Saira.com into a traditional coffee-table book. The site has levels so deep that few will reach them. Saira.com is designed after my subconscious.
We’re exhausted looking over everything you do, plus you're married and the mother of a nine month old. How do you find time to do it all? What's the secret to finding that balance so that no one area gets short shrift?
Being a good mother is a serious pain-in-the-ass. Everyone only talks about the joys of it all. If someone would have told me that, as a young mother, there would be times where I wouldn’t even have time to go to the bathroom, literally, I would have called bullshit on it.
So, what’s my secret? I was careful about whom I had the baby with. Also, most don’t know that a balance is needed apart from motherhood. Once you know you need one, finding it isn’t such a problem. Believe me, when I get a chance to go out and have a good time, I have a real good time.
Ten things to know about Saira:
What's the best thing you've ever purchased/salvaged off the street?
I know this sounds schmaltzy, but I feel good when I salvage the dignity of a needy stranger on the streets of New York.
Which city establishment sees more of your paycheck than you do?
I’m not a big shopper…but boy do I pay a lot of bills at Cipriani’s.
Gotham Mad Lib: When the ____________ (noun) makes me feel ___________ (adverb), I like to _____________ (verb). (Strict adherence to "Madlib" rules is not required.)
When the LOVIN’ makes me feel LIKE CRYIN’, I like to GO SHOPPIN’.
Personality Problem Solving: Would you consider your personality more hysterical or more obsessive, and have you changed since living in New York; has "New York" become a part of you?
New York becomes a part of everyone paying taxes in it. After seeing those bills, I would say that “hysterical” is a good word.
NYC Confessional: Do you have a local guilty pleasure?
Yes. But I won’t tell. ; ) You’re instincts on this one are likely correct.
When you just need to get away from it all, where is your favorite place in NYC to be alone, relish in solitude and find your earthly happiness? (We promise not to intrude.)
“Solitude and Earthly Happiness”…in New York?!?!? Are you kidding?
Assuming that you're generally respectful of your fellow citizens, was there ever a time when you had to absolutely unleash your inner asshole to get satisfaction?
I have never made headway by being rude or bitchy. It’s just something I never ever am. I don’t believe anyone knows or has ever seen me this way.
Besides more square footage, what luxury would you most like to have in your apartment?
A live-in masseuse.
311: Help or hoopla? Have you ever put it to use?
I have put it to use actually. I saw a car broken down in a very dangerous, blind spot on a moving highway…I thought I’d try to get him help. Funny you asked this question…because this happened not long ago at all.
There are 8 Million stories in The Naked City. Tell us one, but try to keep it to a New York Minute.
8 millions stories? Or is it 8 million people and a single story.
Saira Mohan has also appeared on the covers of Town & Country and GQ (Russia) and is on the current cover of Elle (India). To learn more about her, explore her elaborate website at www.saira.com. You can also purchase and download the eBook “How to Seduce (and Marry) the Woman of Your Dreams” from the web site.
-- Interview by Lily Oei and Aaron Dobbs