A Breath of Fresh Air In Bollywood Shirley Setia

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She is young, promising, talented and grace comes naturally to her! With 3.35 million subscribers just on her Youtube channel, she enjoys a terrific fan following on the social media platforms! She recorded her first video song in her bedroom wearing pyjamas and famously got quoted as “Pyjama Popstar”, cited by New Zealand Herald. Meet Shirley Setia, who comes like a breath of fresh air in Hindi Film industry with her debut movie ‘Nikamma’ (with Anubhav Dassani and Shilpa Shetty by Sony Pictures). Shirley has also worked in Netflix series- Maska (with Manisha Koirala). Here is a candid conversation….

Who is Shirley Setia in real life?

I am just a regular girl who’s trying to follow her heart and dreams. I had to fight against odds when I travelled from Auckland to Mumbai and settled in this beautiful city of dreams. This journey hasn’t been easy either, because I had to leave my home, my parents, my family and friends, my whole life and adapted to a new culture and lifestyle. Thankfully, my parents had kept us extremely grounded and close to our Indian roots, even back home in New Zealand. It never felt like I’m in a different world altogether, it all just feels like home. I’m just like any other person; I love hanging out with my friends, I love watching films, I love travelling, I still like eating junk food. I’m just like any other girl!

What inspired you to venture into acting?

Growing up, we always watched a lot of Bollywood movies and listened to a lot of Bollywood songs. I always wanted to become an actor, I’ve always dreamt of becoming an actor, I loved being on camera. I’ve constantly had that dream, but I was so far away that I just didn’t think that it was possible. Also, no one from my family is from the entertainment field, even to convince my parents to let me come to India to pursue my dreams was extremely challenging. I started my YouTube journey over 7 years ago and now that I am finally able to make my dream come true, it’s a lovely feeling! Its all because of the love of my fans and everybody who has supported me.

What does being an actor mean to you and where do you see yourself in next five years?

I’ve realized that singing and acting are quite similar to each other, although the actual art of it is slightly different. The reasoning of it is quite similar, which is to be able to tell stories, that’s what it means to me. I have always been a huge believer in stories and I want to be able to share them through my work with everyone. I want to be able to do a lot of things and to see where this new exciting journey takes me. As for seeing myself in 5 years, I’m generally the type of person who likes to go with the flow, out of the opportunities that come my way, the ones that seem good to me or the ones I feel will add to my career are the ones I will take up. I’m a very go with the flow kind of person, but I have a few goals in life that I do want to achieve but let’s see when and how they come my way.

What’s a normal day like for you when you are not travelling or working?

When I’m not travelling or working then I am just chilling at home! I enjoy cooking a little bit, I’m not an expert but I enjoy it because it helps me clear my mind. I really enjoy makeup; I’ll probably be watching some YouTube videos or tutorials. I’ll probably be chilling, mostly sleeping (since I like to catch up on my sleep!). I try catching up with a few friends, but mostly you’ll find me at home just relaxing and enjoying my day off!

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What fashion trends do you love at the moment?

I think my favourite fashion trend at the moment is athleisure wear. It’s not just a fun and playful look, but it’s also incredibly comfortable. You can do almost anything in athleisure wear. It isn’t restricted to the gym anymore, people have been wearing it for brunches, and other casual social occasions, and since the lockdown began, it’s also nice to relax in at home! It also motivates me to exercise, so I love it!

Who are your top style icons?

My Bollywood style icon has to be Kareena Kapoor Khan; she’s absolutely stunning, I especially like the way she carries herself. I met her once when we were sharing the stage, I sang a couple of songs of hers for her. Just her presence and the manner in which she was dressed, she exudes lot of elegance in her style, and whatever she wears looks 10 times better! I also like Deepika Padukone, Anushka Sharma and Priyanka Chopra.

Who are your favorite actor/influencers?

Growing up, I’ve been a huge fan of Kajol, she’s definitely one of my biggest acting influences. I’m also extremely thankful and grateful that I got to work with two actors who inspire me; the graceful Manisha Koirala and the evergreen Shilpa Shetty. I got to work with Manisha ji in Maska and Shilpa ji in Nikamma, I’m extremely excited and happy about that. I used to also watch a lot of YRF movies like Dil Toh Pagal Hain, Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge, etc. I’ve grown up watching a lot of Bollywood, I’ve learned a lot from every movie I’ve watched so they end up becoming my favourite.

What would you count as your biggest learning so far?

My biggest learning has been to ‘have patience’ and also not to give up. I am glad I learnt these priceless lessons very early in life. When something doesn’t work out, we often wonder ‘Oh that was so good! Why dint it work out’ (like an audition or some opportunity) or similar anxieties. In life, sometimes things work and sometimes they don’t, it’s a mix bag so you just have to trust your journey and keep doing your work sincerely just the way you do usually! Learning from your setbacks is extremely important and you have to just keep going, because if you give up then it will never be possible again.

On the lighter side, what are the perks of being in the film industry?

For me personally, one of the perks is just being on the film set itself. How things work in real life behind camera (what you usually watch as a film). It’s been such an amazing experience for me, before this I’d never even been on a film set before; so this was an extremely special experience for me! Its amazing to see how so many people come together to make a project come to life and it’s just not the people you’re seeing on screen or whose names you know, there are so many people who work behind the scenes to make everything come together too! I’ve seen that and learnt more about it, while being on set. It’s been a lovely experience for me. I find it so interesting, that we shot one scene first but this wasn’t first in the movie and just figuring out how production puts everything together along with the director is just beautiful.

Have you been enticed by glamour and glitz of film-world?

I don’t think that the glitz and glamour really affect me that much. It’s always been my dream to be an actor, and I am glad I am being given opportunities in this fantastic industry. I focus more on keeping my head on the shoulders and continue to do my work, so I don’t really think about all the rest!

Has there been a defining moment in your life so far, when you felt you had arrived?

There have been moments which made me feel I am closer to my dream, if not the defining moment. The time when I signed Nikamma was one such moment, when I started working for the film, when we went to Big Boss house and I met Salman Khan- all these moments gave me a special feeling.
Another moment was when Maska released and I got to work with Manisha Koirala ma’am, all of the love and support people gave the film. All these moments have come together and they’re making me feel more motivated and positive about pursuing my dream.

How do you juggle between work and family?

My family consists of my dad, mom and brother and most of the time they live in New Zealand, but my mom tries to come to India every year. My mother helps me a lot in juggling between work and family. I have kept my family involved with my work. Even as they live in New Zealand they are always updated, in fact they work very closely with my manager. I feel this helps me balance! Had this not been the case, there could have been gap since I stay away from them in a different country and time zone.
Also whenever I get an opportunity to go back home, even if it’s for a short while. It’s always lovely to spend time with my family and I try to do it as much as possible.

How do you view love?

Love, to me is probably one of the most beautiful feelings in this world! It’s extremely important to me and it’s a core part of my life. Love is like a driving force, especially to me. It just makes you grow as a person, not just personally but professionally too!

Favourite Fashion Designer
Manish Malhotra, Rohit Bal, Sonaakshi Raaj, Anaita Shroff

Favourite Makeup Artist
My favourite makeup artist would have to be Shaan Mu, he’s extremely talented at the work that he does and we’ve had such a great time working for Nikamma. I hope that everyone loves the look that he has put together for me in the film.

Go-to-outfit?
My go-to outfit when I’m stepping out is a simple tee with a pair of jeans and sneakers. Other than that, I also really like shorts with a tee, basically anything with a tee or sneakers is my go to outfit.

What is your latest obsession?

My latest obsession is lip tints, I love lip tints and I feel like I can’t have enough of them.

Most treasured item in your wardrobe?

I get attached to things which are gifted to me by people. Those items get marked out as my favourites. I have a lot of such gift items though; so I wouldn’t be able to choose just one! Recently, I was gifted a pendant and that would probably be my most treasured item for now.

What is your favourite memory as a child?

I have so many, but playing ‘pakda-pakdi’ with my friends has to be my most favourite memory of all times. I remember falling several times and getting hurt too. But I now laugh about it! Its nice to be able to relive those memories when you meet your friends again.

Amidst the corona virus outbreak, how do you suggest people to keep themselves engaged all day in their homes?

I personally feel that it’s important to keep ourselves occupied, while being at home in the current lockdown. There’s an old saying which says an empty mind is like a devil’s workshop, and it’s so true, because the minute you sit idle, there will be too many thoughts in your mind. I feel during this time it’s very important that we all remain calm and positive to keep ourselves mentally healthy! So finding some activity to keep yourself occupied is great.

How are you dealing with the situation? What do you do all day to keep yourself busy?

I have also been trying to keep myself busy. I’ve been cooking a lot, cleaning, and I am also back to creating content on my YouTube channel. So it’s really lovely as I am also getting to reconnect with my fans on YouTube and other social media through this

Any life lessons COVID 19 times have taught you personally or changes it has brought in your life.

COVID 19 has taught me many things, some of them are to be grateful for the things I have in life, my family and friends. It has also taught me to live a day at a time. In our fast paced lives we usually forget to enjoy the small moments and I’ve learnt to cherish these more now.

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