Fit & Famous
She looks fitter and sexier than ever before. How does Malaika Arora maintain her beach-ready figure, even at 44? Read on, to find out.
The first time we saw Malaika Arora was on television as a VJ. But it was on ‘MTV Love Line’, a show the leggy lass cohosted with Cyrus Broacha, that she stole our hearts. She was sexy, sassy and stylish. Today, two decades later, she’s all that and more… She’s fitter, shapelier and hotter than ever before. Like fine wine, Malaika is only getting better with age. What’s the key to her agedefying looks and her super fit bod? In a heart-to-heart with ‘H&N’, the gorgeous beauty spills the beans on what keeps her glowing, going and on the top of her game…
Excerpts from the interview... You wooed people with your ‘oomph factor’ as a VJ on TV two decades ago. You continue to do so even now - in your different avatars as an anchor, model, entrepreneur, fitness enthusiast and a yummy mummy. What is the secret behind that magical sex appeal? (Laughs) There’s no secret. I think it’s all about being confident – whether it is being body confident or just brimming with life. I know I’ve been perceived by people in a certain way. And the media loves tagging people - someone is sexy, someone is athletic. But, yes, having said that, I’d rather be sexy than plain Jane - it’s far more exciting and interesting. And yes, I must say that it all comes from a sense of confidence – you have it, you own it!
And what is the secret behind that svelte figure? On a serious note, were you always fitness conscious - from the time you started your career as a VJ and model? I’ve always been a very active child. I was always into dance and sports and so a healthy lifestyle was very important for both of them. Moreover, I’ve always believed that your body is your temple and you should worship it. So yes, I have always been pretty health and fitness conscious.
So, when did you first start proper gymming? What was the trigger for that? I hit the gym with a vengeance post my son, Arhaan, was born. I only did dance before that, and I used to run as I was an athlete. I joined the gym more out of a necessity as I felt I needed to drop kilos that I had gained during pregnancy. And I did it in a very organic way; didn’t go crazy. But soon, I started enjoying the process, and discovered the many joys of gymming. And from then on, there was no turning back...
What kind of an effect being physically fit has on you? I feel enthusiastic, alive, good about myself and happy when I work out. When they say your body produces endorphins – happy hormones – when you work out, it’s so true. I feel I can do and tackle things with a better approach and more clarity.
So what exactly does your fitness regime comprise? Well, it’s a mix of weight training, Pilates and yoga. I
discovered yoga and Pilates late in life. I had a very bad hamstring injury while dancing six years ago that pushed me into a direction of doing something that would heal my injury without having to go through any painful process. I also had a very bad lower back issue. Of course, I did physio but with yoga and Pilates, my aches disappeared, my strength levels improved, my posture changed, and my core strength increased.
Which form of fitness has given you the maximum benefit? Why? All the three forms of fitness help me differently. Since I am a very petite girl, weight training adds definition to my body and helps builds muscles. Pilates is all about flexibility and agility. I remember reading about Pilates years ago when Madonna used to do it and I was very fascinated by it. I remember seeing some of the stuff she had done, and ever since it’s been on my mind. And however much I say about yoga and its benefits will not be enough. Yoga is a complete mind, body and soul approach to wellness.
Tell us about Diva Yoga, your new venture? What was the trigger behind that? And what is its USP? Obviously, my love for yoga was the trigger. Sarvesh Shashi from Zorba and the Talwalkar group approached me with a plan to start a yoga studio exclusively for women, and I thought it was amazing. I believe in girl power and I wanted to do this for all the wonderful women out there. I thought it was the right time to give back to society too. I am looking forward to opening my Diva Yoga studios across the country.
So, tell us more about your contribution to Diva Yoga? What exactly do you do there? I am neither a yoga trainer nor teacher. But yes, right from choosing the colour of the studio to the number of trainers, to the music in the class to what will be taught in the sessions, I will be looking into everything. I want to devise a program that is not too hectic, and suited to an individual’s body type and capabilities. We will have trained yoga instructors, and our first flagship studio will be in Bandra, which will be followed by five more studios in Mumbai before reaching out to cities across the country.
How health conscious are you when it comes to food? I am a foodie by nature. I love food but I’ve never been someone who binges or follows ridiculous diets. I’ve always eaten well and wholesome. I come from a half South Indian and half Punjabi family. Being
a half South Indian, I live, breathe and eat rice. Rice and fish are a staple but I also love my rotis and the North Indian style of cooking. But yes, one thing’s for sure; I will not encourage or even cook unhealthy and
junk food in the house. And even if I make it, I will find a healthy option to it. Junk and fad diets are a complete no-no for me.
So, what is a normal day for you like? I am an early riser as I am in bed by 10-10.30 p.m. I start my day with a spoonful of ghee, followed by a glass of warm water with lime. I see my son off to school, and then head off to work. If I am not working, I head off to the gym. I am a cleanliness freak, and keep finding something or the other in the house to tidy up. Otherwise, I am pretty much a home body; I love spending time with my son, friends, family etc.
How important do you think is emotional health for overall wellness? And what do you do to keep your emotional health in shipshape? Emotional stability and health are very important. I am not a very anxious person by nature but I guess we are in a profession where stress levels can be very high. There’s also so much scrutiny around you all the time, which can be stressful. Every time I felt my personal life was going through a low and I needed to pull myself together emotionally, yoga has helped me a lot. I turned to yoga to keep my sanity and get clarity. Meditation, of course, helps a great deal. And so does having a good support system; I have a great set of friends who are my backbone and look out for me. But at the end of the day, self-help is the best help.
Talking about your personal life, you’ve been through a divorce, and a divorce is never easy... How did you cope with it and keep yourself emotionally strong through it all? Well, everyone is aware of what has happened and I don’t want to talk about it much. But one thing I definitely want to say is that I feel very bad and sad that
we live in a country where the general public looks down upon women who make certain choices in their life. And when I say choices, I mean independent choices – whether it’s a divorce or separation or being a working mother or dressing a certain way. I find that very hard to digest; I wish somewhere that mentality would change in our country. Because at the end of the day, how is the woman who is separated or divorced any different from the woman who is married or single? And for someone to sit out there and point a finger and form an opinion is downright outrageous and horrible. I am an independent woman who can make her own choices without having to bow down to ridiculous society pressures. I think I manage to straddle every aspect of my life – whether it is being a mother (I think I am a fantastic mother), a sister, a daughter, or a working woman – with a lot of love, affection, dignity and respect. I have always lived life on my terms, and will continue to do so. And I would like more women to come out and speak about it as opposed to those who don’t. I would be lying if I said I didn’t have my low days where I was not able to even pull myself out of my bed. But what kept me going was my belief that I was a strong woman. I also knew I have a son who I have to be there for and instill the right values in. I had to make sure I would never let him see me low or unable to cope with a particular situation. As parents, we have to rise above our situations, and that’s exactly what I did.
Would you like to give any advice for all those going through a breakup or separation in a relationship? Everybody’s problems and issues are different. All I can say is you’ve got to stand by your choices – whether it’s your career, a divorce or separation, or whatever path you take. Do it with your head held high and don’t let anyone pull you down or make you feel less as a person.
How’s it being a single mom to your son Arhaan now? It is a challenge. Definitely, being a single mom has its trials and tribulations and up and downs. But let me just put it this way that every day is a learning experience for me. I am literally learning on the job. I make mistakes, correct them, and try and improve on them… But at the end of the day, I know that you just have to be a very grounded figure in your child’s life.
What are the parenting mantras you strongly believe in? For me, the most important mantra where my son is concerned is: Be your child’s friend. The more you befriend them, hear them, the better for both of you. I am a very strict mother but I feel if my child is able to come and tell me whatever is on his mind – good, bad and ugly – then I have done something right.
Being a star kid brings with it its own set of pressures. How does Arhaan cope with stardom and the spotlight on his parents all the time? Arhaan is born and brought up in a family where everyone is into films. He has grown up in this atmosphere. So it’s not new to him. But yes, I think we, as parents, have done a fairly good job of keeping him away from the spotlight. I mean we are not hiding him as such but we try to keep him low profile. There’s a time and place for everything.
How much of an influence you’ve been on him as far as your health and fitness values are concerned? I am glad my health values rub off on him as well. Not just my child, I have a tendency to influence all around me… I look at it this way, if you give your child junk, they’d grab it. But if you tell them the pros and cons, they’ll know to make wise choices. My son knows unnecessary junk will lead to difficulties when he grows up. Children are like sponges, you introduce a good healthy lifestyle to them early in life, and they’ll follow that.
An entrepreneur, TV personality, a hands-on mom – how do you juggle the varied roles you play? I think the juggle doesn’t feel that difficult when you are focused, love what you do and have a great support system to back you up whenever you need them. Yes, sometimes you feel that you have a lot on your plate and not enough hours in the day to finish them all, but with proper time management, it all gets done. My role as a mother is first and foremost and I am blessed that my son understands my work schedule and is supportive of it.
In good times: Malaika & Arbaaz
With son Arhaan & Arbaaz