Sor­isha Naidoo, happy at 40

As Sor­isha Naidoo turns 40, she opens up about that skin-light­en­ing row, her mar­riage and cruel claims she’s a gold-dig­ger


THE de­li­cious aroma of home­made curry wafts through the house and ex­citable, friendly pugs scam­per around our feet as we’re wel­comed into the home. Power cou­ple Sor­isha Naidoo and Vi­vian Reddy, both ca­su­ally dressed in jeans and sneak­ers, greet the YOU team with a hug.

Their op­u­lent es­tate in Umh­langa Rocks on the pic­turesque KwaZu­luNatal’s coast is well guarded.

It soon be­comes ap­par­ent why – when you get through the gates and guards there’s a roomy garage filled with lux­ury cars.

The lat­est ad­di­tion to their posh fleet is a sleek, black As­ton Martin DB11, the only one in South Africa, worth an eye-wa­ter­ing R4,8 mil­lion. That beauty was a birth­day gift from Vi­vian to Sor­isha, who re­cently turned 40.

The party was held at the swanky Bev­erly Hills ho­tel in Umh­langa with plenty of high-pro­file peo­ple in at­ten­dance. It was a bash to re­mem­ber and the birth­day girl was the belle of the ball.

But to­day Sor­isha is kick­ing off her heels in her own home for an ex­clu­sive in­ter­view with YOU.

Grandiose chan­de­liers, im­ported art­work, sculp­tures and fam­ily por­traits fill the dou­ble-storey man­sion. Yet the aroma of the curry makes the at­mos­phere down-to-earth and wel­com­ing.

Her hus­band, Vi­vian (64), one of Pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma’s staunch­est sup­port­ers, breezes through the pho­to­shoot and quickly ex­cuses him­self to at­tend an ur­gent meet­ing.

Mean­while, Sor­isha set­tles down to tell us about the con­tro­versy about her skin and how it’s in­flu­enced her life.

SHE’S spo­ken about her skin-light­en­ing pro­ce­dures be­fore but to­day Sor­isha is open­ing up for the first time about the demons that drove her to it. In 2002 she was one of the top fi­nal­ists in Miss In­dia World­wide, af­ter win­ning Miss In­dia South Africa.

But some peo­ple in the In­dian com­mu­nity frowned upon a dark-skinned girl win­ning the beauty pageant, she ex­plains.

“I’ve never shared this, but those com­ments re­ally hurt me and dam­aged my self-es­teem,” she tells us.

“And af­ter so much our coun­try had gone through in terms of racial dis­crim­i­na­tion, I was shocked peo­ple didn’t think a dark girl de­served to win.”

She was caught up in self-doubt – then de­cided to bleach her skin.

“The neg­a­tiv­ity re­ally pulled me down and I fell into the pub­lic [opin­ion] trap. Look­ing back now, I re­gret do­ing it. “I think I was more beau­ti­ful be­fore.” Sor­isha says there was a time when her skin be­came too light and she’d also de­vel­oped vi­tiligo, a con­di­tion in which the skin loses its pig­ment cells caus­ing patches of dis­col­oration.

She looked deep within her­self to find the root of her prob­lem.

“I had to stop car­ing about what other peo­ple thought of me and I fo­cused on the peo­ple who re­ally cared about me.

“I was be­com­ing too white – my skin was al­most pa­per-thin and I be­came para­noid about my looks. I tried out al­most every­thing that had retinol in it and I did a lot of light peels.

“I had long meet­ings with my plas­tic sur­geon be­fore I even­tu­ally found a prod­uct that helped to pro­duce melanin,” she says.

This led to her open­ing the Umh­langa Laser & Aes­thetic Clinic in 2012 and last year she opened the Chatsworth Laser & Aes­thetic Clinic.

And, she adds proudly, she no longer uses any tox­ins or chem­i­cals on her body.

IF THERE’S one per­son who’s al­ways found her beau­ti­ful, it’s her hus­band. Sor­isha’s eyes well up as she re­counts how far she and Vi­vian have come to­gether. She was a work­ing-class girl from Shall­cross in Durban who got a jour­nal­ism de­gree from Rhodes Univer­sity in 2001.

Win­ning the Miss In­dia South Africa pageant in 2002 launched her on a path to fame and for­tune.

Be­fore Sor­isha and Vi­vian met, the for­mer beauty queen had been work­ing at East Coast Ra­dio as a DJ on the Satur­day break­fast show.

Ev­ery Satur­day she would re­ceive a call at the sta­tion from the busi­ness­man, ask­ing her out to break­fast.

“I knew of Vi­vian Reddy but I wasn’t in­ter­ested be­cause I thought he was ar­ro­gant,” she re­calls. “He would per­sist and call ev­ery Satur­day morn­ing un­til one day I agreed to a cof­fee date.”

To her sur­prise, the bil­lion­aire wasn’t at all how she’d imag­ined. “He was so down to earth, hum­ble – and he un­der­stood my goals. He in­spired me a lot and we would speak for hours.”

Sor­isha fell for his charms, and the two be­gan dat­ing in se­cret.

But peo­ple soon caught wind of their ro­mance and started la­belling Sor­isha a gold-dig­ger. Not only is Vi­vian 23 years her se­nior, he’s also ex­tremely wealthy.

“For us the big age gap wasn’t a prob life­style lem,” she says. “Things only turned ugly when we saw head­lines and peo­ple crit­i­cis­ing us. I would some­times ques­tion whether or not I was re­ally a gold-dig­ger. I sec­ond-guessed our re­la­tion­ship.”

It was a stress­ful time, Sor­isha says, but af­ter she and Vi­vian dis­cussed it, they de­cided to shut out the crit­i­cism and fo­cus on their re­la­tion­ship. Later, they tied the knot and then had two chil­dren, son Sai­hil (9) and daugh­ter Kalina (7).

The “gold-dig­ger” crit­i­cism con­tin­ued, Sor­isha says, but she was un­fazed.

She starred in soapie Scan­dal! as Na­dia Narain for three years and later started her own busi­nesses. “If Viv and I were ever to di­vorce, I’d be able to sus­tain my­self with my busi­nesses and my wouldn’t change,” she says con­fi­dently. “It could have been eas­ier for me to live as a house­wife but I de­cided that’s not the life I’m meant to be liv­ing.”

AL­THOUGH she leads a rather glam­orous life her tri­als and tribu­la­tions have turned her into a spir­i­tual per­son, Sor­isha says.

She be­gan a jour­ney to find her­self af­ter her two brothers died. Her older brother, Kushla, was shot in an armed rob­bery at her par­ents’ su­per­mar­ket in 1995.

In 2012 her fam­ily was hit by an­other tragedy when her other brother, Rudy, died from a heart at­tack.

“I couldn’t un­der­stand the mes­sage be­hind all these deaths. I re­mem­ber the day Rudy died so clearly.”

She was judg­ing Miss Teen South Africa and the make-up artist had done half of her face when she re­ceived a call from her sis­ter that Rudy couldn’t breathe.

“I ran out the door into the car but by the time I got home, it was too late – he had died. It was so heart-break­ing.”

Sor­isha felt she needed to change her life. “My par­ents [mom, Lal­litha, and dad, Kr­ish], were very re­li­gious and they sent us to nine years of spir­i­tual classes. They taught us about all types of re­li­gions and this came in handy for me when my brothers passed away.”

Now she and her sis­ter, Dr Jashira Naidoo (38), make sure their re­tired par­ents are well taken care of.

“We’ve taken over our brothers’ re­spon­si­bil­i­ties and we live to serve our par­ents – they’re our gods on earth.”

She con­cedes that strik­ing a bal­ance be­tween be­ing a care­giver for her par­ents, a busi­ness­woman, mother, wife and phi­lan­thropist is dif­fi­cult, but she’s in con­trol and is even plan­ning a re­turn to act­ing “sooner than you think”.

And all the while she’ll con­tinue to defy her crit­ics and live life on her own terms.

LEFT: Sor­isha with her hus­band Vi­vian Reddy. RIGHT: One of the lux­u­ri­ous rooms in their home.

LEFT: Her clothes cup­board is filled with de­signer items. ABOVE: Vi­vian has a spe­cial rack for all his ties.

TOP RIGHT: The cou­ple love spend­ing sum­mer days pool­side at their Umh­langa Rocks man­sion. ABOVE: Sor­isha’s 40th birth­day present from her hubby: an As­ton Martin.

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