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 e.tv 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.