Mehr Jesia on being a wedding planner and rediscovering herself
It's about new beginnings for former supermodel Mehr Jesia, as she wears a fresh garb, this time of a magical wedding planner, and speaks of vanquishing anger and rediscovering herself
Mehr Jesia is sitting in a sprawling balcony, with a spectacular view of the sea. She is dressed in white, the breeze playing with her ponytail. She looks stately, aloof, but is warm and welcoming. We are chatting over coffee at her Bandra home about a new wedding project, Mehr Jesia for RedBox Productions. Before we arrive, she has already shared notes on our possible questions; she doesn't wish to be misrepresented.
The woman who became Miss India in 1986, and eventually one of India's most prominent supermodels, was once married to actor Arjun Rampal. She has always been guarded about her personal life, especially her teenage daughters, Mahikaa, 17, and Myra, 13. "I have been busy with my daughters for the past few years, and only now, when they are busy with their own lives, have I felt that I actually have time to do something substantial. I have spoken to my kids, they are open to me working. They come back from school at 5 and then go off for classes, so I have more time on hand," says Jesia, in that trademark deep voice.
Rampal and Jesia are estranged
Ask her how it's like being mother to two teenagers and if that thought keeps her awake at night, she laughs, "I am not worried. I was far more troublesome when I was growing up. I stayed in a Parsi colony, where even if you said 'no' loudly, everyone from the building came down to protect you. We have grown stronger together. There is nothing better than having girls; they show compassion at the right time."
Jesia, who also contemplated starting a restaurant since she has always been complimented on her cooking skills, says she started thinking about the wedding business after she organised friend Renu Chainani's wedding to businessman Aditya Garware at Tote one-and-a-half-years ago. "What surprised everyone was that we didn't work with Tote the way it was," she says of the Mahalaxmi Racecourse venue. "There was a projection of an enchanted forest inside, and everyone loved that. The unexpected colour scheme and design added an element of surprise and unpredictability that came together just right. Why weddings? Because, it's one of the most important milestone in your life. It's an honour when a couple trusts you enough to help them turn this vision to reality." It's a bit odd she says this, perhaps even brave.
It's been only a year since she split from her husband after 20 years of marriage. He announced on social media last week that girlfriend Gabriella Demetriades and he are having a baby.
Jesia, however, has made a conscious decision to be off social media. "Thank God, when I was a model, we didn't have all this. There is a lot of pressure [when you are on social media]. But there are many good things about it too. My little one is learning the guitar on it, and singing." But, she admits it's hard to get used to media conjecture and the paparazzi culture. "I don't even put make up, so when pictures come out, my sister and mother always fire me. But it's a part of life. You take the bad with the good."
Her background as a supermodel has helped her evolve her aesthetic sense to the tee. "As far as planning and research go, it has happened over the many years I've worked behind the scenes in fashion. Design and aesthetics have always fascinated me - whether it's a piece of architecture, a beautiful gown, a painting you can't forget, or a string of flowers." Jesia says her business outfit will work like a family, where everyone does everything. "At Renu's wedding, we even did jhaadu at the venue," says Jesia, who will curate the VVIP tables at WeddingSutra's Influencer Awards next week, using the platform to announce her latest wedding planner avatar.
She deals with the stress that comes with being famous by practising Nichiren Buddhism. "You learn how to believe that there is Buddha even in the person who has done wrong to you, through your practice and chanting. It teaches you to try and turn poison into medicine, and wait for the winter to pass into spring. It revitalises you every day. When you start thinking positively, your environment changes."
Does this mean she feels no anger? She smiles, "Of course I feel anger. But if it took me a month to be okay earlier, now it takes 12 hours. You learn to control it." As we get ready to say goodbye, we ask her how she manages to remain graceful as she ages, and she tells us about her parents, both of whom worked for Air India. "I have an 83-year-old mother, who wears simple skirts and tops, and travels the world with her friends, and enjoys her life. I think that's what is important. Everyone used to comment on how stunning my parents were, and yes, it was about how they looked, but also what kind of people they were. When you have been brought up like that, it stays with you." And now that modelling is long behind her, she is back to being the old Mehr. "I have returned to being sporty again. I am comfortable being myself."
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