She's a model, an actor and a legal geek all rolled into one! We are talking about supermodel-actor Elena Fernandes who has been the face for many brand compaigns in fashion and beauty and wooed hearts with her stunning magazine covers for high-end magazines including Vogue India, Cosmopolitan, ELLE, FHM, Glamour, Grazia, GQ, Harper's Bazaar, MAXIM, Verve and others.
The half-Peruvian half-Indian beauty made her acting debut with Shakun Batra's Kapoor & Sons which was followed by Emraan Hashmi starrer Why Cheat India. This week, the stunner will be seen on the big screens in Amitabh Bachchan-Taapsee Pannu's crime thriller 'Badla'.
In an exclusive conversation with Filmibeat.com, Elena bared her heart about her journey into films, working with Amitabh Bachchan, Ranveer Singh, the #MeToo movement and more.
Q. You aspired to be an astronaut as a kid, but ended up with a law degree from King's College University in London. However, destiny had some other plans in store for you. You took the fashion industry by storm by walking the ramp for some of the most prestigious brands and gracing the covers of many high-end magazine covers. From being a supermodel to acting in films, how do you look back at your journey?
A. I think in terms of the fashion industry, it did happen by chance because I was always inclined towards academics. I have always been geeky and never had a detention.
Because fashion happened by chance, it led to films and that led to where I am today. Speaking about my education, I completed my legal studies which helped me in my contracts in the fashion industry. I believe everything happens for a reason.
Q. What were the kind of films you grew up watching?
A. While growing up, I loved horror films and Jaws. I still love watching horror and shark films. Now, I do like thrillers. I have watched many Bollywood films and have been a part of few of them. I do really love watching Bollywood especially when I am on my flight.
Q. You will be next seen in Badla which stars two of the most power-packed performers- Amitabh Bachchan and Taapsee Pannu. Sharing screen-space with Mr. Bachchan is every actor's dream. What was your working experience with him?
A. We had a screening of the film last night. Even as a person, he is such a big personality. His whole aura just screams a legend.
My scenes were actually in the second part of the film. So when it was the interval, we were standing around talking to Bachchan Sir and I just said, 'Oh, I am in the second part' and he was like, 'It's okay dear.' He was like I know when is your scene and everyone just laughed. It was little bit embarassing but it was very funny.
He leaves me speechless because he is such a humble person and still kind and warm. It almost felt like I was filming with family. The film is just absolutely brilliant. People are honestly going to love it. There's never been a film like this before.
Q. You made your debut with Kapoor & Sons which was followed by Cheat India. How did Badla happen to you?
A. Their production team contacted my management and I was invited for a screen-test actually for a different role in this film. I was in between shooting for Why Cheat India when I got a call to come in for a test. Then, I was actually filming another project when I was told I was needed for Badla.
I had to fly in to film my sequences and then fly back to carry on my other project that I was filming. It was very hectic but it was totally worth it. You can't say no to Mr. Bachchan.
The director Sujoy Ghosh is incredibly talented as well and also Taapsee Pannu. It was something that every actor would dream to be a part of. There's a lot of hard work involved because eventually it's that what pays off.
Q. Last year, you did a photoshoot with Ranveer Singh for Maxim India. The actor is known to bring in his infectious energy when he's around. How was your interaction with him?
A. I used to talk about films and he was more interested in my charity work that I do. First of all, he was like 'Wow, you are way taller than me' because I was wearing heels. Then, we were joking around a lot.
We have a very similar personality. He was fascinated with the animal welfare and charity work that I do. He wanted to know more about it and offered to help and be supportive. I found him very warm, kind and encouraging.
Q. You earlier mentioned about how you struck a friendship with Katrina Kaif as you both shared a common trainer and you spoke about how she's like a mentor to you. Are you still in touch with her? Do you discuss films with her?
A. I like to keep business and pleasure separate. But if we are in London at the same time, we share the same trainer. If I ever need an advice, I know it's always going to be available.
Q. We live in times where there's a constant pressure on actors and models to look good all the time. At times, this also leads to social media bullying and trolls on social media platform. How do you deal with such kind of negativity?
A. I am happy that the law is changing and people are now going to be held accountable for trolling online. You can't sit behind a computer and be abusive. You wouldn't do it in person then what makes you think that it's alright to do it on computer like 5000 miles away. It's completely wrong.
When someone has trolled me rather than getting angry, I address the issue. If you said this to a weaker person, they could have commit suicide. You don't know what people are going through in their lives. For me, I think it's important to educate people and then if they continue to be the same, I block and report them.
Now, the law is changing and one could even face criminal charges. Social giants like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram have to take the lead as well and ban any profiles which are abusive. You need to protect youngsters because they are mentally quite vulnerable. I personally think bullying and trolling is disgusting.
Q. Last year, the #MeToo movement took to industry by storm where people finally pointed out names of those wronged them. Do you think that was a much-needed change?
A. Speaking about the #MeToo movement, I think it got quite diluted in the fact that people would on to went, 'Oh that guy hit on me' that means it's like rape or harassment. I feel the real meaning of #MeToo got lost like what the law recognizes as consent and sexual harassment.
I am happy that people are able to speak up. When people are speaking, there are some saying, 'Oh he kept flirting with me'. Now it takes away some of the true cases. The authorities won't take them as seriously.
People whom I know criticize the Indian law a lot but it's based on the British law which is very clear about what comes under rape and sexual harassment.
I guess that #MeToo movement made people more aware but not well-aware of what their rights are and what things are actually articulated in law. People just joined the bandwagon and it became a hashtag. Rape and sexual harassment became hashtags. These are serious criminal offense.
Some people did use the movement wrongly and destroyed lives. This is why we have a justice system. You try to conduct a trial by social media but it doesn't work like them. People have to be very responsible when they open their mouth and not just jump at the hastags. #MeToo is not just a hastag or a poster.
Q. Coming back to films, what's next on the platter for you?
A. Right now, I am currently filming a project which could be a 2019 release. The year started on a high and it's going to end on a high. There's lot of hard work. People don't see the long hours, the meetings, the constant networking and the rejections.