Sonam C Chhabra is a multifaceted artiste who has established herself as one of India’s most sought after Live Host and Emcee. With an experience of more than 12 years in the sphere of communication, she has been the voice of leading brands from across the world at their premier events.Her outstanding career has garnered her nationwide recognitions such as the Youth Icon Award and the Life Quotient Award as well as the prestigious Best Anchor Female Silver-2019.
She made her acting debut with the Bollywood Movie ‘Kirket’ and currently is an innovative content creator on digital media and podcaster on her co-production We Give A Ffoxx.
She is a staunch supporter of animal rights and a vegangelist. An avid bibliophile and a TEDx Speaker, her TEDx Talk is a great example of why she’s an inspiration for millions of women around the globe. Her motto?- “Being Bold Is The Key”.
Have a look at what the Solopreneur had to say about Storiyaan and stay tuned to know her story right here on Storiyaan.com!
Questions and answers
We were wondering if you could start by talking about anchoring. How did it take off, and is it something that you've always enjoyed?
I always enjoyed it. I did not think of it as my first choice of career. I was at the University of Delhi, studying commerce and finance aspiring to be a Chartered Accountant. Once, in a college festival, the emcee did not turn up. I was doing some backstage work, and that’s how I got a chance to host. From there on, it just took off.
Being on stage directly attracts critics. How do you manage that, and what is your mantra of dealing with the humdrum of e-bullying?
You must tell everybody that what we do is art. Art is subjective. You may love a painting of Michelangelo, and I might not like it at all. As artists, we can try to touch people’s hearts by performing to the best of our capabilities and talents and being very honest with our craft.
After that, you have to leave something to the higher power. There are days when I have cried after a bad performance. We all have those days, but it’s essential to keep going and believe in yourself. Self-belief is something that gets you over all the criticism. But to be honest, I have grown in a fabulous ecosystem.
Can you take us through your fashion choices? Not to mention, you look stunning!
I was a tomboy in college. I used to wear my brother’s clothes and Relaxo rubber slippers to college. To me, fashion is an extension of your personality. It doesn’t come from what you wear. I think it comes from having a brilliant outlook. If you have it, no matter what you wear, it will become a fashion. As I started gaining confidence on stage and in front of the camera, I started wearing it up to my sleeve and began hiring stylists.
My wardrobe is full of white shirts and blue denim. I have many Tees and shirts, and my mother doesn’t have a clue why. I own more than ten white tees. On duty, I like to play around with my style. Off-duty, I wear my denim and white Tee.
Besides that, I love wearing Saree in every Indian way. I experiment a lot with my style as it comes from within. If you are feeling great, you are feeling confident, and if you are sure about that, whatever you wear will come out beautifully.
You are an Emcee too. One of your most considerable talents is creating digital content, and doing such needs constant creativity. How do you manage to stay put and creative amid all the pressures?
I think creativity is something that comes from within. It is like any other art where you have to channelize your inner child. Behind the set, I crack stupid jokes, and I laugh on myself.
I read fuelling fiction by great authors. When I read about different artists and authors from other countries, it transports me to another era altogether. I think that fuels your imagination, and that gets your creativity going. I listen to music in many languages. Additionally, I watch Korean, Spanish, and Iranian cinema. I don’t confine myself to a box. I think of myself as water, and I can flow in all directions.
When one is live on stage, one has to be spontaneous. Were there times when you had to improvise a lot, and things weren't going too well?
All of us goof up on stage at least once. That is how we learn. I have made my share of mistakes on stage. I am a very spontaneous person. I love talking and can talk about this interview for two hours.
Spontaneity is vital as you can expect a lot of things to come your way. On events, a lot can go wrong. For example, you invite some speakers to the stage, and they haven’t arrived at the venue yet. There can be mishaps regarding costumes and backstage. You need to be ready to put on your armor and take the front. I understood that as an Emcee, I couldn’t just stick to a script throughout my career. There is a lot of spontaneity that you require to pull off a live event.
You are a vegan. But what people may not know about you is that you are a hardcore animal activist. Can you elaborate on your relationship with the animal kingdom and the activism that comes along?
We all hear terms such as sexism and racism. There is something called speciesism, where humans as a race feel superior compared to other species. We feel like if we consume an animal, it is alright because we are humans, and the earth belongs to us. I am against the idea of speciesism.
I think God made the earth and nature for us to coexist in it. But we cut through the jungles and made ourselves a shelter. I feel that any sort of animal abuse comes from a sense of superiority and power that humans exude on animals to feel superior. I am against that kind of power play.
I don’t think an animal deserves to die to become the purse of a woman or to be in our platter. Every day we slaughter about 3 billion animals around the world. We are a virus to the animals, and it cannot be justified.
We watched your TedTalk and found out that you are a motivational speaker too. You said, "Being Brave and Bold is The Key" to achieve. Can you elaborate on that?
I have spoken on the occasion of two TedTalks. One is ”I am more than just a pretty face” and the other, ”Being bold and brave is the key”. In my first TedTalk, I talk about how women should come out of the sphere of beauty and focus on their inner selves. Usually, a woman is judged based on what she wears. Looks should be the last thing about which one must be concerned.
In my second TedTalk, I talked about a personal incident. The organizers had invited my mother and me for an event. Despite being in a hard situation, I made it and haven’t given up to this day. Courage keeps me going.
You hosted Safar Kaamyabi Ka on News World India. How did it come about?
I got a call from the production team asking me to audition for a TV Show with Aman Verma, a co-host. I cleared the audition and went on freelance as a host.
Sonam, you have a significant show to host. Take us through your routine before jumping on the stage.
I have a team of Stylists with me for outfits, makeup, and hair. I also have a photographer and a manager accompanying me to events. After reaching the venue, I proceed with the Mic check, Soundcheck, cue cards, and other equipment to make sure the sound of the performance is flawless.
After my rehearsals, I head back to my room for a cup of Green Tea. I ask my Makeup Artist to play some meditational music and close my eyes while she does my hair and Makeup. It usually takes up an hour. After I’ve read through my script, I do breathing exercises. It helps in aligning myself with the energy of the stage. Before an event starts, I switch off my phone and hand it to my manager.
We cannot go on without talking about Kirket. It was your Bollywood debut. It must've been a long journey to that moment when the film happened. Looking back, how was the journey?
To be honest, I wasn’t looking for a film at that point. The Director saw me on-stage and felt I was appropriate for the role of a News Reporter, Mahima Deoraj, as she hails from Delhi.
When I saw myself on-screen for the first time, I was overwhelmed. We got calls from some of the most renowned media houses like BBC and The Hindu. Usually, I am the one to interview people on TV, but the tables were turned on me this time.
If you had to give a golden tip of advice for all the young Emcees out there, what would it be?
Anchoring looks glittery and glamorous from the outside. It seems like we wear the best of costumes, click the perfect pictures, and live for the applause. But it is one of the fields that require a lot of hard work. Since we represent a new client and brand every day, the amount of research that goes into it is immeasurable.
To the Emcees, I would like to say that if they want to get into hosting, don’t come for the glam of it. It is essential to find your calling. Do not follow anybody. Break the rules that society makes for you and find your unique self. Make your own rules.
We read somewhere that when you don't work, you either read or travel. What authors or genres are you usually hooked to?
I love fiction, and my favorite authors are Sidney Sheldon and Jeffrey Archer.
What about traveling excites you the most? Can you name three places you've been to and would love to revisit?
India is extraordinarily beautiful, and it has got some great places. Pondicherry blew my mind away. I didn’t know that a little France existed in South India. I once went to host an event in Cape Town, and I’d love to go back as it is a breathtaking experience. Japan’s also on the list.
You have the title of a "Solopreneur." What do you take from that title, and are you living up to it?
Solopreneur is someone who doesn’t wait for someone to invest in their business. They are people who make a difference on their own. I feel I can work harder than any entrepreneur out there. The minute a task comes up, my first instinct is to roll up my sleeves and start working on it. I am a Solopreneur, and I think I am living up to it.
Recently, I started my Podcast and called “We Give a Ffoxx.” I think Podcasting is a beautiful medium that needs more exploration. My Podcast is out on Spotify and YouTube. (https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCNVDjhfAQQHuS4E_nq2lVPw)
You started your journey with college events to the international stage. What is the most important lesson you think you've learned?
The most important takeaway from my life is yet to arrive. I have miles to go. Often, I see youngsters and teenagers who fall into peer-pressure to act in a certain way. I feel it’s essential to find your unique self. Honesty to yourself, to your audience, in your relationships and ecosystem, is what I have learned. Manipulation takes too much effort, which I am not ready to do.
Lastly, who inspires you, both as an Emcee and life in general?
As an Emcee, I love Oprah Winfrey and Ellen DeGeneres, as they are brilliant at what they do. As an Actor, I think Radhika Apte is doing some great work, and Late Irrfan Khan Sahab, who was my biggest inspiration. I find Meryl Streep immensely inspiring when it comes to her body of work. As a person, I look up to Michelle Obama. I love her work and her personality.
1. Travel Essentials: Sunscreen lotion, neck pillow, sleeping mask and of course, a mask and sanitizer
2. Go-to fashion choice: Casual Chic
3. Anchoring/Acting: Anchoring
4. Acting in films: Dreamy
5. Favorite TV Show at the moment: Money Heist, F.R.I.E.N.D.S