As an actor, Deepika Padukone has achieved remarkable success, with national and international awards to her name. And as the daughter of a professional badminton player, athleticism runs in her blood. It shone through when she played the sport competitively growing up, and it remains perceptible to this day in her endeavours. Further proof comes via her recently announced partnership with Adidas. Teaming up with the sportswear giant as its brand ambassador, the Indian star and mental health advocate aims to further her and the label’s common goal of encouraging women to believe that “impossible is nothing.”
After keeping the collaboration under wraps for weeks before its surprise reveal, there was only one thing left to do for Padukone: Take it all in at the brand’s first flagship store in the Middle East, in Dubai. For the star, the emirate is a “home away from home.” The Chhapaak actor arrived at The Dubai Mall, commanding attention and nailing athleisure in a bright red and pink tracksuit, with the sleeves rolled up and a jacket casually tied around her waist. While to most, the obvious footwear choice for a tracksuit worn for an early morning appearance at the world’s largest mall would be sneakers, Padukone opted for a pair of high heels, with one red and one pink on each foot.
Vogue sat down with the star to discuss everything from the partnership, and sports as a part of her life, to how the conversation on mental health needs to change, and her advice to aspiring sportswomen.
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How has playing sports shaped you as a person and as an actor?
Deepika Padukone: It’s played a huge role in the person I am today—the way I conduct my life, and the way I think. It’s taught me how to handle success and failure, how to be competitive in the right spirit. It has also prepared me for life, and I feel like no other experience in life would have trained me or taught me the values that sports have taught me.
What are some of the best life lessons you learned playing sports?
It teaches you so much, and I think I was fortunate to have participated in individual sports as well as team sports. It’s taught me everything from team spirit, handling success and failure, and how not to be impulsive, to the ability to analyse if you performed well: To take a step back, and analyse what you did right or what hasn’t gone well, and reflect, “What could I have done differently?” The list is endless: it’s patience, perseverance, dedication, and determination. I always say that I think only an athlete knows what the life of an athlete is like, and the values that it teaches you. I can say it in words but I think that feeling for me comes from my gut and there’s only that much I can put in words.
What brought about this partnership with Adidas?
When they reached out, I was more than happy to come on board because we all know Adidas is an iconic brand. Also for me, it seems like a natural extension of my personality because I’ve been an athlete. I conduct my everyday life like an athlete, and I think like one, so for me to associate with a brand that has similar values was a natural fit. I’m glad they think that I’m someone who embodies everything that they believe in and everything that they stand for and in the last couple of weeks ever since we’ve announced this association, keeping it under wraps was very very hard. But ever since we made this announcement, I think people are quite excited.
How do you think the conversation on mental health has changed since you opened up about yours?
I think it has changed a lot. Honestly, I give credit to the people for being so open in terms of embracing it, accepting it, empathising with my journey, and wanting to bring about change when it comes to mental health. Especially in India, where nobody spoke about mental health until I did, unfortunately. In the last five years, we have seen the country celebrating World Mental Health Day, and everyone talking about mental health in living rooms, and in the media you see celebrities being more open about their own experience. This is why I think we have come a long long way.
What more needs to change?
I think we still have a long way to go. Especially if we compare ourselves to Australia, for example, or to the UK and US where I think the conversation today is far more developed. But I certainly see ourselves geared up and headed in that direction as far as the openness to seek help goes, and I think the stigma has also reduced quite a bit.
What advice would you give to aspiring sportswomen?
Well, I think if you’re a sportswoman, I’d say you have already chosen the right profession. You are on a journey where you are going to learn some of your best life lessons, and patience. I think patience is also one of the things that sports have taught me. I realise this when I see today’s generation, compounded with social media, where you want instant gratification and everything has to happen now. I think sport teaches you to wait for good things, and that you have to work hard for them. Especially if you want to leave behind a legacy, and achieve something that’s permanent. Otherwise, I think one day will be up the next day would be down. I think if you really want to go up the ladder the right way, hard work and perseverance combined with patience is the key.
What stands out to you about women in the region?
I think their spirit and sense of joy. That is something I’ve been able to see even while just walking around. I think there’s a certain spirit in everyone. I’m unable to articulate what that is but it definitely embodies strength and determination.
Who is your ultimate fitness inspiration?
I can’t think of one person, but I admire people who are more disciplined and I think that comes at any age. I know people who are 13 years old and who are 75 years old that are extremely disciplined. When I say discipline, I don’t mean to say that you don’t enjoy your life. I think there are some people who take it to an all-new extreme, and I’m sure it works for them. But I think a subtle amount of discipline is what encompasses fitness. Whether it is being disciplined in your nutrition, sleep, exercise, or your mental health, I think, for me, that is fitness. I see a lot of people in the gym who have amazing bodies, and spend extra hours in the gym. I think all of that is great, but are you truly fit? I think only an athlete understands the value of true fitness. It is not just one aspect, it’s a lifestyle, and think I admire people who live by the same.
Now that you are able to travel once again, what are the fitness essentials you always have in your suitcase?
I think, to begin with, considering I come from the land of yoga, the biggest advantage is that you don’t have to carry anything with you when you can do it absolutely anywhere. I can be in my hotel room and do a couple of asanas or a workout. Currently, the phase that I am going through is, of course, a beautiful yoga phase. I also think a pair of great running or walking shoes are essential when you are traveling. That’s the easiest thing to do—you just throw in a pair of shoes, and also now with this whole athleisure trend, it’s multipurpose. I can wake up in the morning, and go for a walk or for a run, and I can wear the same pair of shoes and walk around in the mall, and in the same pair of shoes go to a restaurant. That’s what makes it functional but at the same time fashionable, and also practical when you’re traveling.
This article first appeared in Vogue Arabia.