She is the eldest daughter of Surendra and Sunanda Shetty, manufacturers of tamper-proof caps for the pharmaceutical industry, and her native language is Tulu although she speaks several other languages at differing levels, including English, Kannada, Marathi, Hindi, Tamil, Gujarati, Telugu, Urdu and basic French.
In Mumbai, she attended St. Anthony Girls’ High School in Chembur, and later attended Podar College in Matunga. A trained Bharatanatyam dancer, she is also into sports, was the captain of the volleyball team in school, has earned a black belt in karate and is currently a dancesport expert and enthusiast.
Shetty currently lives in Mumbai with her parents and younger sister Shamita Shetty, who is also a Bollywood actress. They worked together once in the film Fareb (2005). At 5 ft 10 inches (178 cm), Shilpa Shetty is among the tallest actresses in Bollywood. It was revealed on 29 March 2009, that Shilpa has recently purchased a house on Saint George’s Hill in Surrey, England with her boyfriend Raj Kundra.
Celebrity Big Brother 2007
Shetty was a contestant in and the winner of Celebrity Big Brother UK. and was the first Indian celebrity included in the Celebrity version. Reportedly paid Rs.31.5 m (£367,500 GBP) for her participation, she said to presenter Davina McCall, “I just want every Indian to be extremely proud that I’m in here”. As for her participation, she stated: “I have zero expectations. The only thing I really hope to keep is my self-respect and my dignity.” Her sister Shamita told the Times of India that this “is the boldest decision Shilpa has taken hitherto.”
During her time, Shetty instructed fellow housemates Carole Malone and Ken Russell in meditation, and flirted with Dirk Benedict but tempers started to fray by Day 7 as a clique formed in the house disapproving of Shilpa’s presence. Following a worldwide controversy that publicised her as a target of racist bullying within the house (see below), Shetty won the contest after gaining 63% of the public vote and described the experience as “incredible and overwhelming”. She further thanked the public for “a fantastic opportunity to make my country proud”.
In August 2008, Shetty began hosting the second season of Bigg Boss, the Indian version of Big Brother. Controversially, Jade Goody was one of the initial housemates. Goody left the Bigg Boss House early in the series after receiving news that she had cervical cancer, of which she later died on 22 March 2009.
Indian Premier League
In February 2009 Shilpa and her business partner Raj Kundra became part owners of the Indian Premier League franchise cricket team Rajasthan Royals by paying approximately US $15.4 million for a 11.7% stake.
In February 2006 Shetty lent support to a BBC World Service Trust television show designed to tackle the problem of HIV-AIDS in India. The project, which also involved other celebrities Vivek Oberoi, Dia Mirza, and Raveena Tandon in separate episodes, featured Shetty as she shadowed a young achiever whose work involved raising awareness about the condition. According to reports, she participated in order to show solidarity with HIV-AIDS sufferers.
The issue is particularly close to Shetty’s heart as she had portrayed an HIV-positive sufferer in her 2004 movie Phir Milenge. Speaking about the movie and HIV in general, Shetty said: “Why not a film on HIV positive patients? It is a social stigma in our society. We made this film to highlight this problem … This film will bring about a social awareness about AIDS in our country. It is high time we talked about this in our society”.
In March 2006 various sources reported Shetty’s joining PETA as part of an advertising campaign against the use of wild animals in circuses. According to a PETA India press release, Shetty is a long-time PETA supporter and has assisted the campaign by posing for photographs in a figure-hugging tiger costume. She explained that her crouching in a cage was uncomfortable during the photoshoot, but that her discomfort was insignificant compared to the pain suffered by the creatures. “These once dignified animals only leave their cages, which are barely larger than the size of their bodies, for a few minutes each day to be forced into the ring to perform tricks which make no sense and are upsetting to them. The best way to help animals suffering in circuses is to boycott the circus”.
Shetty revealed in a later interview that she felt strongly about this cause and that she was appalled to hear of the cruel treatment suffered by such animals. “I thought I should stop that. If I can make a little difference to their lives, why not go for it?”
Shetty is a frequent subject of speculation regarding romance. However, she has remained tight-lipped whenever questions of marriage are posed to her. She previously dated Akshay Kumar, but the couple broke up in 2000 after he started dating Shetty’s friend and fellow actress Twinkle Khanna after a previous indiscretion, which led to Shetty’s successful suing of Stardust Magazine for publishing a “damaging” report about the affair.
In an interview for The Times of India, Shetty quashed rumours of a romance with film director Anubhav Sinha and claimed to have changed her mobile phone number in order to concentrate on her busy schedule. But in a later interview for The Sunday Mirror, a friend of Shetty said that she was “in love” with Sinha and that he was her “soulmate“, but that she could not be with him for fear of parental disapproval, social stigma (Sinha is married with two children, although currently separated) and adverse public perception.