She entered the Big Brother house as a successful beauty queen and aspiring actress, but her jealous housemates were not impressed. But we discover the 24-year-old is far more than just a pretty face and has many hidden talents and a go-getting entrepreneurial spirit
Deana Uppal came to many people’s attention during her two and a half month ordeal on Big Brother. It wasn’t a happy time for the young actress, who set a new record for the number of potential evictions she faced. However, unlike so many who appear on the reality TV show, Uppal is a young woman with many talents. She has three feature films pending and more work in the pipeline. Uppal has worked as a model since she was 16-years-old and much of her work has been down to her own talents of self-promotion and a devil may care approach to finding work. The multi-talented star can sing, dance and even has a black belt in karate. She says her background and upbringing have always made her want to work hard. “I want to get the most out of life while I am young. I never want to be poor or feel hardship again,” she says.
Born in Middleborough, Uppal moved to the Midlands when she was 12. Her father died from cancer when she was a baby and she has no siblings. “I lived in a small village with my mother and she never remarried after my father died. She always encouraged me to do lots of things, there was never a night when I was not doing activities. Also, I have no brothers so she wanted me to be able to defend myself so when I was six I started doing karate and I have a black belt now.” She moved to the Midlands and spent her teenage years in Walsall, attending Tiverdale High School. However, it wasn’t the easiest of times, but she says it was character building and helped her to cope with living in Big Brother house where no-one seemed to like her. “When I was in high school I was bullied. So my tolerance level is quite high and my character is quite strong.”
Uppal is something of a go-getter and handles much of her own business affairs. She doesn’t have any management in the UK and is used to finding her own work. She was never exactly ‘discovered’ as a teenage model, but instead knocked on everyone’s door until she got responses. ” I saved up some money to get a photoshoot and portfolio together and sent it around to everybody and I started modelling from the age of 16,” she says. Uppal also never let her studies drop, even when she was dreaming of the high life. After leaving school she attended Bilston College and then the University of Wolverhampton. “Performing arts was my favourite but I also studied business and ICT. I always wanted to be an actress but I thought I might need something to fall back on.” Yet it was when she was at university that her big break came. Indian pop star Harbhajan Maan came to visit on a promotional tour and Uppal approached him with her typical aplomb. “He came to my university and I gave him my card. He called me the next day and arranged for me to go out to Mumbai, to shoot the video for ‘Vaari Vaari’ with him. I was the lead female in the video. While I was out there I met some directors and decided to go there to work. I came home and said ‘Mum I am moving to India’, but she was fine with it as she is very liberal and trusts me.”
Uppal spent two years in India modelling for magazines, fashion shoots and videos. But she wanted to be more than model and was eager to pursue ways to climb the fame ladder. She returned to England and entered Miss India UK and beat thousands of others to make it down to the final 30. During the contest she performed a Bollywood dance, modelled bridal wear and also devlivered a serious and moving monologue about suicide. She won the competition and has found work easier to gain ever since. “I think it changed things quite a lot for me because having a title means quite a lot in India. It makes you more important in some people’s eyes.” However, she was still fairly unknown among the wider British public until Big Brother. Following the show many offers came through, although many had to be rejected. “The lads’ mags offered me a lot of money to do a topless shoot, but I thought no-one would ever take me seriously if I did that. It would have been the easy way to do things.” Instead she is focused on her film career and investing the money she earns in case the offers dry up. She owns some property in the Midlands and says establishing herself as a business woman is also key. She works hard and is up at 6am everyday to spend some time in the gym, as she says it’s easy for her to put on weight. She’s a growing reputation in Bollywood and British Asian films and is hoping her reach will expand. With three films due for release in 2014, she’s hopeful of success in the future. “It’s mainly films that I want to do now and I want this to continue. Maybe in the future I’ll be able to go to America to work. I’ll certainly not rule it out.”
ON BIG BROTHER
Deana Uppal says she always thought she’d appear on Big Brother. However, the show and its aftermath was far from what she expected. “I always watched BB when I was young and I used to say to my Mum ‘I am going to be on this one day’. I always knew I would be on it one day so when the time seemed right I applied. I just went there to have a good time, to make friends and have the experience. Not many people can say they’ve been on Big Brother – I am quite adventurous. I was in there for two and a half months and made it into the final. I was nominated nearly every week, I think I set a new record for the most nominations. I was on edge a lot I think my experience was harder than it was for the others. But it was also nice that the public were voting for me every week. I found it hard when I came out of the house and I was a bit depressed for a while. I didn’t go out for a long time after the show. I think I went into a depression. Adjusting to normal life is really hard I don’t think people understand how hard it is.”