I have reinvented myself
Says globally renowned dancer, actor, model, and choreographer – Lauren Gottlieb. Returning to India following acting school in the US, and therapy, she tells us what made her leave, and work that has beckoned her back.
One of the first things that strike you about Lauren Gottlieb is how she is different from Indian celebrities. Friendly, honest and approachable – her warmth is all encompassing. As we settle down for a frank tete-a-tete, she tells us she’s happy to be back in the country, and raring to go. We tell her if her first stint in the Indian entertainment space is anything to go by, we can’t wait for Lauren 2.0!
Lauren burst in on the Indian scene in 2013 with the cult dance movie ABCD. Prior to that, she was a leading dancer-choreographer in the US, participated in ‘So You Think You Can Dance 3’, acted in numerous films and TV shows, taught Tom Cruise and Tobey Maguire, and danced for Rihanna, Shakira and Mariah Carey. With talent meant for the biggest stage, Lauren auditioned for the lead in one of the ‘Step Up’ dance movies.
“I had already seen myself in that role. But the night the result was announced, I learned my friend bagged the lead, not me. I was crushed. Finally, at around 4 in the morning, I felt that energy leave my body and congratulated my friend. Immediately afterwards, I got a mail from UTV Motion Pictures, asking me to lead India’s 1st 3D dance movie on the lines of ‘Step Up’!”
All of 21 then, Lauren decided to take a leap of faith. Egged on by Remo D’Souza, who was a big fan of her work and really wanted her for the project, she made the journey from LA to halfway across the world in Mumbai.
“The one word that describes my India experience is – Grateful. I didn’t know anything about Bollywood before I landed. The culture and way of living too, is drastically different. But something in me changed when I came here.. The acceptance, love, food, culture. The people were also warmer and kinder than in a lot of other places.”
Already known to the Indian audience, Lauren became an overnight sensation when ‘ABCD’ released in 2013. This was followed by successful stints in ‘Jhalak Dikhhla Jaa’, ‘ABCD 2’ and other movies (including Punjabi film ‘Ambarsariya’ opposite Diljit Dosanjh), as well as music videos like Badshah’s famous ‘Mercy’.
Yet, success is not a synonym for happiness, as Lauren learned the hard way. “I got an agent when I was 13. I was a child dancer and actor who had been on the get go all my life. At one point, I was seeing my parents only in pictures. That’s when I realised I needed to step away. There was a whole side of being human that I needed to experience.”
Lauren returned to the US before the pandemic to attend acting school as well as undergo therapy, a fact she is most open about. “Acting and therapy goes hand in hand. To understand acting, you need to know who you are. I went through therapy in layers, letting go of one thing after another. There was lots of loneliness and some other troubling things.”
The break was meant to be for 2 years, which got stretched when the pandemic hit. The extended time helped Lauren rejuvenate and come back fresh to embrace her life. “I have no regrets as life is about options and decisions. I’d accomplished everything I had dreamt of as a little girl, but, I wasn’t happy. Thus taking time off was the best thing I did. I hope more people feel free to go in for therapy.”
The break period helped Lauren get clarity and reinvent herself. For instance, while she was always known as a great performer, the choreographer bit scared her sometimes. “In the past, I was quick to hire choreographers so I didn’t have to do everything myself. But now, I do it all from scratch. I’ve also jumped on social media content.. I direct, act, shoot, edit and post little productions all by myself.”
Lauren’s social media presence is undeniable. With more than 3 million followers on Instagram, her posts go viral all the time. “Everything I do puts out a different part of my personality. However, I have gone through the phases. Lots of my followers have been with me for more than 10 years. Instagram is like family. People message me after any highlight, and I respond back to them. 1-2 years ago, I started doing things on YouTube as a new platform, and realised it’s not my place. People could be very vicious and rude from behind a computer. I don’t think such negativity deserves a space on my page, so now I just delete it.”
Interestingly, Insta is also where Lauren met her video creator boyfriend – Tobias Jones, last March. They connected for a campaign, and one thing led to another. Tobias works with high fashion brands, a segment even Lauren has started modelling for. “I was in LA and he was in London. I didn’t know how it would work. But he came to LA earlier this year, I went to London to visit him, and now I’m blushing.”
Lauren also announced her return to India on the gram, which turned out to be an emotional rush with all her friends immediately messaging her to meet, and asking if she needed anything. These days, she’s flooded with reality show offers, is reading scripts everyday, and is in the process of launching her website for teaching online. While she cannot disclose much now, soon, she’ll be back to light our silver screens.
“While the US is home, India feels like a tight hug around me. Through my experience, I want to tell the youth – Let go of fear, and don’t be afraid to take a leap of faith. I never knew India was there for me, never knew this industry existed, never knew I could model for fashion brands, but here I am. The second I jumped, my life changed, as could yours.”
Favourite Hollywood Actor: Brad Pitt, a long time love of mine.
Favourite Bollywood Actor: Ranveer Singh. He looks at each of my stories, I want him to call me for a film or song. His energy speaks to me.
Best female dancer in Bollywood: Jacqueline is great. And Kiara has nice, fresh energy.
Best Male dancer in Bollywood: Hrithik, Ranveer, Tiger, Kartik and the ultimate, Prabhu Deva.
Favourite Indian food: All of it, especially butter chicken, dal and bhindi masala.
Favourite Indian words: Yaar, mera bhai, patakha, zabardast, and ‘hain?’
Hollywood or Bollywood: Both are home, but it’d be great if Bollywood becomes as structured as Hollywood.
If not a dancer: I would have been in NASA, as my head is always in the stars. I’ve also always wanted to design a fashion line, which I will in the future. One word that describes me: My teacher once gave a word for me – Contagious.