The Next Chapter·Proust Questionnaire

Lisa Ray's perfect happiness is 'a great book, a beautiful turn of phrase, savouring a muffin'

The Canadian actor, model and author takes The Next Chapter's version of the Proust questionnaire.
Lisa Ray is a Canadian actress, model and author of the memoir Close to the Bone. (Doubleday Canada)

Lisa Ray is one of India's most successful cover models, has been a host of Top Chef Canada and is an actor who was in the Oscar-nominated film Water, the Amazon Prime series Four Shots More Please and the A.R. Rahman film 99 Songs 

She also defended David Chariandy's novel Brother on Canada Reads 2019.

Ray grew up in Toronto and is the child of a Bengali father and a Polish mother. In her 2020 memoir, Close to the Bone, Ray writes about her nomadic life, surviving cancer, finding love and being a mother to twins. 

Ray took The Next Chapter's version of the Proust questionnaire. 

Name your favourite writers. 

Zadie Smith, Tishani Doshi, Rebecca Solnit, Suketu Mehta, Margaret Atwood, Charles Dickens, Arundhati Roy and Amitav Ghosh. 

What do you value most in your friends? 

Occasionally I will go underground and I will be unreachable for most of the world. My closest friends understand that.  When I emerge from my cave, they don't even ask me what's up, where did I go, why did I miss their birthday or anything like that. They completely accept that eccentricity of mine. 

On what occasions do you lie?

I lie a lot to get out of social engagements. I am your classic introverted personality. It might sound strange, considering I also have made a career out of being in front of the camera. But I'm genuinely an introvert. I'm very, very happy to go back to my introverted roots with my writing.

I'm genuinely an introvert. I'm very, very happy to go back to my introverted roots with my writing.

Back when I was young, I was obsessed with trying to figure out the best profession which would have the least possible human contact. That comes back to the whole question of lying. I'm extremely honest to a fault with everything else. But I will do anything to wiggle out of social engagements when I'm not up to it. 

What is your greatest regret?

That I didn't begin writing earlier. I should preface it with saying that I have been writing my whole life, but I never had the guts or the courage to be able to completely commit to what I feel is my life's purpose and passion. 

Who is your favourite painter? 

I have quite a few. A lot of them are contemporary South Asian painters. I love this contemporary Indian female painter named Dhruvi Acharya. She does these beautiful psychological essays on canvas. I have quite a few of her works. I like Rithika Merchant. She mixes myth with fabulous storytelling. I like Meera Sethi, she's Toronto based. She's does fabulous work and I have some of her pieces as well. 

What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery?

Really dull dinner parties. I've been to my share over the last few years. I'm not good with corporate events or being in a room with people who are talking about graphs and data. I just want to stick my head into the cheesecake. 

What is your idea of perfect happiness? 

A great book, a beautiful turn of phrase, savouring a muffin at a local coffee shop, listening to my kids make a very creative turn of phrase.

What is your greatest extravagance? 

Travel. Obviously I'm going to save a lot of money this year!

Lisa Ray's comments have been edited for length and clarity.

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