8 min read

Film-Maker’s Starring Role as Charity Pioneer

International actor, filmmaker, entrepreneur, model, ex-Miss India UK, and charity director
Deana Uppal wants a full life – and she’s making it happen.

I want to live life to the maximum and experience all I can from it,” she says. “Only from work and setting goals is that possible.”

The strong work ethic has served Deana well and led her to build a social media reach of over a million; produce, direct and star in large-scale productions; and set up various successful international businesses.

Deana’s upbringing was modest, having grown up in a small village in Middlesbrough. Her father passed away when she was a child and her mother single-handedly raised her in Walsall, West Midlands, making Deana’s current globe- trotting lifestyle even more impressive: she now spends her life moving between the UK, India, and Dubai, with no current plans to settle in just one country.

She continues: “I come from a very humble background. My mother raised me as a single parent, after moving to the UK from India at the age of 17. For me, when I later bought my mother a house and was able to travel to various countries with her and just improve her life, it was a nice feeling.”

Deana modelled from the age of 16 before studying Marketing and Public Relations at the University of Wolverhampton, which she says helped her in her career as a director, as well as profile-building and confidence. A year after graduating, Deana entered Miss India UK 2012, whittling down thousands of contestants before making it to the last 30, and finally winning the entire competition.

Having boosted her profile beyond anything she’d achieved before, that same year she made a famously controversial appearance in Big Brother 13 in 2012, which led to a bitter court feud with a housemate who made insulting comments about Deana during the show.

Deana came third overall and gained the exposure she needed to receive multiple film offers, but it hadn’t been easy – especially as her reality-show appearance impacted her mental health.

She says: “Big Brother was positive in terms of it being a unique, once-in-a- lifetime experience, and taught me a lot while giving me positive exposure in the media. It did feel like I was thrown into fame in the deep end quite fast, though. At times this was difficult to deal with, and for six months after the show I drifted into depression. It took a lot of mental strength to get myself back to normal.

“After Big Brother, I moved to Mumbai, India, and starred in various shows such as Fear Factor: Khatron Ke Khiladi and acted in Indian movies, a few of which did not release. The last film I starred in was Punjabi cinema’s first ‘female empowerment movie’, Hard Kaur. I liked the message of this film and after it released, I wanted to only take part in content with a positive social message. This prompted me to get into documentary film making, and from there I went to London Film Academy and studied documentary film-making.”

I would say that documentary filmmaking and charity projects excite me the most.

Deana has since found herself drawn to filmmaking and documentary work, despite her entrepreneurial activities providing her main income.

When asked which part of her varied career she finds most fulfilling, Deana lists filmmaking at the top alongside her charity work.

She says: “I would say the filmmaking and documentary side of my work excites me the most. My last documentary [India’s Forgotten People] which I produced and directed took one and a half years to complete, so I feel they are more passion projects.

“Career wise I was very happy to have sold my documentary to large, well known channels such as National Geographic and Netflix. For a first-time filmmaker to sell to such platforms is a big achievement.”

The recent pandemic-related lockdowns saw Deana focusing on writing a feature-length film script, which she is now working on making into a film. She says she found the first lockdown “quite relaxing” as it gave her the chance to spend more time with her mother. However, the second lockdown saw her getting stuck in Dubai, as the United Arab Emirates was put on the UK’s red list. These unexpected circumstances led to Deana setting up base in Dubai, which has opened up new opportunities for her.

Deana continues: “Sometimes I do modelling work for various brands, and most recently I was the face of a well- known Arabic makeup brand. There have been some interesting shoots in the desert wearing Arabic attire, too.

“It has been fun and interesting exploring the fashion industry here. Dubai has a lot to offer, and it’s growing rapidly.”

While increasing her portfolio and maintaining an impressive profile is surely important to Deana, the philanthropic work she does through her charity is also close to her heart.

She says: “I am extremely passionate about my charity, the Kindness Diaries Charitable Trust. I’ve seen it grow from just a few helpers giving ideas in a small room to now being one of the most well-known charities in Jaipur, feeding and providing education to many communities.”

Living in India and seeing the country’s poverty made Deana realise that she wanted to do more to help people, whenever she is able. This led her to setting up and registering her charity two years ago, with the aim of ensuring that any donations made were spent where they were most needed.

Deana says: “We do weekly food distributions, and provide and pay for education. During the Covid-19 pandemic we gave out many oxygen machines which saved lives, plus PPE kits, masks, and more.

“We are currently working on a programme to provide children from rural areas with access to English classes.”

With so many strings to her bow, Deana would like to challenge herself by directing her own script, and while she accepts that it will be a long, tough process, she is confident that her dedication will win out.

Deana adds: “At the moment I am concentrating on expanding a few of my businesses, which are in various sectors such as beauty, property, and investments. I also plan to create more documentaries under my production house banner.”

As she said, Deana is living her life to the maximum – in the past, present, and no doubt the future.

At the moment I am concentrating on expanding a few of my businesses, which are in various sectors such as beauty, property, and investments.

Jind Mahi, a new film Deana was executive producer for, releases worldwide August 2022.