Though you would have seen her in a couple of movies, it is the performing arts, in particular theatre, and writing that interests VJ-turned-RJ Paloma Rao these days. The 28-year-old completed her BSc VisCom from Loyola College, Chennai, where fame caught up with her at the end of the first year when she successfully auditioned for SS Music’s VJ hunt. She tells us the story behind it. “My friends and I were sitting in the canteen when this guy asked me if I would like to become a Video Jockey. I was asked to do an impromptu audition and managed to jump the queue for the actual audition that was happening at a hotel in the city.”
Paloma is RJing for Chennai Live 104.8 FM besides writing a weekly column for the tabloid Indulge of The New Indian Express.
Having known that her heart was in the media industry, VisCom was a natural choice for her and she is happy that she got to be a VJ while in college, as “it made academics easy. Essentially whatever my professors were trying to teach me, I got a blast out of it during my VJing days. Editing, TV production… all that was like an extended tuition. It was like a live visual transformation of the textbooks.”
Adulation for Paloma grew by heaps and bounds in college especially after she became a VJ. She also motivated her friend Gibran, now a standup comedian, to take up VJing, back then.
Having been part of movies — That Four-Letter Word and Unnale Unnale, even during college, it was theatre that beckoned Paloma, who is set to tie the knot with her beau Paul Raymond, a restaurateur, this December. “I was part of Loyola Theatre Society and, as Loyola had fewer girls on campus, any female roles had to come to our department. I was seriously involved in theatre. Sometimes, we had for company, girls from Stella (Maris) or Women’s Christian College,” she says. Besides theatre, Paloma wasn’t into any other extracurricular activity in college and stayed completely clear of sports. “I was terrible at it. It was always the performing arts for me. Besides acting in plays, I was the bass guitarist of the Loyola band,” she says.
Almost anyone who has graduated from Loyola has picked Kutty’s Corner near the college as their favourite hangout spot, and the dashing RJ is no different. “The VisCom Department of Loyola is isolated from other departments in the campus and there’s no way that you can’t fall in love with the place. People would be singing or jamming and something or the other would be going on to keep you entertained. The canteen was also a good place for my friends and me, as this is where I was spotted for my talent,” she laughs.
Though Paloma enjoyed being a VJ and the recognition it bought, it didn’t win her any favours with her professors. “Probably they wanted to ensure that they treated everyone equally. For example, if you were a celebrity, they used to be extra scathing in reprimanding you, say, for turning up late for class. But it’s good you know, it brings you back to reality and ensures you stay down to earth,” she says. She clarifies that she never had any rifts with her professors.
Tight-lipped about her rapport with the opposite sex, all she offers is, “There was the usual hitting on. That’s about it.” While her younger sister Rochelle Rao is a well-known model, Paloma only dabbled in modelling sparingly in college, “as I never had long hands or legs like Rochelle (laughs).” Besides her wedding, Paloma is looking forward to signing up for creative writing courses to hone her writing skills, and is actively involved in theatre. Turning an entrepreneur in the performing arts space is also on the anvil though not anytime soon.