Like all pearls of supposed wisdom, the contention that there is no such thing as bad publicity contains a grain of truth, and it certainly seems to be the case for Sunny Leone, the hardcore porn star turned mainstream Indian film phenomenon.

Born in Canada to immigrant Sikh parents – her late mother from the Indian state of Himachal Pradesh and her father, who was born in Tibet and brought up in Delhi – Leone, whose real name is Karenjit Kaur Vohraprepares, is a United States citizen right down to the ranch in Nevada she shares as a home with her musician husband, Daniel Weber (who appeared alongside her in adult movies) and adopted two-year-old daughter, Nisha.

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An effective outsider in the world’s second most populous nation when she took the plunge from porn to planet Bollywood, the 36-year-old former Penthouse Pet of the Month was carrying enough cultural baggage to fill the cargo hold of a passenger jet.

This weekend, she is in Hong Kong to perform for the first time on Chinese soil as part of Diwali celebrations among the city’s sizeable Indian community, most of whom will be aware that Leone has pulled off a trick which many in her tradition-bound ancestral homeland considered impossible.

Less than a decade ago, Leone – who spoke to This Week in Asia as she prepared for a typically Bollywood, all-singing, all-dancing, top-of-the-bill appearance at The Amigos Young Millionaires Group, Grand Diwali Ball – was attracting bad publicity by the bucketload.

Brickbats over her former career in the adult entertainment industry – which included appearances in such movies as Sunny Loves Cher and The Female Gardener even saw her the subject of a formal complaint to police in Mumbai in 2015 by a woman who claimed her website, sunnyleone.com, was destroying Indian culture.

But that was then.

Now, after weathering a storm of controversy, Leone appears to have won the hearts of a nation.

A part of that could be down to a hands-on management coterie, led by another, male, person called Sunny, who ensure a tight leash when it comes to talking to the media.

The lady herself sees no reason to be backwards about coming forward on her previous life, in which raw talent saw her gain – among a series of other accolades – a place in Maxim magazine’s 12 top female stars in porn.

But her appeal to lovers of pornography and the industry’s media magnifiers is nothing compared with the swelling of public support she witnessed in August when she made a public appearance in the Indian city of Kochi.

Thousands of frenzied fans turned out to see her, leading one Indian newspaper to comment that Leone “has a way of making fans go crazy”.

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Indeed, the crush in Kochi followed a prior appearance on the big screen so captivating, that when she sang the song Laila Main Laila from Indian crime thriller Raees, the audience began dancing and throwing money at the screen.

She has also weathered her most recent brush with the outrage of polite society, which was appalled by her appearance in a condom ad to proffer prophylactic advice to young people.

Leone is clearly grateful for the reception she has received by ordinary people in India, in the face of a substantial hostility from sections of the chattering classes.

“I believe that everything is a stepping stone to something bigger and greater in life and I don’t know where this is going to lead me.

“Unfortunately, I am not a fortune-teller. It [her former career as a porn star] is what it is and I am just thankful and happy for India being so loving and so accepting,” she told This Week in Asia.

On her first visitto Hong Kong and China, she said: “I want to visit as many places as I can in my life and being here is a great experience.”

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However, self-imposed or otherwise, questions about the fall of US movie industry titan, Harvey Weinstein, under a welter of sexual abuse allegations, are off-limits.

“I actually know what the issue is with that because I don’t spend a lot of time in the US as I am in India most of the time,” she said.

But the last word should go to top Bollywood actor-director, Amir Khan, who was invoked by CNN IBN anchor, Bhupendra Chaubey, in an attempt to discredit Leone in the eyes of mainstream cinema by suggesting Khan would not stoop to hiring her for one of his films or act alongside her.

Leone deflected the slight with graciousness and Khan remarked in a later tweet to accompany a flood of social media sympathy for the actress: “I think Sunny conducted herself with a lot of grace and dignity. I wish I could have said the same about the interviewer.”