True love and cupcakes: Shilpa Shetty on feeling sorry for Jade Goody, her plans for marriage... and her secret vice

Although a highly successful Bollywood actress with more than 50 films to her name, Shilpa Shetty, 33, became famous in this country after winning last year's Celebrity Big Brother, following an international racism controversy involving fellow contestant Jade Goody.

One year on, Shilpa has been hosting Bigg Boss, the Indian version of the show, as well as continuing with her acting career. She is dating London-based entrepreneur Raj Kundra, 32, but still lives with her parents in Mumbai.

Jade Goody was a controversial participant in Big Boss until she was diagnosed with cervical cancer and had to leave the show. How did you feel when you heard the news?

It was a huge shock. When you know anybody who gets diagnosed with something like this, whatever the circumstances, it's always horrible news. With Jade it was one shock after another, in a way - first her coming out to India to do the show, then hearing about her illness. It all happened very fast and it was difficult to take in. I spoke to her before she returned to the UK, but it was a very private conversation that I won't share. She knows we've buried the hatchet. Life's too short to bear any hatred. I can only pray that she makes a full recovery.

Does your stint on Big Brother seem strangely surreal now?

In a way, yes, although it was also a huge catalyst in terms of bringing about all the opportunities I've had since, so I owe the show a lot. I'd achieved success in India, but I didn't have that international platform - and I'm not embarrassed to say that I have it now because of Big Brother. I'm very aware that the UK public stood up for me and for what was right, and I'm very grateful for that. Everyone in life makes mistakes - you learn from them and move on.

What lessons did you learn from your time in the Big Brother house?

I had no idea I had the kind of patience I had. When you're living your life in the outside world, you have this notion of the kind of person you are. Then, suddenly, you're effectively under house arrest and you find all your preconceived ideas really tested. I'm glad I kept my calm. I realised that grace under pressure is one of life's most valuable commodities.

The show opened a lot of doors for you...

Absolutely. I'm very aware now that being a celebrity has the advantage of giving you leverage, and the freedom to pick and chose. Now,I'm even producing my own film, which I never thought I'd do. It’s stressful, but wonderful. Having talked to friends who are mothers, it seems to be very similar to having a baby.

Talking of which, would you like a family of your own?

Definitely, and I'm sure I will, God willing. I intend to try and do that as soon as my professional life has calmed down hopefully in the
next couple of years. I don't want to make too many predictions as I don’t believe in making too many plans, but, yes, I have a man in my life and, yes, I hope we will get married.

Tell us more...

The best thing is when your partner loves you for who you are and you don’t feel you have to change for him. That’s what I feel I have with Raj. It's not always easy - Raj lives in London and I live in Mumbai, so it's a long-distance relationship and we have to work at it. But it also means that we value each other more. Although, sometimes, I think that it can be harder when you have someone breathing down your neck the whole time. I think we women are often confused, actually - one minute we're complaining about not being valued enough, then the next, we're saying, 'I need my space'. We don't always know what we want. But at the moment I feel extremely blessed.

I take it your parents approve?

Oh, absolutely. It wouldn’t have lasted if they didn't. I still live at home with them, and I only intend to move out when I get married. I know a lot of people in the UK find it strange, but we just have a different value system over here, and it's a case of us all learning to respect that. I think Brits are far more independent at a much earlier age, which is wonderful in many ways, but I also think it’s much harder for them, too. In many ways life is much easier in India, because we don't have the same pressures, and the support system in terms of the way the family works is amazing.

Do you worry about getting older?

No, not at all. I don't want to come across like I'm really boring and, 'Oh, everything's perfect,' but I really don't. Of course, I'm aware I'm getting older, but I'll take it as it comes - I'm not averse to having Botox, for example, but I just don't feel I need it yet. The way I see it, I spent a long time getting comfortable with who I am. I was an ugly duckling as a child, and it took a lot of hard work to get to where I am today, where I’m not so self-critical. I still don't think I’m as good-looking as my sister, Shamita, or even my mother, who is stunning, even now. But I've metamorphosed into the person I am today, and I'm pretty content.

Any guilty pleasures?

Cupcakes! I love them, especially chocolate ones. I tend to hunt them down wherever I am in the world and find the best the city has to
offer. I've had a few cupcake binges over the years. In fact, I have a terrible sweet tooth. But I also think it's a fallacy that chocolate is bad for you. As long as you're following a good diet, then one or two pieces of chocolate a day is fine.

Cupcakes aside, how would you spend your ideal day?

An ideal day is one where I'm not working and I don't have anywhere to go. I'd do very little, sleep in till ten or so, and just hang out at home. Maybe go to a spa for a massage and then for a quiet dinner with Raj. But life is pretty manic at the moment, so I don't get to do this very often - although I'm not complaining.