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Everything about her was unlike the recent breed of immaculately done up leading ladies, yet she managed to create a niche amidst the daily tube watcher. The clumsy, proverbial ugly duckling, complete with braces and a ghastly fringe, Jassi didn't take much time to endear herself to the audience.
What has added to the charm of this lady in dowdy Punjabi suits, is the shroud of secrecy surrounding her identity. So much so that even the soap queen Ekta Kapoor is an avid watcher of the show. "I think the show has made tremendous inroads in very little time," Kapoor says.
A key element may definitely be the suspense; everyone wants to know who lies beneath the mask of the bespectacled, frumpy and clumsy protagonist with dental braces. But what has also helped to lure the audience to the Mexican serial adaptation Yo soy Betty La Fea is the simplicity of the story.
In an attempt to unveil her cloak of secrecy,'s Vickey Lalwani met up with this new tele celebrity. Excerpts of what transpired:

How did the transition from modelling to acting happen, Mona Singh?
Uh huh! Contrary to what people say, neither have I modelled any time, nor is my name Mona Singh. I am Jasmeet Walia and this is my first experience in front of the camera.

Aren't you the model from the latest Asian Paints commercial. Your eyes are a big giveaway...
Alas, you are sadly mistaken. I have never modelled in my life. That must be my long-lost twin sister (laughs). I don't understand why people assume so many things about me.

Actually, they are unnecessarily trying to play the guessing game. The latest one that I have heard is that I am Simone Singh's sister!

Hmm... then what about the glasses that you wear. You don't seem to need them...
Of course they are necessary. I have a defect of -0.75D in the right eye and -0.5D in the left eye.

The original 'Betty La Fea' wound up in mid-2002, showing the plain Jane Betty transforming into a pretty girl. So what is planned for 'Jassi'. Will you be groomed into a pretty lass as well?
We are not going exactly by the Betty La Fea script. I have seen quite a bit of Betty La Fea. A lot of modifications have been incorporated in Jassi... to adapt to the Indian mindset. It is not going to be 100 per cent similar to the Mexican version. There are a lot of surprises in the serial. Just wait and watch

Care to tell us something about your background?
My father was in the army and his last posting was in Pune. I have completed my studies in Pune. Soon after that, Jassi happened and I shifted base to Mumbai. It's been more than four months since I have been here.

How did 'Jassi...' happen?
Since childhood, I had a deep desire to become an actress. I used to enact scenes from serials and films to my family members. But not in my wildest dreams did I imagine that I would land up with a lead role.

Someone gave me Deeya Singh's number and I fixed up an appointment to meet her. I met Deeya and almost tripped in her office. Though I thought that my stumble had ruled out any chance that I had, I got a call a month later for an audition. I was surprised. After two auditions, I was selected to play Jassi. I could not believe my luck.

Is there a contract with Sony that you won't do any serial, while 'Jassi...' is on air?
Yes, there is a contract. I signed the contract in May and we started shooting from June. But maybe later, we will revise the contract.

Didn't you feel apprehensive about the contract, especially after the Naam Gum Jayega fiasco? After the show was pulled off both girls - Gauri Pradhan and Shilpa Kadam were left with nothing.
Life goes on. If something like that happens to Jassi, I will think of something else. There is risk in everything, but I don't think such a thing would happen to my show.

Jassi... is a nice, simple story which nobody has attempted before, even remotely. Importantly - Betty La Fea has done very well, all over.

What is the homework that went into essaying the role?
As far as my get-up and body language goes, I haven't had to do any homework. I am playing exactly what I am. But yes, they keep telling me to improvise on my acting. I have had no formal training in acting.

Frankly, I don't believe that acting can be taught. These institutions can only help one to modulate expressions and speech a little bit. First hand experience is the best. It is more challenging and rewarding. At the end of the day, I am indebted to the senior actors in the show who keep guiding me through the various stages of acting and dubbing. Parmeet Sethi, Apoorva Agnihotri and Rakshanda Khan especially.

Have there been occasions where you found the going difficult?
Sometimes I find certain lines difficult to go with. In such cases, I have a talk with the director. He makes a few changes.

Apart from the hype, is there any other factor that has made the show click?
Besides the simplicity and novelty of the show, the content is superb. We, as a society, lay too much stress on the exteriors of a person. We even make judgments about the capabilities of an individual depending on his looks. The serial is trying to break this myth. Jassi aims to offer your average Joe a sense of confidence.

But do you think that today's girls, even the middle-class ones, really shun fashion as much as you do in the serial?
The truth is that today's middle-class girls neither like nor can afford fashion. They dress up for the sake of other people. They do not live their life on their own terms.

Nobody should lose their individuality - our show aims to help the girls realise that it is important to live your life on your terms.

You have quickly got known as Jassi. How are you planning to shake off this tag?
I won't have to shake it off. People anyway knew me as Jassi, before I entered television. Anyway, I am confident that I would get work on television in future. I get calls from people complimenting me after every episode. My role has a plethora of shades and emotions.

Where does a plain Jane like you, that is if at all you are one, stand a chance in today's market of bold-n-beautiful?
I guess I do stand a chance because I look very, very different from others. Add this to the fact that the serial Jassi... is propagating that 'real beauty lies within'.

Film aspirations?
I might, but haven't weighed it in detail.

Deeya Singh told us that some top-notch models are going to make an appearance in the show...
(interrupts) That's news to me. I have no clue about this

I feel like titling this piece 'Jassi's Shocking Denials'. I must say that you have been impeccably trained by Tony and Deeya Singh, and of course Sony TV - on how to conceal your identity and ensure that the hype continues...
Not at all. There is no strategy by the producers and the broadcaster. The media started all this hype. Now, they have blown it out of proportion. I have answered all your questions truthfully. Yeh sab sahi jawab hain. In sabhi ko lock kar diya jaye. That's all.