Me and my health: Bollywood dancer Kousalyaa Somasundram
The Sri Lanka-born 31-year-old Bollywood dancer, who has lived in Belfast since the age of 13, is part of the South Asian Dance Academy, Ireland's leading Bollywood dance troupe who performed the finale at the weekend's Belfast Mela Festival. A former Miss Bollywood NI, the model and dancer received an MBE in 2016 for her services to Indian dance, ethnic art and the community in Northern Ireland, and combines her love of dance and performing with a full time job as a Primary 5 teacher at Leadhill Primary School in Belfast. Her partner is Kalai Wanan
Do you take regular exercise and if so, what?
Yes, I love to keep fit through teaching and performing dance and I run weekly Bollywood classes at the Crescent Arts Centre which keeps me in shape along with rehearsals and performances all over Northern Ireland for ArtsEkta's South Asian Dance Academy.
I've been a member of this fabulous dance troupe since it was set up by ArtsEkta in 2010 with Lottery funding, and I've learnt all forms of Indian dance there from Kathak to Bharatanatyam as well as the ever-popular, high-energy and vibrant Bollywood dancing, which is my favourite. I also visit the gym regularly but prefer classes to exercise machines - I like the structure of circuits and a regular bums-and-tums workout.
What is the worst illness you've had?
I've had severe migraine headaches since I was a child, but two years ago I suffered from my first cluster headache attack which was totally debilitating. It happened over Christmas and I spent six weeks suffering. Thankfully those cluster headaches haven't returned as I had to inject myself with sumatriptan. I still suffer from migraines occasionally, but thankfully I have no other illness.
How healthy is your diet?
Quite healthy - I enjoy a balanced diet. I love my mum's Indian cooking which I have every day and I always have vegetables with every meal, whether steamed or sometimes fried. I do crave fast food at times as I have a very sweet tooth but I feel there is no harm in mixing your diet as long as you limit yourself. My guilty fast food pleasures are KFC and fish and chips.
Any bad habits?
Nothing that I can think of, apart from there isn't such a thing as window shopping in my dictionary.
Do you drink and smoke? If so, how much?
No, I'm a teetotaller. I've tasted alcohol but I just didn't like it, plus it brings on migraines, so I much prefer mocktails or hot chocolate.
Do you take any supplements?
No. I try to get my vitamins from food and I believe if you have a balanced diet with lots of fruits and vegetables then there isn't a need for supplements. However, I am not very good at remembering to drink lots of water. I have purchased a big bottle to force myself to empty it everyday and it's working.
How do you take time out?
Although I find it difficult to allocate time to myself, especially with a wedding to organise in Malaysia as I am getting married next year, I still try to have some alone time. I enjoy painting, going for walks, shopping and reading.
I have a wonderful seven-year-old nephew, Prasath, who is a big part of my life. We enjoy our occasional dates. If I'm not out dancing, I'm chilling at home with Netflix documentaries or a good thriller.
I love teaching and delivering workshops to youth and community groups as I believe I should play a role in giving back to the society that has helped me to grow. I take pleasure in sharing my tradition and culture to allow the people to learn about world culture.
Coming from an ethnic minority group, I feel it is also my responsibility to teach the younger generation about traditions, festivals and religions of the world to break stereotypes and prejudice.
How well do you sleep?
Very well. I can fall asleep within seconds after my head hits the pillow. It really is a blessing. My phone sleep monitor tells me that I get five to six hours of deep sleep.
Do you worry about getting old?
Not really - I feel age is just a number. I believe in living every moment to the fullest and cherishing the time you have with your loved ones as tomorrow is never promised.
What is your go-to product that keeps you feeling healthy?
My mum's herbal medicines. She is amazing at making natural and herbal medicines when I feel under the weather. She is my first point of contact before I try my GP - I don't know how she does it, but she only does this for our family.
Kousalyaa was performing at Northern Ireland's biggest celebration of cultural diversity, the Belfast Mela, at the weekend. To find out more about the wonderful work of ArtsEkta in promoting cultural diversity in Northern Ireland, go to www.artsekta.org.uk