Ileana did not chart a systematic path to get into the film industry. Nor were movies on her mind, they just happened. Her route to the world of glamour and glitz was through modelling stints and ads done from the age of 16.
"I lived in Goa for about seven years. I was in class XII in Goa and the manager of the hotel where my mother worked said I should get into modelling. He fixed up a meeting with (former model) Marc Robinson who was also staying at the hotel. I was not keen to meet him but was persuaded to do so. He suggested I get a portfolio made. So in January 2003, I got my portfolio done. It was a disaster as I had no idea of lighting, poses etc. I just did it. There was nothing planned."
This portfolio won her the first contract -- a series of shoots for Hyatt, especially for their spa at Goa. And Ileana was not too comfy about doing it. "I was completely nervous and I had to do the ad with two other models. I did it and I thought I could go back to my studies. But that brought in more ramp shows. People slowly started noticing me..."
Cut to 2004. "I got a second portfolio done and this fetched me three ads -- Electrolux, Emami Talc, and Fair and Lovely. Fair and Lovely was the big one. It gave me the exposure and I enjoyed doing ads. I didn't think I would go further. I got some movie offers (in Hindi) but I was not ready to sign any film. Then I was given an air ticket to Hyderabad for a (Telugu) film audition conducted by director Teja. The audition went off well but that project didn't take off. Instead I signed YVS Choudhry's film Devadasu."