2013 has been a very visible year for South Asian-Americans in the mainstream, but four new faces have made big news in the world of beauty and fashion. You’ve probably seen their photos on billboards and on the television. Now, find out a little more about who they are.
Nina made headlines in 2013 as the winner of the Miss America pageant. The former Miss New York is the first American of Indian descent to do so and also the first contestant to perform a Bollywood dance on the Miss America stage.
Nina first started in the pageant circuit as a way to earn money for her higher education. She first won Miss Michigan’s Outstanding Teen in 2006, and was later a first runner up in Miss America’s Outstanding Teen in 2007, which won her a $25,000 scholarship that essentially paid for her education from the University of Michigan. She took five years off from the pageant world while attending university.
Nina later moved to New York State, and this time seeking money for her medical degree, reentered the pageant world going on to become first runner Up for Miss New York, 2012, and eventually winning that title for 2013. That of course, led her to Miss America, 2014, which won her $50,000 to pay for medical school.
Although Nina faced much backlash after winning the coveted title for her skin color, Nina also spoke publically about losing 53 lbs and her struggle with bulimia.
Emily Shah recently won the Miss New Jersey 2014 title and was the youngest contestant out of 130 participants to do so when she won. An actress at heart, Emily hopes to make it big in both Bollywood and Hollywood. She recently finished shooting the film version of the Broadway hit, Jersey Boys, and has acted with the likes of Naseeruddin Shah in The Great New Wonderful. Emily is the daughter of LA-based Bollywood producer Prashant Shah and has been immersed in performing arts since she was two years old. Asides from her acting and pageant career, Emily donates a lot of her time to various charities such as Make-a-Wish, Leukemia & Lymphoma Society and Susan G Koman, to name a few. She is also the official ambassador for the Alicia Rose Victorious Foundation, a charity she has been closely involved with for the past three years.
He’s best known at the Sikh face of recent Gap ‘Make Love’ ads, but this isn’t Waris’ first foray into modeling or acting. Last year, Waris was featured in Tory Burch’s Fall 2012 Lookbook. Waris is also an actor most notably appearing in his good friend Wes Andersen’s The Darjeeling Limited and his upcoming, The Grand Hotel Budapest. Beyond that, Waris is somewhat of a zelig of fashionable society. His main gig is that of a jewelry designer for his brand, House of Waris, but he is also an author, retailor and director. Waris was not always like this. He grew up middle class in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn (like Travolta in Saturday Night Fever) and found himself in places like The Limelight in New York City where he found acceptance amongst its motley patrons. One thing led to another and twenty years later, here is today, one of the most photographed and best dressed men in New York. Ask him if he’s royalty… you never know what his answer will be.
Eighteen-year-old Neelam is British-Indian and first walked in Burberry’s SS14 runway show and was quickly cast in the company’s latest print campaign shot by Mario Testino. The young beauty is seen with tousled hair posing alongside actor Jamie Campbell Bower and teen aristocrat Lady Jean Campbell, a major step for a new model.
Neelam is in college studying psychology, like raps music and is a self-described bookworm naming Afghan-American novelist Khaled Hosseini as her favorite.
With contracts already in place with the likes of Vogue Italia as well as other fashion heavy hitters, Neelam’s dream is to walk for Chanel and Victoria’s Secret.
If that should happen, Neelam would not be first South Asian supermodel to do so. That title remains with Canadian born Yasmeen Ghauri who is most known for work with Victoria’s Secret, Chanel, Versace, Christian Dior and for her covers of international editions of Elle and Vogue.