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Aishwarya Rai – Not Just The Most Beautiful Woman In the World
You know you've got "something" when Julia Roberts calls you, "The Most Beautiful Woman In the World" - but such is the life of Aishwarya Rai, where these accolades from the rich and famous are common everyday occurrences. With a sharp intelligence to match her renowned beauty, Rai has been a force to be reckon with in the Bollywood film industry, and she has her sights on the West, where there is no shortage of lucrative job offers that will undoubtedly make her one of the most recognizable entertainment figures worldwide in modern times.
Its hard to forget that the 5'7" Aishwarya Rai is only 32 years old - although she still looks just as stunning as she did 11 years ago when she was crowned Miss Universe in 1994. That event catapulted her to increased exposure as audiences were not only captivated by her goddess-like beauty, but also her strong and caring personality and quick wit. Aishwarya Rai capitalized on her opportunity to pursue her love of acting - and what a ride it has been since! Rai stunned audiences when they found out what immense acting talents she possessed. Her abilities seem limitless.
Today, Aishwarya Rai is the most recognizable and influential name in Bollywood. She has single handedly propelled the whole Bollywood industry to a new dawn of popularity and prosperity as she has been a magnet for other audiences beyond the South Asian demographic. Her star power has even transcended beyond Bollywood, as she has become an important figure bridging the cultural divide between east and west. She has a strong cult following on every continent where there are an estimated 17,000 websites dedicated to her! Time Magazine has also listed her on their list of the “100 Most Influential People in the World Today”.
Aishwarya Rai was born in the southern Indian community of Manglore, Karnatka to a traditional and well-to-do family -her mother is a teacher and her father is a marine engineer. The family moved to Bombay when she was four years old, and they continue to reside there. Even at a young age, there was no denying Aishwarya Rai’s beauty, which set her apart from her peers. She began modeling at a young age, procuring a number of jobs that added to her exposure. Her larger-than-life presence was evident even back then as she easily captured the attention of her audiences, even on print.
More than just a pretty face, Aishwarya Rai also was a devoted student, and excelled academically, since that was the main priority asked of her by her family. In a recent interview when asked what the saddest moment in her life was, she responded: When I didn’t make the top three in my Grade 10 class! Additionally, Rai is an accomplished classical Indian dancer having studied the craft for five years in her teens. She is also fluent in five languages – English, Urdu, Tamil, Hindi, and Kannada. After posting high academic honors in secondary school, Aishwarya Rai enrolled in the architecture program at Rachana Institute to pursue her fascination with building structure and aesthetic. Her favorite subject in school however was zoology. Amazingly, Aishwarya Rai easily blended a highly vigorous schedule of the stressors of study with her busy modeling life. Even when she was in school, many people were offering her roles in Bollywood films. She respectfully declined citing commitment to her academic endeavors. This would all change in 1994 though.
That year marked Aishwarya Rai’s entrance in the Miss Universe Pageant in Sun City, South Africa. Even before entering the contest, Rai was the overwhelming favorite to take the prestigious title. During the event, she clearly stood head and shoulders above her competitors. Her unique look, characterized by her sparkling green eyes, conveyed the qualities of grace, elegance, and sophistication was just too strong to resist. She further accentuated those qualities during the question and answer portion of the competition where audiences worldwide were treated to her razor-sharp wit and intelligence as well as her warm and endearing personality. With such a total package, she easily won the crown as Miss Universe, as she instantaneously became the source of pride for the entire nation of India. This propelled her to stardom in the entire Southern Asian region.
With stardom comes opportunity, and Aishwarya Rai capitalized to the fullest extent the opportunities that were presented before her. She became even more recognized with a high-profile modeling gig with Coca Cola and Pepsi, which featured her in a memorable commercial with Mahima Chaudhary. She also made the cover for the popular fashion magazine, Vogue. The offers for movie roles did not subside, and Rai decided that she would give acting a try. This would prove to be the beginning of a fruitful relationship with Bollywood, one that would propel her to superstardom, as well as being instrumental in leading Bollywood into a new era of never before seen exposure and popularity that would extend beyond the South Asian demographic.
Right from the get go, Aishwarya Rai seemingly was meant for the big screen. She captivated audiences with her brief role that featured a spectacular dancing performance in Iruyar (1997). Later that year, her talents became more critically acclaimed as she won best female debut award for her role in Aur Pyaar Ho Gaya. As it turned out, Aishwarya Rai was a natural actress, and today is regarded as one of the most gifted and versatile performers in the business. With each movie, she became one of the hottest commodities in Bollywood, which has eventually led her to her current post as the most sought-after and highest-paid Bollywood personality. It has been reported that she receives two movie offers per day!
Aishwarya Rai reached an even higher level of popularity with her starring role in Bollywood’s most ambitious, expensive, and most successful movie, Devdas (2002). It became the first Bollywood picture to ever receive a special screening at this year's Cannes Film Festival and broke box-office records in India and the United States. In fact, Rai created frenzy at the 2002 Cannes Film Festival when she arrived at the premiere of her film in a coach and wearing a beautiful yellow-orange embroidered sari. In the wake of Devdas’ success, Aishwarya Rai became the first Indian actor to be a member of the jury at the Cannes Film Festival for 2003.
Aishwarya Rai is also widely credited for advancing the artistic integrity of Bollywood movies. The industry is widely known for pumping out a lot of movies, but those movies were based on predictable formulas, regurgitated plotlines and choreography, and have never received any acclaim outside of its Bollywood bubble. Rai innovated the industry by being more selective in her roles, which has forced movie creators to be more imaginative and original. More recently, Rai starred in Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice remake, “Bride and Prejudice”, which was directed by “Bend it like Beckham’s” Gurinder Chadha. For 2005, Aishwarya Rai is set to make her Hollywood debut. She will star in "Chaos" opposite Meryl Streep for French Director Coline Serreau. In "Singularity", she will be opposite Brendan Fraser for director Roland Joffe, and for "I Know a Place" for Director/Writer Barton Randall, and will end the year with "Mistress of Spices" once again with Director Gurinder Chadha.
Aishwarya Rai has also shown her resilience and toughness during her acting career. In April 2003, Rai suffered an accident on the sets of Khakee (2003) when a car driven by a stuntman got out of control, hit her, took her down a crevice and slammed her into a cactus plant. She broke a bone in one foot and suffered severe cuts. She was rushed to a hospital, but was back on the set before schedule. She has also experienced profuse bleeding from her ears during the filming of another movie that required her to wear heavy amounts of earrings.
Aishwarya Rai is making significant headways in establishing herself as a star with true international appeal. Besides being named by Time Magazine as one of the 100 most influential people, she has also been featured in America’s most popular news magazine show, 60 minutes, as well as making the cover of Rolling Stone and Time Magazine, a first for a Bollywood star. She was also honored by being selected to run with the Olympic-torch for the 2004 games in Athens, Greece.
Aside from being one of the hardest working people in her profession, Aishwarya Rai still finds the time to being involved in many charitable organizations. Aishwarya is firmly committed to the fair and ethical treatment of people and all living things, and is proud to support charities that assist and benefit the needy. She has established the Aishwarya Rai Foundation, which has deeply committed themselves in providing relief and aid to victims of the recent devastating tsunami that has affected Southern Asia, including the Tamil Nadu state in her native India. Their efforts are dedicated to fulfilling the immediate requirements of the people by providing them blankets, clothes, medicine and plastic buckets and as a long-term arrangement. The foundation has adopted the Devanampattinam Village, a fishing community that was one of the hardest-hit areas from the tsunami. The Aishwarya Rai Foundation have already begun building new homes and repairing those damaged, yet fixable, as well as repairing the damaged boats and buying fishing nets from Mumbai as far as China so the town can get back to work.