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December 20, 2022

Sahil Balani

Representation matters. It makes people feel recognized when they see someone who looks like them on a global platform. We are starting to witness people with different skin colors, body types getting center stage more than ever. One person who has created a mark for themselves in the film and fashion industry and has raised the bar for South Asian representation is Deepika Padukone.

Padukone is a well established actor in the Hindi Movie Industry, Bollywood. She has worked in at least 40 movies over her 15 years in the industry. Her movies have gone on to become critical and commercial success over the years. Her first Hindi film Om Shanti Om which released in 2007, went on to become the highest grossing film for that year in India. She has gone on to make several remarkable performances in films such as Ram Leela (2013), Piku (2015), and Padmavat (2018) which is one of the highest grossing films in India. Padukone made her Hollywood debut in 2017 starring opposite Vin Diesel in XXX Return of Xander Cage. When Times recognised Padukone among the 100 most influential people in the world, her co-star Vin Diesel said “Deepika is the best Earth has to offer.”

In 2017, Padukone was invited to attend the Met Gala and she showed up in a white gown by Tommy Hilfiger, since then she has graced those steps multiple times up until her last appearance in 2019. In May of 2020, Louis Vuitton welcomed Padukone as the first Indian ambassador of the brand. “I'm a very practical, pragmatic person in reality, but I keep having to pinch myself because I can't believe this is real” (Kamath), she said in an interview with Vogue India. This is a major deal for South Asian representation, as Louis Vuitton is one of the most recognized and loved luxury brands around the world. I felt a sense of joy to finally see a person with brown skin on their billboard in LA, Paris, Seoul, Bangkok, and countless other cities where it is uncommon.

Although Padukone is being recognised throughout the world, in 2022 on her cover interview with BoF, the actor opened up about the racism she has faced in Hollywood. Answering a question about why she hasn’t pursued more projects in Hollywood, she felt that the characters were stereotypical and characteristic. “It would upset me every time I went to the US. Some of the things that are said and some of the things that are done are just so obvious that people don’t know the world outside of the world that they live in” (Sagar). Not just Padukone, but even Priyanka Chopra has opened up about the racism she has faced throughout her career in Hollywood. This is again why representation matters, when someone breaks the barrier and the labels associated with their race or how they look, it helps the entire community to push forward. It allows a community to have a voice which can be used to remove stereotypes associated with them.

When the people of the world turned their heads towards the Cannes Film Festival in May, Padukone was there as a jury member. The event didn’t have an Indian panelist for nearly 10 years. Padukone gave some jaw dropping fashion moments. She walked her first red carpet in a black and gold saree by designer Sabyasachi. This was a statement to the world, representing India in a combination of a traditional garment with a modern twist. Typically, when the media covers such major events and the ‘best outfits’, they leave out South Asians. However, Padukone’s presence was noted by everyone from Vogue France to Harper’s Bazaar. It made us feel visible and acknowledged by some of the biggest fashion publications in the world. This level of coverage was followed months later with Padukone’s attendance at the Louis Vuitton show at Paris Fashion Week.

Padukone has recently added Cartier to her well-established portfolio of brand deals. Her acceptance and presence by the fashion forces of the world have given the South Asian community a long-waited representation that was needed. Padukone has also launched her own skincare line, 82°E. While she is currently among the few south asians, such as Priyanka Chopra and Shah Rukh Khan, that have reached this level of stardom and global recognition, we are still miles away from reaching equal representation. I want to see more representation for South Asians and for people regardless of their gender or body type.

Works Cited

Nast, Condé. "This Just In: Deepika Padukone Is The First Indian To Become A Louis Vuitton House Ambassador". Vogue India, 2022, Accessed 8 Dec 2022.

"Deepika Faced Racism In Hollywood, Was Told 'You Speak English Really Well' By An Actor". Indiatimes, 2022, Accessed 8 Dec 2022.

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