Shilpa Shetty Kundra
Shetty was born, in Tamil Nadu in Southern India - though her family's origins were in the Bunt community of Karnataka, and she identified herself as Bangalore. Her parents, Surendra and Sunanda Shetty, had been models themselves when they were younger, but as Shilpa was growing up, they helmed a close, traditional family and made a living by owning and running a pharmaceutical manufacturing company. When Shetty was 15 years old and attending St. Anthony's Girls High School, she decided she would pursue modeling. She had some photos taken which she submitted to modeling agencies and, within a year, landed in ads for such high-profile brands as India's Limca soft drink.Despite her lack of experience in front of the camera, Shetty was cast in a supporting role in the 1993 film "Baazigar," making such an impression that she was honored with a Filmfare nomination for "Best Newcomer." She followed it up with a pair of flops, but a hot song and dance number in "Main Khiladi Tu Anari" (1994) brought attention to Shetty's fit figure - thanks in part to her karate black belt and a position on the baseball team -- and helped her land a reputation as one of Bollywood's sexiest women. Her next string of films did not do much for her career, but the actress continued to stand out in the song and dance fare. In 1998, she earned a "Best Supporting Actress" award at the Bollywood Awards for her role in "Pardesi Babu." Alas, she was forgotten again following her next string of forgettable films, but in 2000 critics took notice of her impressive acting ability in "Dhadkan" and she took home an International Indian Film Award for Best Actress.Over the next several years Shetty cranked out a dizzying number of films, some showcasing her singing; others introducing her impressive comic abilities. In 2004, she took on her finest role to date in the critically-lauded "Phir Milenge." The film was based on the 1993 U.S. film "Philadelphia," with Shetty playing an urban professional woman experiencing the backlash of her HIV status. The film was the first in Bollywood to take on issues of HIV and AIDS, and was Shetty's entrance into lifelong activism for the cause, netting her nominations at FilmFare and IIFA, to name a few. Most importantly, "Phir Milenge" helped the actress shed her song-and-dance image from the past and take her acting career in newly respected directions.In 2005, Shetty and her younger sister, Shamita, starred opposite each other - the first Indian sisters to do so - in "Fareb." That same year, Shilpa took on the risky role of an anti-terrorist squad member in "Dus," putting her martial arts background to good use in memorable fight scenes. Shilpa continued to earn good reviews in 2006 with the contemporary family drama, "Shaadi Karke Phas Gaya Yaar."Shetty's prolific career in her homeland was little known outside Indian communities when she was cast in "Celebrity Big Brother UK" in early 2007. It was because of this, that she was looking forward to representing her country on British television. However there proved to be a lot of friction in the house, and Shetty was frequently the target of angry rampages which thousands of outraged viewers felt were overtly racist. The network was flooded with complaints about Shetty's treatment by some of the other castmates. One of the show's sponsors even pulled out of their contract out of disgust. In the end, Shetty won the contest with a 63% popular vote, and, in a larger victory, helped bring issues of national racism to the forefront in the media.Following her sweep, the cool-headed hero was invited to a reception with British Prime Minister Tony Blair as well as invited to the Marlborough House to meet with Queen Elizabeth II. Sky One produced a documentary entitled "The Real Shilpa Shetty" (2007) and the BBC offered her a role on the perennial favorite "East Enders" (BBC One, 1985-), which she had to turn down due to other commitments. Her first post-"Big Brother" feature, "Life in A Metro" (2007) became the first Bollywood film to ever premiere at London's Leicester Square.Shilpa Shetty was a longtime member of PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals), appearing in advertising campaigns for the animal rights group and publicly supporting circus boycotts. She was also an active supporter of HIV and AIDS-related causes, speaking out for health awareness. It was at a May 2007 AIDS awareness press event in New Delki, that Shetty famously appeared alongside fellow supporter, American actor Richard Gere. Following the kiss seen round the world, the two were issued warrants for their arrest because Gere had greeted the actress with several kisses on the cheek and a dip. The act sparked public outcries of indecency and Shetty was attacked for promoting the very behavior she was allegedly speaking out against. The ever-calm actress deflected protesters by explaining that the act was a harmless one in American culture, and her concern was that the actor not leave with a negative impression of his host country. Despite her high level of fame and her many admirers, Shetty continued to live in Mumbai with her parents and sister and successfully kept most of her romantic relationships out of the news. Her parents, however, made headlines in 2003 following allegations that they had ties to Indian organized crime. The family denied any wrongdoing, claiming that the accusations were an attempt to tarnish their daughter's career.