You will not remember me but I remember the day I first saw you off my TV screen. The memory is clear as day. I was at my aunt’s house chilling with my cousin sisters (s/o to you both, you know who you are). My dad came with my uncles to come pick me up. What happened next is a bit blurry but I remember a little commotion. You see, my dad and uncles were actually on their way over to the hospital to meet Sunny Deol as they knew he was shooting some of the film The Hero: Love Story of A Spy there. So they offered to take me and only ONE of my cousins along. Long story short, they baited two of us to turn on my cousin. They promised to take her and when she went to the washroom we made a run for it (sorry cuz, love you!)
There was a huge crowd outside of the hospital and after waiting for some time we finally met Sunny Deol. I was more intrigued by the figure causing commotion behind Sunny – it was you. This was the first time I had seen someone who stood in the spotlight bearing all the gifts I had seen adorned on the women in my life- glorious brown hair, deep brown eyes, and beautiful brown skin. Growing up, I felt there was little representation in media and entertainment for South Asian girls to relate to. Having been shown only white faces and white bodies, I found myself wanting nothing more but to have what those girls had. I grew up watching Bollywood movies but even there, there is a lack of diversity in how girls are represented. It is only now that I am out of university that I finally feel comfortable in my own skin and some of that credit goes to you.
You see, many women I know are conditioned to believe that life is this: birth, grow, school, marry, birth, grow etc. This mantra was told to my mother, to me and I am sure it was told to you. I never had a woman to compare myself to or use as an example until you made your Hollywood debut. Watching Quantico had me like “YASSS QUEEN SHOW THEM HOW IT’S DONE!” You have 50 movies under your belt so obviously, I was so excited to see how your acting skills would transfer from Bollywood to Hollywood and you did so effortlessly. Watching Baywatch and seeing you amongst other big names made me so damn proud as you were getting us the recognition we deserve. Seeing you on magazine covers and pointing out to my mom to have her actually know you. Finally, watching you win a People’s Choice Award felt like the greatest accomplishment of my life too.
You are slowly becoming a part of the norm, PC, and I thank heavens for that. You are paving a way for the South Asian girls who will follow you. You are showing us what a strong career-oriented woman looks like. You are helping us understand that there shouldn’t be a limit to how long you pursue your passions and your dreams in fear of becoming less “marriageable” and that we shouldn’t chase success to fulfill some quota that makes us a more marketable bride. You are helping us understand that it is perfectly normal for us to have a higher net worth then your significant others and how NOT to be intimidated by our own success. Thank you for being the example so many of us desperately needed.
Every girl that finds herself somewhere in this letter.