Bollywood Actresses Who Won Beauty Pageants Before Taking Up Acting

by Niharika Nayak

While acting talents may not necessarily have much to do with looks, there’s no denying that a little beauty goes a long way. Especially when it comes to women. Sure, there have been actors who wouldn’t be considered conventionally attractive, but the biggest megastars in our country are known for their good looks; much of which is inherited from their equally famous parents (cough nepotism cough). Beauty queens turning into actresses isn’t something new. It’s happened consistently over the past few years. Here is a list of famous beauty pageant queens who went on to become Bollywood actresses:

1. Zeenat Aman

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This stunning veteran beauty started participating in beauty pageants at the ripe age of 19. Following which she won the Femina Miss India pageant. The model later won the Miss Asia Pacific International pageant in the year 1970 as well. While she was participating in pageants, she was also working as a journalist and writing for Femina magazine. In 1970 she made her acting debut opposite Dev Anand in the 1970 film, The Evil Within. Unfortunately, the movie did not perform well at the box office, but that did not deter Zeenat from continuing to act. She eventually received critical acclaim after playing the role of free-spirited Jasbir/Janice in the film Hare Rama Hare Krishna. She won her first Filmfare for Best Supporting Actress for this role. The lead song from the movie, Dum Maro Dum went on to become a cult classic and was even featured in the soundtrack for the popular GTA video game franchise.

2. Aishwarya Rai Bachchan

Once called the most beautiful woman in the world, Aiswarya graced the stage in 1994 and bagged the Miss World crown. She made her acting debut in Mani Ratnam’s 1997 Tamil film Iruvar, and her first Hindi movie debut followed a few months later with the movie Aur Pyaar Ho Gaya. 1998 and 1999 proved to be a big year for Aishwarya with her films Jeans (1998) and Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam achieving commercial success and winning her first Filmfare Award for Best Actress respectively. Since then she has spawned massive hits like Devdas (2002), Jodhaa Akbar (2008) and many more.

3. Neha Dhupia

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Bagging the crown as Femina Miss India in 2002, Neha ditched her plans to pursue a career in the IFS and turned to acting instead. The model had discovered a knack for the skill when she had worked in a theatrical play called Graffiti before her modeling career took off. The leggy lass made her Bollywood debut with Qayamat: City Under Threat and rose to fame after her performance in the Hindi film Julie. The model went on to act in many successful films like Dasvidanya (2008), Maharathi (2008), Ek Chalis Ki Last Local (2007) and even acted in a short film, Lust Stories (2018) for Netflix.

4. Dia Mirza

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This stunning beauty won the Miss Asia Pacific title in the year 2000. Following which, she made her Hindi film acting debut in Rehna Hai Tere Dil Mein (2001). The starlet has acted in many successful films in the 2000s. Some of which include Dus (2005), Lage Raho Munnabhai (2006) and the movie Sanju (2018).

5. Priyanka Chopra-Jonas

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Now, the better half of actor/singer Nick Jonas and a Padma Shri Award winner, the stunning actress has come a long way from her days of ramp walks and pageants. She gained attention after bagging the title of Miss World in the year 2000. This fresh-faced beauty queen then went on to make her acting debut with the Tamil film, Thamizhan (2002). Her next movie The Hero: Love Story of a Spy (2003) went on to become the highest-grossing Bollywood film that year. Since then, Priyanka has proved her acting prowess with insane performances in movies like Fashion (2008) which one her several awards and Saath Khoon Maaf (2011). Besides being a model and an actress, this lady is a triple threat! She has also embarked on a successful music career and her song Exotic is a real head-bopper.

6. Lara Dutta

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Lara Dutta was not just crowned once, but twice! This stunning beauty won Miss Intercontinental 1997 and Miss Universe 2000. The beauty queen made her debut in the movie Andaaz (2003). She managed to bag a Filmfare for Best Female Debut for her brilliant performance in the film. After a low phase, the actress came back with a bang with her high grossing box-office films, No Entry (2005) and Partner (2007). The actress’s latest role was in a TV series called Beecham House (2019).

7. Tanushree Dutta

The gorgeous Tanushree Dutta bagged the Femina Miss India title in 2004 at the ripe age of 20. She also participated in Miss Universe and was placed in the top 10, famously beating Israeli model Gal Gadot who would go on to don the hat of the latest Wonder Woman. The actress made her debut in the Tamil movie, Theeratha Vilayattu Pillai and her Bollywood debut in the film Chocolate (2005). In September 2018, the actress made headlines after she accused veteran actor, Nana Patekar of allegedly harassing her on the sets of their 2009 film Horn ‘Ok’ Pleassss. This went on to lead India to have its very own Me-Too movement with many female celebrities calling out senior entertainment professionals for mistreatment.

 8. Juhi Chawla

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Not many of us know that the beauty queen of Bollywood was once crowned as Miss India. She won the prestigious title in the year 1984 and was crowned by none other than the diva Rekha. She represented India at the Miss Universe contest which was organized the same year in Miami, Florida. Even though she couldn’t make it to the top 10, Juhi won the title for Best Costume and look stunning throughout the competition.

9. Meenakshi Sheshadri

Meenakshi Sheshadri won the title of Miss India in 1981 and stupefied the Indian crowd with her charm and beauty. She made her Bollywood debut in the year 1983 with the movie Painter Babu but got wider recognition for her performance in Hero. She has also worked in a few Tamil and Telugu movies as well. Sadly, Meenakshi got married too soon and quit acting after she tied the knot.

10. Namrata Shirodkar

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Namrata Shirodkar won Miss India in 1993 and had a very successful career as a model. She worked in Hindi, Malayalam, Marathi, Kannada, and Telugu movies. Today she is a very successful producer and is married to one of the superstars of the Telugu film industry Mahesh Babu.

All in all, it’s safe to say that when it comes to acting, looks can only get you so far. While many gorgeous beauty pageant winners might have had successful debuts, that doesn’t mean it keeps them in the industry for long. Acting prowess goes a long way and looks can often fade. Which of your favorite celebrities featured on this list? Let us know in the comments below.

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Niharika Nayak

Niharika has a passion for all things art, music and travel. During her spare time she likes experimenting in the kitchen, painting pop culture icons and chasing after random street cats. Her dream is to one day own an amusement park so she can ride roller coasters for free.