Unfortunately, actresses in Bollywood are regarded as women of substance only if they take on female-oriented movies. As an audience, we tend to believe that if an actress has embodied the role of a strong female character, she might be the same in real life too. Sometimes, it's true and sometimes, it isn't!
But then, there are those who transcend these categorical boundaries and make for real-life role models. Sushmita Sen is one such woman!
I was four when Sushmita Sen was crowned as the first-ever Miss Universe from India. I come from a time when TV was the primary source of entertainment and Sushmita was all over it! I did not have the internet to tell me about the wonderful things that women all around the world were doing. All I had was a TV set and that was bombarded with ads, songs, films and talk shows featuring Sush.
It might sound normal now but back in the day, it was a big deal.
We did not get updates on our favorite celebrities via news apps. There were no mobile phones!
And still I knew all about Sushmita. She was fearless, outspoken and drop-dead gorgeous!
She was my favourite, not only because of the roles she played, but because of the person she was. She spoke her heart out, and no, it wasn't through Facebook posts or blogs.
She faced the camera and said everything that a woman had always wanted to say, but couldn't.
From confidently speaking about her many relationships to admitting to have had not one but two live-in relationships, Sushmita claimed her womanhood in a way that was liberating for many others.
And just when we thought she was the ultimate symbol of women empowerment, Sushmita broke every social norm by adopting a child. She fought a battle for reasons that were unheard of until then.
She was a 24-year-old woman, fighting to become a single mother in India.
A decade later, she adopted her second baby girl. And as they say, the rest is history.
For a young girl like me and many others all over the country, Sushmita Sen represented womanhood as a celebration. She changed the way India looked at beauty pageants. Mothers would now encourage their little girls to be like Sushmita Sen. She opened up new avenues for Indian girls, like nobody ever had.
India was celebrating Sushmita and Bollywood wanted to be a part of it too. But Sush being Sush laid down her terms loud and clear. She was never in the rat race for the top. She just wanted to be known for her work, which she executed in all honesty.
Her personal life was an open book, her professional life was unlike anybody else's and with every move, she was proving she did not need a man to make any of it happen!
With the I Am She Miss Universe Pageant franchise and the I Am Foundation, she extended her ever-confident personality beyond films and TV.
Years later, though we don't see much of her in films, Sushmita has gone on to prove that when it comes to her, out of sight is definitely not out of mind.
Now, she finds a place in our Instagram newsfeed, giving us some serious #MondayMotivation to workout and slay.
She still finds a place in the minds of all those who aspire to reach the Miss Universe stage. And she stays in the hearts of many young girls, those who have grown up seeing a beautiful 18-year-old transform into a graceful, strong woman.
From diamonds to decisions, Sushmita has taken them all by herself. And we've loved her for that.