Deepika Padukone is officially one of the most admired people in the world, according to a YouGov survey. Although you might have assumed so for a long time, given her immense success in Bollywood, her modeling career, andher charity work, this list finally makes clear that Padukone’s success ranks alongside greats like Oprah Winfrey and Michele Obama. But how did she get there? Let’s take a moment to examine her accomplishments.
Padukone grew up playing professional badminton, rising into the national ranks. Her father is Prakash Padukone, a former professional badminton player who placed number 1 in 1980 and helped make the sport an important national pastime. Although it might have been a hard decision to stop playing the sport that he popularized, Deepika is very close with her family, and told reporters that they have been supportive of her decisions.
“I asked my father if I could give up the game and he wasn't upset at all. He has always told my sister and I to do what we are whole-heartedly interested in and to do it well,” she told the Times of India in 2004. It was a fortuitous change.
Instead of sport, she decided that she wanted to model, and quickly found success. Her first big break was as the face of Liril soap, a major campaign that helped launch her own brand. But then she got a call from asking her to be in the music video for the song Naam Hai Tera.
“I had decided that come what may, I would never do a music video but decided to go and at least hear the song,” she told the Times of Indiain 2012. Little did Padukone know that this one gig would jumpstart her international career. The video was a hit, and launched her debut in film. After her appearance in Aishwarya, renowned Bollywood director Farah Khan cast her across from Shah Rukh Khan in Om Shanti Om. In the movie, Padukone plays Shantipriya Mehra, a star dramatically murdered in a fire. Khan comes back from the dead to avenge her death. The role propelled Padukone’s success in Bollywood.
"Om Shanti Omput me on the map. It changed my life overnight. When I left Mumbai for the world premiere, people viewed me very differently. The minute I landed at immigration, I realised my life had changed," Padukone said in an interview with India Todayin 2018.
She went on to act in over 30 movies, including beloved films like Yeh Jawani Hai Deewani, Chennai Express, Cocktail, and Bajirao Mastani. Critics and audiences alike have hailed her acting abilities. She’s won over 75 awards, including numerous wins for best actress.
But around 2014, just as her career was taking off, Padukone was struggling with depression and anxiety. She eventually took medication to help her get back to work. Padukone has since spoken out around the stigma surrounding mental illness, emphasizing that depression
is a clinical issue, not anyone’s fault. After she learned that a close friend committed suicide after their struggle with depression, she was motivated to do even more.
In 2015, Padukone founded the Live Love Laugh Foundation, which brings awareness to mental health issues. One initiative, #You Are Not Alone, helps teens in high school understand and come to terms with mental health issues. Live Love Laugh is also partnering with Facebook to promote mental wellness online. In lieu of gifts at their 2018 wedding, Padukone and current husband Ranveer Singh requested donations to the foundation.
But Padukone has done so much for charity. From being the face of Bangalore’s charity marathonto adopting an Indian villageto provide regular electricity, Padukone has shown creativity and initiative in using her success for good. Lately, she’s championed equal pay for men and women in Bollywood films, rejecting movies that don’t pay male and female leads the same amount.
“For years, we’ve been made to feel we should be OK with settling for less,” Padukone told Time Magazine. “You should get what you think you deserve. It’s OK to fight for it.”
These varied accomplishments have helped Padukone become Asia’s most followed woman on Twitter, and one of the highest paid women in Bollywood. She’s frequently been recognized as India’s most desirable woman, as well as one of the top five most influential people in India. In 2018, she made Time Magazine’s listof the 100 most influential people. Certainly, as she has done for her entire career, this impressive designation will only be a beginning.