Participant Profiles

Ashok Amritraj
Tennis Ambassador, Philanthropist and Filmmaker

Ashok Amritraj is often regarded as one of the earliest faces and ambassadors of Indians’ presence in the world of sports, and certainly in America.  He played professional tennis in the 1970s and early 1980s, representing India at both domestic and international level. He entered the main draw of Wimbledon, French Open and US Open. He was among the first to represent Indian presence in modern tennis and one of the few Indian faces on American television at the time. In his post-tennis career, Amritraj entered the field of entertainment becoming CEO of National Geographic Films in the U.S. and now Chairman and CEO of the Hyde Park Entertainment Group. Amritraj has made over 100 films during the span of his 35-year career.  Among his current projects is a biopic of tennis player Arthur Ashe in partnership with Warner Music Group.  In 2016, Amritraj was appointed as the first United Nations India Goodwill Ambassador for the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals.

Dr. Deepak Chopra
Author, Wellness Pioneer

Dr. Deepak Chopra is a pioneer in integrative medicine and personal transformation.  He is the founder of The Chopra Foundation, a non-profit entity for research on well-being and humanitarianism, and Chopra Global, a modern-day health company at the intersection of science and spirituality.  For the last thirty years, Chopra has been at the forefront of the meditation revolution and has received many awards for his work in America and internationally.  TIME magazine has described Dr. Chopra as “one of the top 100 heroes and icons of the century.”  Chopra holds multiple positions at a number of U.S. universities and is author of over 90 books translated into over forty-three languages, including numerous New York Times bestsellers.

Dr. Chopra was born in India just as India was receiving independence from British colonialism. He writes, “I consider myself part of the generation referred to as midnight’s children, as in Salman Rushdie’s book.  I grew up immediately post-independence with Jawaharlal Nehru as the Prime Minister and statesman philosophers in the Indian government. I was inspired during my youth by the great spiritual heritage of India.”  As such, he has focused his career on spreading Indian culture globally and across America.

Nina Davuluri
Activist, First Indian American Miss America and Actor

Nina Davuluri is the first Indian American and South Asian to be named Miss America. In doing so, she broke new ground in America demonstrating the growing presence of Indians and Indian Americans in culture. With her wide international recognition, she become an active advocate and speaker on topics such as diversity, gender equality and the promotion of STEM education, speaking in both political and diplomatic venues. She participated in the 2015 Global Entrepreneurship Summit Youth and Women Day in Nairobi and traveled across Mumbai, Hyderabad, and Vijayawada to discuss women’s education in India. Today, Nina travels around the world to address global audiences on issues of diversity and representation via her platform: “Celebrating Diversity through Cultural Competency.” In addition to her activism, she is also a filmmaker, actor & entrepreneur.  She has become a global leader in redefining beauty standards, and spearheaded a campaign against colorism, #SeeMyComplexion.  Most recently she was invited by the CEO of L’Oréal to join the L’Oréal Diversity & Inclusion Advisory Board, which she currently serves on.

Nina is also a prolific Indian classical dancer who drew on her background in Kuchipudi and Bharatanatyam to bring Indian popular dance and music to the Miss America competition in 2014 – the first time Indian music and dance appeared on the Miss America stage.  Nina was born in the United States and is proud of her Telugu family and heritage.

Dr. Sanjay Gupta
CNN Chief Medical Correspondent

Dr. Sanjay Gupta is one of the most recognized “doctors” in America as a practicing neurosurgeon, chief medical correspondent for CNN – one of the most prominent news networks in the United States – and a best-selling author.  In his role at CNN Dr. Gupta leads global reporting on health and medical news for all of CNN’s shows domestically and internationally and has covered some of the most important health stories in the United States and around the world. Most recently, Dr. Gupta has been on the forefront of reporting about the Coronavirus pandemic, covering the crisis for American and global viewers.  He has won multiple Emmy-awards which recognize excellence in U.S. television.  His books “Keeping Sharp: Build a Better Brain at Any Age” and “World War C:  Lessons From the Covid 19 Pandemic” are best sellers.  In addition to his work as a practicing neurosurgeon and as a correspondent for CNN, Dr. Gupta is an associate professor of neurosurgery at Emory University Hospital and associate chief of neurosurgery at Grady Memorial Hospital in Atlanta. In 2019, Dr. Gupta was elected to the National Academy of Medicine, considered one of the highest honors in the U.S. medical field.

Dr. Gupta was born in Novi, Michigan to parents who moved to the U.S. from India in the 1960s.  He is actively involved as an Indian American following in the footsteps of his parents and often cites their hard work and determination as his inspiration for ultimately pursuing medicine.

Zakir Hussain
Tabla Virtuoso, Composer and Music Ambassador

The preeminent classical tabla virtuoso of our time and a chief architect of the contemporary world movement, Zakir Hussain is appreciated both in the field of percussion and in the music world at large as an international phenomenon and one of the world’s most esteemed and influential musicians. He is regarded as one of the most prominent ambassadors for Indian classical music in America and is often found collaborating with some of the most prolific American artists in genres such as jazz, bringing the principles of Indian classical music to U.S. venues. In 1999, he was awarded the United States’ most prestigious awards for artists in America – the National Endowment for the Arts’ National Heritage Fellowship, the highest award given to traditional artists and musicians.  He has collaborated with some of the most prominent artists in the United States.  He has won multiple Grammy Awards, the highest U.S. award for a musical performance, including the Grammy Award for Best World Music Album.  He has led multiple innovative award-winning musical groups and bands, including Shakti and Tabla Beat Science.  The foremost disciple of his father, the legendary Ustad Allarakha, Zakir began his professional career at the age of twelve, accompanying India’s greatest classical musicians and dancers and touring internationally with great success by the age of eighteen. As a composer, he has scored music for numerous feature films, major events and productions. As an educator, Zakir conducts many workshops and lectures each year bringing Indian classical music to U.S. students and has been in residence at Princeton University and Stanford University.  In 2015, was appointed Regents Lecturer at UC Berkeley. In 2002, Zakir was awarded the Padma Bhushan.

Born in India, Zakir Hussain came to the U.S. while accompanying Pandit Ravi Shankar on tour.  Since then, he has traveled regularly between India and the U.S., initially moving to the Bay Area to accompany Pandit Ali Akbar Khan on a U.S. tour.  Today he resides in San Francisco.

Madhur Jaffrey
Food and Travel Author, TV Chef and Actor

Madhur Jaffrey is an acclaimed food and travel writer and an Indian American actress. She is recognized globally for bringing Indian cuisine to the Western Hemisphere with her debut cookbook, An Invitation to Indian Cooking (1973), which was inducted into the James Beard Foundation’s Cookbook Hall of Fame in 2006 – one of the highest honors in the culinary literary field in the U.S. She and her cooking first appeared in the U.S. in 1966. Yet she has continued to bring Indian cooking to modern American and global audiences through her latest cookbooks and stories.  To date she has written over a dozen cookbooks and appeared on several related television programs, the most notable of which was Madhur Jaffrey’s Indian Cookery, which premiered in the UK in 1982.  She was the food consultant at Dawat, which was considered by many food critics to be among the best Indian restaurants in New York City. As an actor, her prolific work spans films such as Shakespeare Wallah (1965) to some of modern-day America’s most popular television programs and films. She has appeared in dramas on radio and television. In 2004, she was named an honorary Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in recognition of her services to cultural relations between the United Kingdom, India and the United States, through her achievements in film, television and cookery.  In 2022, she was awarded the Padma Bhushan.

Madhur Jaffrey’s journey to America brought her to New York City in 1958 where she has lived since and made her home, along with husband and children.

Priyanka Chopra Jonas
Actor, Producer and Philanthropist

Priyanka Chopra Jonas is a multi-faceted talent, The New York Times Best Selling Author, and one of the most recognized personalities in the world. She has received numerous awards and critical acclaim as an actor and producer, with more than sixty international and Hollywood films to her credit. Through her work, Priyanka has become a major influence in the U.S. across entertainment, business, philanthropy and culture, representing the growing ties between the countries. She was featured on the cover of TIME Magazine’s “Time 100” issue as one of the “Most Influential People” in the world.  She has been recognized as one of Forbes Magazine’s “Most Powerful Women” – Forbes is one of the most admired business publications in the United States.  These accolades come in addition to the Padma Shri, one of India’s highest civilian honors, which was conferred on her in 2016. Chopra Jonas is a global UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador, and recipient of the prestigious Danny Kaye Humanitarian award. She is also a Global Citizen ambassador, and is involved in a number of efforts to protect children’s rights and to promote the education of girls around the world.

Padma Lakshmi
Television Host, Producer, Food Expert and Author

Padma Lakshmi is an Emmy-nominated food expert, television host, producer and The New York Times best-selling author.  She is the creator, host, and executive producer of the critically acclaimed American series Taste the Nation, which received a 2021 Critics Choice Real TV Award for Best Culinary Series and a 2021 Gotham Award for Breakthrough Series.  Lakshmi also serves as host and executive producer of one of the most successful food competition shows in the United States, Top Chef, which has been nominated for 37 Emmys, including her three-time nomination for Outstanding Host for A Reality-Competition Program.  Ms. Lakshmi was one of the first TV hosts of Indian descent on U.S. television. Lakshmi is also a prolific writer having penned multiple best-selling culinary books.  Most recently she released her first children’s book, The New York Times best-selling Tomatoes for Neela, in August 2021.  Lakshmi is an American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) Artist Ambassador for immigrants’ rights and women’s rights. Lakshmi was also appointed a Goodwill Ambassador for the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and was awarded the 2021 Advocate of the Year Award by the United Nations Correspondents Association (UNCA).

Born in India, she grew up in the United States, graduating from Clark University with a Bachelor’s Degree in Theatre Arts and American Literature. Known as India’s first supermodel, she began her career as a fashion model and actress working in Europe and the United States.   She lives in New York with her daughter.

Aasif Mandvi
Comedian, Actor and Television Host

Aasif Mandvi is a leading comedian, actor, producer and writer and one of the earliest Indian Americans in arts and entertainment in the United States. He currently can be seen on the hit U.S. television drama Evil and the comedy This Way Up.  He is also host and Executive Producer on the brand-new comedy panel show Would I Lie to You.  Mr. Mandvi was the first non-white correspondent on the popular Emmy-winning satirical news show The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.  Mr. Mandvi is also known for his award-winning web and stage work as well as popular film.  He co-created and starred in the critically acclaimed Peabody Award winning web-series, Halal in the Family, which addressed anti-Muslim bigotry through humor and received a staggering 577 million media impressions worldwide. He played the lead​ role in the ​New York​ premiere of Ayad Akhtar’s Pulitzer Prize-winning stage drama Disgraced. His One Man show Sakina’s Restaurant, the first ever play about an Indian immigrant family to be performed and written by a person of South Asian descent on the mainstream New York stage, led to his receiving the prestigious OBIE award. In 2014 he released his first book, No Land’s Man, a collection of humorous and personal stories about being born in India and growing up in the UK and then the United States. His many film credits include Mother’s Day; Million Dollar Arm, The Internship, Spider Man 2, and The Last Airbender. Mandvi also co-wrote and starred in the film Today’s Special which premiered at the London Film Festival. Some of his TV credits include A Series of Unfortunate Events, Blue Bloods, and award-winning Curb Your Enthusiasm.

His family hails from Bombay, India where he was born.  He grew up in the UK and then settled in the U.S in New York City.

Suketu Mehta
Literary Author and Journalist

Suketu Mehta is the New York-based author of ‘Maximum City: Bombay Lost and Found,’ which won the Kiriyama Prize and the Hutch Crossword Award, and was a finalist for the 2005 Pulitzer Prize, the Lettre Ulysses Prize, the BBC4 Samuel Johnson Prize, and the Guardian First Book Award. His second book, This Land Is Our Land: An Immigrant’s Manifesto, was named by The Times as one of the 100 Must-Read Books of 2019 and one of the 10 Best Nonfiction Books of 2019.  Mehta’s work has been published in the most prominent and prestigioius publications in America, including The New Yorker, The New York Times Magazine, National Geographic, Granta, Harper’s Magazine, TIME, and Newsweek, and has been featured on NPR’s ‘Fresh Air’ and ‘All Things Considered.’  Mehta has written original screenplays for films, including New York, I Love You. His work has been heralded by readers across America and globally.

He is Gujarati, was born in Calcutta, and now resides in New York City where he is also an associate professor at New York University.

Dr. Vivek Murthy
United States Surgeon General

Dr. Vivek H. Murthy was confirmed by the U.S. Senate in March 2021 to serve as the 21st Surgeon General of the United States. As the Nation’s Doctor, the Surgeon General’s mission is to help lay the foundation for a healthier country. Additionally, he serves as a key advisor to President Biden’s COVID-19 pandemic response operation. During his previous tenure as 19th Surgeon General, under President Obama, Dr. Murthy created initiatives to tackle our country’s most pressing public health challenges. The first Surgeon General of Indian descent and the youngest active-duty flag officer in federal uniformed service, he helped lead the national response to a range of health challenges.  While serving as 21st Surgeon General, Dr. Murthy is focused on drawing attention to and working across government to address a number of critical public health issues, including the growing proliferation of health misinformation, the ongoing youth mental health crisis, well-being and burnout in the health worker community, and social isolation and loneliness. Additionally, he serves as a key advisor to President Biden’s COVID-19 pandemic response operation.  During his previous tenure as 19th Surgeon General, under President Obama, Dr. Murthy created initiatives to tackle our country’s most pressing public health challenges.

Murthy is the first Surgeon General of Indian descent and the youngest active duty flag officer in federal uniformed service.  Raised in Miami, Dr. Murthy received his Bachelor of Arts degree from Harvard, his MD from the Yale School of Medicine, and his Masters in Business Administration from the Yale School of Management. A renowned physician, research scientist, entrepreneur, mango aficionado, and author of the bestselling book Together: The Healing Power of Human Connection in a Sometimes Lonely World, Dr. Murthy is today among the most trusted voices in America on matters of public health. He lives in Washington, DC with his wife, Dr. Alice Chen, and their two children.

Mira Nair
Film Director and Producer

Mira Nair is an Academy-Award nominated director best known for her visually dense films that pulsate with life. Her debut feature, Salaam Bombay! (1988) won the Caméra d’Or at Cannes, followed by the groundbreaking Mississippi Masala, the Golden Globe & Emmy-winning Hysterical Blindness (2001) and the international hit Monsoon Wedding (2001), for which she was the first woman to win Venice Film Festival’s coveted Golden Lion. A fiercely independent filmmaker, she then made Vanity Fair (2004), The Namesake (2006), The Reluctant Fundamentalist (2012), and Queen of Katwe (2016). In 2020, Nair directed an adaptation of Vikram Seth’s epic tale, A Suitable Boy, for BBC/Netflix, a sprawling tale of identity and love in a newly independent India. Mira has just completed the pilot of National Treasure for DisneyPlus. Future projects include The Jungle Prince of Delhi for Amazon and Nair’s Monsoon Wedding, the Musical, heading to Broadway. Her next feature film is an international musical with Pharrell Williams. An activist by nature, Nair founded Salaam Baalak Trust for street children in 1989, and the Maisha Film Lab in East Africa to train film makers on the continent in 2004. In 2012, she was awarded the Padma Bhushan, India’s third-highest civilian honour.

Indra Nooyi
Former Chairman and CEO, PepsiCo, Author

For a dozen years as chairman and CEO of PepsiCo, Indra Nooyi was one of the world’s most admired business leaders. The first woman of color and immigrant to lead a Fortune 50 company, she transformed the company with a long-term vision, vigorous pursuit of excellence and a deep sense of purpose. Through her work, she has been an inspiration to millions – Indians, Indian Americans and the global professional community at large.  Indra entered the executive suite at PepsiCo in 1994 and became CFO and then president of the company in 2000. She joined the board of directors in 2001 and, five years later, was named chairman and chief executive officer. Indra is now a member of the board of Amazon, where she chairs the audit committee. She sits on the supervisory board of Philips, where she is also a member of the nominating and corporate governance committee. Most recently, she authored her best-selling autobiography “My Life in Full: Work, Family and Our Future” which offers a firsthand view of Indra’s legendary career and the sacrifices it so often demanded. In her book, she takes us through the events that shaped her, from her childhood and early education in 1960s India, to the Yale School of Management, to her rise as a corporate consultant and strategist who soon ascended into the most senior executive ranks. In 2007, she was awarded the Padma Bhushan.

Shruthika Padhy
2019 Scripps Spelling Bee Champion

16-year-old Shruthika Padhy is a high school junior from Cherry Hill, New Jersey. In 2019, Shruthika won America’s hearts as one of the co-champions of the 2019 Scripps Spelling Bee, the largest and most elite spelling championship in America.  In a highly contested year for the Scripps Spelling Bee, eight champions tied for first place in one of the most competitive Scripps Spelling Bees in recent years. Shruthika is featured in the 2021 Guinness Book of World Records and was a runner-up for the TIME For Kids Person of the Year in 2019 along with her fellow Spelling Bee “Octochamps.”  Shruthika is also very passionate about Hindustani Classical Music, competes in field hockey and track and field, and shares her linguistic knowledge as a community volunteer for several local and national non-profit organizations.

Shruthika is the child of parents who hail from Bhubaneswar, Orissa. In 2004, they moved to the U.S., where she was born. Shruthika enjoys making trips to India to visit her grandparents and family there.   She is very grateful for the love and support she has received from her family and community in the United States and India.

Gitanjali Rao
2020 TIME Magazine Kid of the Year, Scientist and Inventor

16-year-old Gitanjali Rao is an 11th grader at STEM School Highlands Ranch in Highlands Ranch, CO. In 2020, she was named TIME Magazine’s first-ever Kid of the Year. She is researching at the University of Colorado, Denver in the Department of Cell Biology to find a solution for prescription opioid addiction using the latest in genetic engineering and created a colorimetry-based app and device. She was previously named America’s Top Young Scientist of 2017 by the Discovery Education 3M Young Scientist Challenge, with a patent-pending device to detect lead in water faster than any other current techniques. She is also the winner of a global Paradigm science challenge. She was recognized as a 2019 Forbes 30 under 30 for science and the lead detection tool’s invention. Gitanjali aspires to study genetics combined with computer science with product design. She is an avid problem solver and thrives in collaborating with organizations that promote innovation and creativity.