|DesiClub.com's Top 50 Coolest Desis of 2012
|We saved the world! The world has not ended - thanks to us. This can only mean one thing, here is our annual salute to the astounding accomplishments of Desis worldwide. With success in every single field, 2012, not only did we survive you, we won.
|by Hiral Dholakia-Dave
Some glass ceilings shattered, lots of milestones achieved, many, many inspiring precedents set - Now that the year comes to an end - not the world - we survived 12.12.12 folks! Even with superstorm Sandy hitting us, having caused major devastation, all the talk of doom and gloom seems to have been a grain of sand compared to the tons of successful stories and the people behind them we've compiled.
Several new chapters were added to the annals of world history and South Asians can claim to be proud contributors to these events which will leave an indelible mark on future generations. President Obama's re-election campaign saw huge Desi support (Shefali Razdan Duggal and Shelly Kapoor Collins have made it to our list) with Dr. Ami Bera repeating history after 60 years(!). Astronaut Sunita Williams' record setting space odyssey is an example for all go-getter South Asian kids to now look beyond spelling bees and safe bets in medicine and engineering.
Unfortunately, 2012 also came with its share of tragedies and losses. The massacre of six devout innocent Sikhs in their temple of worship will go down in history as a blot on humanity. A shocking incident that took place out of sheer ignorance and venom of hatred goes on to show the intolerance around us and the need to increase awareness regarding the Sikh religion among mainstream Americans. But what stood out of this sad event was the resilience of the community, which, instead of drawing out negativity or retaliation, embraced silence in mourning and resolved to counter hate-crimes by doubling their efforts to educate the masses about Sikhism. The South Asian community also lost a supertalented young entertainer by the name of Kuly Ral from Punjabi DJ production team RDB to cancer earlier this year. A big loss to the world of Bhangra music.
But as they say, the show must go on! It is indeed a huge moment of pride for the community when a Desi turns newsmaker for all the right reasons. Mindy Kaling's successful debut on primetime television has proven that in the end, it's all about the character and talent of a person and not the color of their skin.
In more entertainment headlines, Priyanka Chopra, the leading Bollywood diva made the mother of all cross-overs possible when she released a hot new single in the American market called "In My City" which was received positively by her fans and a whole new audience for her. What a bold move by the actress-turned-singer! Speaking of bold, there has been a hot new band by the name of Red Baraat making waves and taking the music scene by storm. The band proves it is possible to have success based on talent alone as a result of thrashing live performances. Having performed at the White House, its onto much bigger and more prominent venues for these guys.
We can also boast about the do-gooders in our community, such as the mega successful Robin Raina, for building homes for those not as fortunate as the rest of us. For Aashika Damodar, who raises awareness for victims of human trafficking and Valarie Kaur for creating powerful dialogue between different cultural groups.
2012 was the year of Desi Youth, paving new paths and breaking new boundaries for a progressive global community. Talk of breaking conventions and we have quite a few Desis (from Pakistan) who braved the dreaded, dared to stand for their rights and strived to make a change. Malala Yousufzai and Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy - hats off to you ladies!
It's interesting that last year, it was the elder Anna Hazare gracing the top of our list and this year we have someone many, many years his junior taking the top position for sharing the same principal for speaking the truth without fear of consequences.
Read on for a huge dose of recognition and inspiration as we, Desiclub.com, present The Ultimate List!
It is time to list our achievers.
50. Tanishq Abraham
Who is He: Gifted Genius
Why is He Cool: Nine-year-old Tanishq Abraham has been a member of Mensa, the society of people with high IQs - since the age of 4! He is not only comfortable taking sophomore level classes at The American River College with students who are almost ten years older than him but he is also one of the better performing students in all the classes he has taken.
What's Next: Tanishq aspires to become an inventor, a doctor and maybe even the President! Amen to that.
Cool Fun Fact: Tanishq's parents, Bijou and Taji Abraham, realized that their son had talent when he completed Stanford's online math courses for KG to 4th graders in less than six months at the age of five. By the time he was six-years-old, he had completed high-school level online classes in Math, Chemistry, Biology and Paleontology. When he turned eight he took college level classes in Geology, Astronomy and Biotechnology.
49. Gagan Narang
Who is He: Sport Shooter
Why is He Cool: He clinched the first medal for India, a bronze in the 10m air rifle event at the 2012 Summer Olympics in London. Gagan shot his way to four Commonwealth golds. He first won the pairs event with Abhinav Bindra and then beat the Olympic Champion to win the individual 10m rifle gold. He added two more to his kitty, one with Imran Hassan Khan in 50m air rifle pairs and a second individual gold in 50m rifle.
What's Next: Guess the only medal missing in his kitty is that of Olympic Gold. Rio, here comes Gagan!
Cool Fun Fact: Gagan was conferred with the Padma Shree Award in 2010 and the prestigious Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna award in 2011. Recently, he was accorded the honor of flagging off the 2012 Indian Grand Prix.
48. Smita Shah
Who is She: CEO, Spaan Tech, Inc.
Why is She Cool: At the Democratic National Convention held in Charlotte, N.C., Smita became the first Indian American to serve as convention parliamentarian - an officer charged with enforcing rules at the convention. She is also vice chair of the Chicago Plan Commission.
What's Next: Apart from the strides her firm has taken under her leadership, she has participated in the last four Democratic National Conventions as either a delegate, or a member of the rules or platform committees. A plunge in mainstream politics should be the next logical step, right folks?
Cool Fun Fact: In 2008, Spaan Tech was named one of the fastest growing companies by Inc. magazine. The Indian American woman executive was named by Crain's Chicago Business to its Chicago's 40 under 40 list. She's also received the prestigious Ellis Island Medal of Honor from the National Ethnic Coalition Organization in 2007.
47. Sushil Kumar
Who is He: Wrestler
Why is He Cool: He won the gold medal in the 66kg freestyle competition at the FILA 2010 World Wrestling Championships, a silver medal in the Men's 66kg Freestyle Wrestling at the 2012 London Olympics and a bronze medal in the Men's 66kg Freestyle Wrestling at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, which made him the first Indian to win back to back individual Olympic medals.
What's Next: No less than a gold at the 2016 Rio de Janerio Olympic Games.
Cool Fun Fact: He's a vegetarian! Vegetarians can be strong too.
46. Shekhar Rahate
Location: Los Angeles
Who is He: Fashion Designer, Photographer
Why is He Cool: He is the only fashion designer to have been invited to the United Nations for a fashion show held at the prestigious General Assembly Hall - the event was appreciated by around 450 delegates from 192 countries. He was awarded the 'Versace Fashion Award' for global excellence in fashion in presence of Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa by US Asia Business forum. Plenty of his creations have been donned by the who's who of the glamour industry at this year's Academy Awards, Cannes Film Fest and the Emmy's. He's also featured at the New York Fashion Show apart from showcasing in Paris, Germany, Dubai, San Francisco & Los Angeles.
What's Next: More limelight, more accolades.
Cool Fun Fact: He's just received a Doctorate of Social Sciences degree with a major in film, television and video. He worked as a male model for a while & got attracted to the designing part of modeling so he joined the fashion designing school in Dubai and the rest as they say is history.
45. Shama Kabani
Who is She: Entrepreneur, Author, Public Speaker, Web and TV Personality
Why is She Cool: Shama's firm, The Marketing Zen Group, was named in the 2012 Empact100 list by Empact, an organization that focuses on making entrepreneurship a viable career option for everyone around the world. She was honored at a formal ceremony at The White House. In 2009, Business Week honored Shama as one of the Top 25 under 25 entrepreneurs in North America. In 2010, she won the prestigious Technology Titan Emerging Company CEO award. Business Insider named her one of the "20 Young Professionals to Watch in 2012." Wanna know the coolest part? The company has no "tangible office" and is completely virtual. Employees are based across the US from San Diego to Washington DC.
What's Next: Founded in 2009 with a bootstrap investment of $1500, the company has experienced an average growth of 450% a year. It has 30 employees and its revenue is expected to cross $1 million this year!
Cool Fun Fact: The 27-year old CEO is also the author of the best-selling book, The Zen of Social Media Marketing (BenBella Publishers), which was just released in its second edition and has become required reading at many colleges across the country.
44. Fatima Ali
Location: New York
Who is She: Sous Chef, Café Centro
Why is She Cool: Fatima cooked up a storm by winning The Food Network's reality show "Chopped."
What's Next: Hoping to "get involved in a cooking show" or another reality show like "Chopped", she believes that whether or not her chosen career-path remains unconventional in her home country Pakistan, "anything is as mainstream as you make it." In a media interview she said, "Pakistani society is slowly beginning to accept this profession as a viable career choice and I'm confident that, with continued exposure, my battle will no longer be uphill." You rock girl!
Cool Fun Fact: She's just 22 and graduated from the Culinary Institute of America in New York.
43. Sunny Tripathy
Location: Los Angeles
Who is He: Dancer, Actor, Comedian, Director, UCLA Graduate, World Hunger ambassador and one of the hottest new writers in town
Why is He Cool: He wears so many hats with elan - That too at just 22! At the age of 20, he began preparing his own production company: SunnyTFilms, a name he devised back when he was 13. He gathered a team and began productions ranging in comedy and drama. Now his production team is big time into making feature films. Many of the projects have already signed on producers and well known talent. Simultaneously, his team is fostering various commercial and music video projects, as well as television pilots.
What's Next: He's one of the new faces for Mountain Dew and has a book coming out next year called "God Loves Everyone, Except You," and has five feature films in pre-production.
Cool Fun Fact: When he was 16, his short film 'Fight for Peace' won an achievement award from the California Senate, distinguishing him as one of the youngest award-winning filmmakers of his time! Back in 2011 his online series Keeping Up With the Guptas went viral and earned him recognition overnight.
42. Jind Mahi
Who is He: Musician
Why is He Cool: Billed as one of UK Asian music's brightest emerging talents, Jind is an all-around musician who composes, produces, writes, sings and plays instruments. A feat he has accomplished perfectly with his eclectic debut album 'Like Father Like Son', which is a collaboration with his father and musical inspiration Binder Pasla. Earlier this year, Jind released a sample track entitled 'Yaad Kari' to wide acclaim. The album 'Like Father Like Son' has also produced hit songs, including previous hit 'English Daru' by Binder Pasla.
What's Next: There are two more track releases planned from the album before its release in early 2013.
Cool Fun Fact: Jind Mahi is the latest musical sensation who has been signed to Three Records label, which was established by the international, superstar music producers and brothers RDB. The young and talented Jind will make his debut with the emotional Punjabi love song 'Saday Naal.' "Modern day experience" helped inspire this song when it was being composed.
41. Anish Shah
Location: New York
Who is He: Yale MBA turned Stand-Up Comedian
Why is He Cool: He quit his job as a McKinsey consultant and has spent 2012 working full-time to raise money for charity through stand-up comedy. Honestly, how many of us can even think of even daring to do that? We also spotted him in a recent Lufthansa commercial for the brand's ChaiLounge campaign. In 2012, he recorded his first one-hour comedy special at The Laugh Factory, helped launched the national "No Laughing Matter" tour in the U.S. to benefit the "Save a Mother" foundation, featuring Indian-American comics & celebrities.
What's Next: You can catch Anish in your city as part of his "B-School Made me Funny" tour. We expect many more great things from Anish in the coming years ahead.
Cool Fun Fact: Anish got his first exposure to show business at the age of 7 in his 2nd grade production of "Peter Pan." His brilliant portrayal of Captain Hook earned him a best actor award in a gala ceremony held... are you ready for this? In his mom's kitchen!
40. Hina Mushtaq
Location: California & Rawalpindi
Who is She: An Atlas Corps Fellow
Why is She Cool: Hina is an Atlas Corps Fellow from Pakistan serving at the Public Health Institute in California. She's been featured in the "Top 99 under 33 Foreign Policy Leaders" list compiled by The Diplomatic Courier (TDC), a Washington DC-based global news and international affairs analysis magazine.
What's Next: She is researching the current state of practice in the design, implementation and evaluation of Information and Communication Technologies addressing healthcare delivery in Pakistan.
Cool Fun Fact: She designed the first comprehensive web portal for Pakistan in order to support a nation's presence and influence in the global community. Previously, she worked as a consultant at the ITU-UN Headquarters in Geneva and for USAID-funded projects. She believes that innovative use of technology will reshape foreign policy by bringing about differences in people's lives beyond their economic and social barriers.
39. Ansar Khan
Location: New York
Who is He: Student Entrepreneur
Why is He Cool: He made it to Forbes list of 2012 All-Star Student Entrepreneurs. Ansar is among nine young men and women from around the country who have been recognized for launching significant businesses while still in school at the University of Buffalo (SUNY). He launched Refulgent Software, a tech firm that he co-founded with classmate James O'Leary. The company produces Ambur, an iPod and iPad app that serves as a restaurant point-of-sale system. More than 260 clients in 14 countries have purchased the app, which saves waiters time by enabling them to take orders, send requests to the kitchen and process credit cards.
What's Next: If the beginning has been this fantastic, imagine what the future holds for this young Desi.
Cool Fun Fact: Annual revenues are in the six figures, and the company employs nine programmers and salespeople, eight of whom are UB students or alumni. Part of UB's Technology Incubator in Amherst, Refulgent Software is already profitable.
38. Payal Kadakia
Location: New York
Who is She: Dancer, Entrepreneur
Why is She Cool: A perfect combination of beauty and brains, Payal's clubbed her passion for dance and entrepreneurship with the launch of a web startup called Classtivity.com which is an online database that enables users to search for any type of class, from yoga to creative writing workshops. Users can search by activity, venue, time, location, price, level of difficulty, instructor, and more and book the class as well! The venture has drawn a lot of media attention with Inc. magazine featuring her on the cover, NYReport including her in Game Changers class of 2012 and an Entrepreneur magazine article on her startup.
What's Next: Classtivity, launched in April this year, currently offers 22,000+ classes a month in New York City and Los Angeles. Next year will be focused on building that database and building subscribers. It has already expanded to San Francisco with plans to include Chicago and Miami next.
Cool Fun Fact: Payal graduated from MIT with a Bachelor of Science in operations research. She went to work at Bain & Company and Warner Music Group before turning into a web entrepreneur. In 2009, she started the acclaimed SA Dance Company, a professional Indian dance company in New York City.
37. Sarbajit Banerjee
Location: New York
Who is He: Scientist
Why is He Cool: He is among five scientists of South Asian origin on the MIT Technology Review's 2012 list of 35 Under 35 Innovators from around the world. A materials chemist and professor at University of Buffalo he has developed a compound called vanadium oxide that if coated on car windows or other glass, lets in heat in the winter and reflects it in the summer. The compound's envisioned applications include as protective casings for consumer electronics, thermal imaging, and as components of memory and transistor devices.
What's Next: He is in the process of licensing his heat-blocking window coating to a U.S. building-materials company; he predicts that it will cost just 50 cents per square foot. The commercialization of the product is expected in another 18-24 month timeframe. He also has a partnership with Tata Steel in Mumbai which is looking at how to use the material to deflect heat from corrugated-steel roofs.
Cool Fun Fact: A graduate of St. Stephen's College, Delhi, with a Ph.D. from Stony Brook University, Banerjee was studying vanadium oxide because he was interested in the physics of phase transition, for instance, how water freezes at a certain temperature and changes form.
36. Rajeeb Dey
Who is He: Enterpreneur
Why is He Cool: Rajeeb, 26, is the Founder/CEO of Enternships.com - a portal that connects students and graduates to work placements in start-ups & SMEs - for which he was named the "02 X Young Entrepreneur of the Year" in 2009 and the world's youngest Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum in 2012. He is also the Co-Founder of StartUp Britain - a national entrepreneurship campaign launched by Prime Minister David Cameron in March 2011. Rajeeb's first venture, at 17, was the English Secondary Students' Association (ESSA) now known as Student Voice - an organization which empowers school students by giving them a voice in their education - for which he was awarded the Goldman Sachs Global Leaders Award and YouthActionNet Global Fellowship.
What's Next: Expansion. Starting with South Africa, reportedly his company is in the process of developing Enternships in other countries.
Cool Fun Fact: In April 2010 Rajeeb was featured in an exhibition and museum installation called "Oxasians." The purpose of the exhibition was to showcase Oxford University's famous South-Asian graduates. Rajeeb was featured alongside Manmohan Singh, Benazir Bhutto, Indira Gandhi, Iftikhar Ali Khan Pataudi and Mansur Ali Khan Pataudi.
35. Tiger Jeet Singh and Tiger Ali Singh
Who are They: Father-Son Professional Wrestlers, Humanitarians and Philanthropists
Why are They Cool: Along with his son, former WWE superstar Tiger Jr, Tiger Jeet Singh, a world famous wrestling ambassador has been promoting his anti-drug message to thousands of parents and children throughout the world and about the importance of staying in school and staying tiger-fit. TigerFest 2012, a fundraiser put on by the duo headlined Brampton, Ontario's July 1st Canada Day celebrations attended by a record 100,000 spectators. The funds went to their non-profit Tiger Jeet Singh Foundation. TigerFest has utilized the popularity of professional wrestling, the marketability of the wrestling legend and WWE superstar to promote Canada's only free wrestling extravaganza in support of a number of charities. The duo were also named one of Canada's Top 25 Immigrants by Canadian Immigrant Magazine and RBC and presented The Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal for their philanthropy and charitable services. Microsoft invited them to be motivational speakers on the success of their partnership at this year's convention.
What's Next: More TigestFest events and some body slams!
Cool Fun Fact: A documentary entitled Tiger! chronicles the life story of Sr. Jeet Singh from his life in India to his work as a wrestler. In Japan, he is also the main character in a comic strip. Jr. Jeet Singh's first match as a pro was teaming up with none other than his father in Japan's FMW against Onita and Tarzan Goto in 1992.
34. Prashant Bhargava
Who is He: Writer, Director
Why is He Cool: His first feature film "Patang" is one of the most critically celebrated Indian films of the year. "Patang" had its world premiere at the Berlin Film Festival and its North American premiere in competition at the Tribeca Film Festival. The film has gone on to play at 30 film festivals worldwide and won numerous accolades including Best Feature Narrative at the Hawaii International Film Festival, Best World Narrative at the Indy Film Festival, Special Jury Award and the Best Feature Narrative at the DC Apa Film Festival and the Special Jury Award at the Osian's Film Festival (New Delhi).
What's Next: Hailed as a "masterful" filmmaker with "hypnotically beautiful visuals", "naturalistic storytelling" and a "colorfully vivid" poetic style, Prashant Bhargava stands at the leading edge of independent Indian cinema. His latest collaboration is with Grammy nominated musician Vijay Iyer, for a film with live orchestral music, titled Radhe Radhe: Rites of Holi. Based on Stravinsky's Rite of Spring, Radhe Radhe is a journey of desire and devotion to the Goddess Radha set during the primal and vibrant celebration of Holi in Mathura, India.
Cool Fun Fact: Born and raised in Chicago, Bhargava started out as a graffiti artist. For the past fifteen years, he has directed and designed commercials, music videos, title sequences and promos.
33. Valarie Kaur
Location: New Haven
Who is She: Filmmaker, Civil Rights Advocate and Interfaith Organizer
Why is She Cool: She is the founding director of Groundswell, a non-profit initiative at Auburn Seminary that mobilizes people of faith in social action. For the last decade, Valarie has combined storytelling and advocacy to lead campaigns for racial dignity, religious pluralism, immigrant rights, prison reform, LGBTQ and gender equality. Her award-winning Divided We Fall with Sharat Raju (2008) earned national attention as the first feature documentary on post-9/11 racism and continues to inspire national grassroots dialogue. As a civil rights advocate, Valarie has clerked on the Senate Judiciary Committee, traveled to Guantanamo to report on the military commissions, filed a landmark immigrant rights lawsuit with her clinic team in law school and led a high-profile campaign against racial profiling with a coalition in East Haven, CT. MSNBC's Melissa Harris-Perry has called her "one of the most exceptional speakers and thinkers" in a new generation of public intellectuals.
What's Next: Currently a fellow at Yale Law School, she directs the Yale Visual Law Project, where she makes documentary films and trains students. She is also working with Sharat Raju on a film about the Oak Creek tragedy.
Cool Fun Fact: She loves to hike in the woods with her little dog Shadi, dance kathak and blues, and serve her friends exquisite chocolate!
32. Sonya Rehman
Who is She: Writer, Journalist
Why is She Cool: Studied in the US and based in Lahore, she represents the new, aware, well-educated, intelligent, artistically sensitive generation of Pakistanis who are willing to celebrate their art, culture and ethos while being exposed to the Western culture and lifestyle. She writes for numerous local and foreign publications standing up for what's right, against injustice, trying to break the stereotyped image of the country as portrayed by global media.
What's Next: There is a reason it is said that the pen is mightier than the sword. Individuals like her share the potential of being agents of change and inspiring others.
Cool Fun Fact: A graduate from Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism with an MS in Print Journalism, Sonya was not only awarded the Fulbright Scholarship to pursue her graduate degree at Columbia but was also one of four students (from the Journalism School's Class of '10) to receive the Joseph Pulitzer II and Edith Pulitzer Moore Fellowship.
31. Shefali Razdan Duggal
Location: San Francisco
Who is She: Political Activist
Why is She Cool: She was nominated by the Democratic National Committee to be on the National Credentials Committee for the 2012 Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, North Carolina and an At-Large Delegate to the Convention from the State of California.
What's Next: Given her involvement and steady rise within the Democratic Party we only see more honors coming her way, and perhaps, a run for office?
Cool Fun Fact: National Diversity Council, an NGO which champions diversity in the workplace and communities, had chosen Shefali as one of the "2012 Most Powerful and Influential Women of California."
30. Asif Ali
Location: Los Angeles
Who is He: Comedian, Actor, Writer
Why is He Cool: Asif is a handpicked favorite from some of the top comedy bookers and casting directors working today. From his stand-up in the U.S. and internationally, to his many outstanding acting roles, Asif is one of the fastest rising entertainers. Growing up as a young East Indian in Arizona, Asif can tell you first-hand how life was, trying to explain his background to his friends. His trademark stage personality and storytelling performance have been featured at the FOX Showcase and CBS Sketch Showcase. In addition to performing at over 100 colleges and comedy clubs, he has performed many shows overseas.
What's Next: He has been cast as a series regular in the new ABC Family pilot "Continuing Fred" alongside Dan Castellaneta (voice of Homer Simpson).
Cool Fun Fact: When he is not on stage or touring with his improv group, you can catch him on hit shows such as ABC's Modern Family, CBS' NCIS, and NBC's Up All Night.
29. Shalini 'Shelly' Kapoor Collins
Location: San Francisco
Who is She: Tech Entrepreneur
Why is She Cool: As CEO of Enscient, Shelly combined her two passions, politics and technology, to launch Root Square - an innovative fundraising platform using gaming to enable political candidates and non-profits to raise funds across leading Social Media sites. Shelly was chosen as a delegate of the State of California for the Democratic National Convention in 2012 and a member of the President's National Platform Committee for the Democratic National Convention. Shelly has the honor of serving on President Obama's National Finance Council 2012 and is a National Co-Chair for Technology for Obama. She is a Technology Advisor to the Office of the Attorney General, Kamala D. Harris, as well as a Technology Advisor to the India-Senate Caucus. Shelly is an ongoing member of Kamala D. Harris' AG race in CA and was instrumental on AG Harris' Transition Team in making recommendations for technology use within the Office of the A.G.
What's Next: With the growing influence of social media, her role and contribution within the Democratic Party is bound to increase significantly.
Cool Fun Fact: Shelly - who joined the tech community in Silicon Valley in rallying behind Obama's efforts and as part of the Technology Innovator Series did six videos in collaboration with the campaign to project Obama's drive to encourage and support technology innovation.
28. Pawan J Mehra
Location: San Francisco
Who is He: Founder, Améredia
Why is He Cool: The American Advertising Federation (AAF) conferred Pawan for the Diversity Achievement Role Model Award for his outstanding leadership and success within the multicultural advertising, marketing and media industry. He joins an accomplished group of individuals that have been recognized in the past with the AAF's Diversity Role Model Award including Michele Thornton of Centric/BET who won the recognition last year, Tiffany Warren of Omnicom, Madhu Malhan of Ogilvy, Jerri DeVard of Verizon/Nokia, Indra Nooyi of PepsiCo, Daisy Exposito of The Bravo Group, and Ann Fudge of Kraft Foods/Young & Rubicam.
What's Next: Mehra has spearheaded Améredia's success as one of the most diverse and fastest growing multicultural advertising agencies in the country with recognitions like Diversity Business's Top Business in America, Fast 50 Company, and National Minority Supplier Development Council's regional Supplier of the Year. The agency under his leadership continues to win numerous industry awards including seven years of consecutive wins for Excellence in Multicultural Marketing Awards (EMMAs).
Cool Fun Fact: The Diversity Achievement Role Model recognition adds to Pawan's earlier industry recognitions including the ADCOLOR® Industry Coalitions' 2011 Change Agent Award and the National Association for Multi-ethnicity in Communications' (NAMIC) 2012 Next Generation Leader Award, among others.
27. Kalsoom Lakhani
Location: Washington DC
Who is She: Social Entrepreneur
Why is She Cool: Kalsoom is the Founder/CEO of Invest2Innovate (i2i), a global social enterprise intermediary that matches social entrepreneurs with investors in emerging markets. She is also the founder and editor of CHUP, or Changing Up Pakistan, a blog that provides a more nuanced perspective of Pakistan in the media through news analysis, contributions and interviews, and is a managing editor of ThinkChange Pakistan, a blog that tracks the social entrepreneurship and innovation space in the country. She's been featured in the "Top 99 under 33 Foreign Policy Leaders," list compiled by The Diplomatic Courier (TDC).
What's Next: Invest2Innovate are piloting in Pakistan and powers four start-ups - EcoEnergy Finance, milkOp Pakistan, BLISS (Business and Life Skills School) and Hosh Media.
Cool Fun Fact: Kalsoom is a Washington, D.C. co-ambassador for Sandbox, a global network of innovators under 30 and is a member of the World Economic Forum's Global Shapers.
26. Ami Bera
Location: Elk Grove
Who is He: Physician turned Politician
Why is He Cool: He was elected to the US Congress, repeating a 60-year-old feat by Dalip Singh Saund who was the first Indian American to win a Congressional election.
What's Next: Bera has cited health care, education and economic recovery among his top legislative priorities. "Now is the time to find common ground and move forward to rebuild an economy that works for the middle class," he said in his victory speech.
Cool Fun Fact: Bera defeated Lungren 51.1 percent to 48.9 percent in his second attempt after having failed to unseat the Republican two years ago.
25. Varli Singh
Location: New York
Who is She: Entrepreneur, Publisher
Why is She Cool: For hosting the high-profile, second Varli Food Festival and Varli Cookoff in NYC in April of this year which had prominent restaurants and chefs showcasing the broad range of Indian food. She went a step further with the debut of Varli Global Culinary Awards honoring the best and brightest in Indian cuisine. Her effort for recognizing and bringing the diversity of Indian cuisine to Americans is certainly worth a big pat we think.
What's Next: In just two years we saw things get only bigger and better. Way to go Varli brand! We expect to see more of an international presence for Varli and her efforts.
Cool Fun Fact: She's also the publisher and editor-in-chief of Varli Magazine, the first publication dedicated to helping people explore and stay updated on the wonderful world of Indian cuisine - including everything from helpful restaurant reviews, in-depth discussions with master chefs, updates on the culinary industry, and a glimpse into specialty foods and exclusive Indian recipes.
24. Reef Karim
Location: Beverly Hills
Who is He: Dr. Feelgood, Television Personality
Why is He Cool: Not for nothing is he called the celebrity rehab doc! He heads The Control Center for Addictions in LA and treats celebrities, political figures and royalty for everything from addiction to dealing with the reality of their achievements. He's a well-known media personality and seen regularly as a sex and relationship expert on E!'s "Chelsea Lately", VH-1's "The Love Lounge" and MTV/KROQ's "Loveline" and has been interviewed as a medical expert discussing addiction, relationships and mental health issues on "Anderson Cooper 360", "Good Morning America", "The Today Show", "Dateline NBC", "CNN Headline News" and many others. He also hosted his own profiling reality show on Court TV - "House of Clues" based on his profiling and forensic experience while working with the LA Sheriff's department at the Twin Towers correctional facility. He has consulted on feature films and been a medical consultant on many television shows including "Private Practice" and "Alias" as well.
What's Next: Given his exceptional media presence we won't be surprised to see him on our list again next year with a major primetime show of his own?
Cool Fun Fact: For his medical, advocacy and media work, Dr. Reef was voted one of People Magazine's Sexiest Men Alive and voted one of the most Influential Indians in Television by the Indian Journalist Society. What's more? He also heals through the art of comedy. He performs stand up at well-known LA comedy clubs including The Comedy Store and The Improv.
23. Jay Dabhi
Location: New York
Who is He: DJ
Why is He Cool: What started out almost 20 years ago as a hobby for this New York raised Gujurati has turned into a full time profession, inspiring thousands, if not millions of other youth to follow in his footsteps. In the shortness of about a year, you cannot miss Jay Dabhi's music on one of NYC's most popular radio stations 92.3 FM - in one of the biggest radio markets in the world - primetime, everyday. This is apart from deejaying around the world and releasing his album The WeekEND in November which reached #29 on the iTunes Top 200 Dance Albums chart in the US.
What's Next: He's working with Bollywood music producer Pritam to produce remixes - we will probably hear a Jay Dabhi tune soon in our next favorite Bollywood release. And then Hollywood...
Cool Fun Fact: Not only is he a talented DJ and performer, he's got a heart of gold, volunteering and donating his time to help others. Most recently, during the aftermath of superstorm Sandy, which hit the Northeast.
22. Hadia Tajik
Who is She: Politician
Why is She Cool: Norway's Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg appointed 29-year-old Hadia of Pakistani origin as the new Culture Minister this September. She is the first Muslim and youngest Minister ever in Norwegian political history.
What's Next: She announced her new program will focus on cultural diversity in Norwegian society and protection of minority rights, including right of Muslims to wear the veil in public places. Her role assumes all the more importance now after the brutal massacre of 69 people at a summer camp organized by the Workers' Youth League (AUF) of the Labor Party by wacko, Anders Breivik, who reasoned during his trial that multi-cultural policies were harming Norway, adding that he considered Islam his enemy.
Cool Fun Fact: Hadia has degrees in law and journalism and has been a career politician in Norway's Labor Party. She was appointed in a Cabinet reshuffle. She was born on the West coast of Norway in a small district home to 600 people. She has degrees from Oslo and the UK but she remains very rooted and even speaks the Western Country dialect from Strand.
21. Samrat Chakrabarti
Location: New York
Who is He: Actor, Musician, Composer
Why is He Cool: An award winning actor and an acclaimed musician, Samrat made an addition to his oeuvre with a new Rock Opera BUMBUG The Musical, along with veteran actor Sanjiv Jhaveri. The first full length musical authored and produced by the Indian American diaspora in NYC premiered at the Clurman Theatre in December and has been receiving rave reviews.
What's Next: More movies, more music, more accolades.
Cool Fun Fact: Samrat has also composed music for over a dozen films, including, Deepa Mehta's film adaptation of Salman Rushdie's Midnight's Children, Soham Mehta's Student Oscar winning film: Fatakra (Firecracker), Rachel Greenberger's The Only Thing, Rehana Mirza's Hiding Divya, Ted Wallach's Oil: A Love Story, Sundaram Tagore's Natvar Bhavsar: Poetics of Color, and Manish Acharya's Loins of Punjab Presents.
20. Melanie Kannokada
Location: Los Angeles
Who is She: Actress, Model and Stand-up Comedian (for the sake of comedy!)
Why is She Cool: A former Desiclub.com Swimsuit Calendar Cover model, Melanie has become a popular face in the entertainment industry today, having created a lot of buzz and interest - globally. A Stanford alumni and former Miss India America, Melanie is the current face of Bare Escentuals (BE) Cosmetics and is one of the five faces of BE International, becoming the first Indian American to represent a global cosmetics brand. In addition to a successful modeling career, Melanie has an impressive acting docket having had guest spots on popular TV shows such as Rules of Engagement (RoE), The Nine Lives of Chloe King and NBC's Parenthood while playing the title role in the indie feature film Love, Lies & Seeta released this summer. As if all that talent was not enough, she added one more new subhead to her resume - standup comedy. Along with a few friends she's scripted a comedy series and made a debut in LA and NYC. This year she was also featured extensively by Indian publications like Vogue, Marie Claire, Hair, Jade and Filmfare.
What's Next: A Telugu feature film, a crime-comedy shot in India and produced by Raj Nidimuro and Krishna DK of Shor in the City fame. Keep watching this space for a lot more on this super-talented woman!
Cool Fun Fact: Recently, she curated her own collection for the luxury jewelry line at Fifth Bond. The proceeds from this collection go toward Hospital For Hope, a hospital she's helped build in rural Jharkhand, India.
19. DJ Rekha
Location: New York
Who is She: Musician, Disc Jockey, Producer, Curator and Activist
Why is She Cool: This year New York's happening home party Basement Bhangra celebrated its 15th anniversary, the first-Thursday-of-the-month bhangra parties that Rekha founded at the downtown club SOB's back in 1997 have defined the emergence of the South Asian presence in North America. Since its launch, Basement Bhangra has forced New York to sit up and take notice of Bhangra, rapidly making the outsider art-form an essential part of the NYC club scene. The monthly event and the international Bhangra phenomenon it helped spark have received extensive attention from national and international press, making the cover of Billboard magazine and countless features on global media platforms.
What's Next: Bigger events, more music, more milestones. Due to its growth, Basement Bhangra will be moving to a whole new venue come January, 2013. The new home for Basement Bhangra will be Le Poisson Rouge (LPR), which is great news for partygoers as there will be more room to Bhangra.
Cool Fun Fact: Along the way she has presented artists including Punjabi MC, Tigerstyle and M.I.A. to North American audiences, while also launching her own Beat Bazaar Music label, programming her weekly Internet radio show Bhangra And Beyond at BreakThru Radio, teaching a DJ Master Class at the Clive Davis Institute of Recorded Music at NYU's Tisch School of the Arts, and touring her bhangra DJ activities all over the world while remaining involved as a social activist. Quite an accomplished soul, she is.
18. Aashika Damodar
Location: Washington DC
Who is She: Social Entrepreneur, Artist, Tech-Enthusiast, Anti-Trafficking Activist
Why is She Cool: Aashika is the founder of an NGO called Survivors Connect, a non-profit working to develop and extend innovative technology platforms for the anti-trafficking movement, which has assisted grassroots organizations in Vietnam, Ghana, Haiti, Guatemala, and more. Most recently, she is starting up a social enterprise called Breaking Heels, which sells survivor inspired fashion (and height adjustable heels) to combat commercial sexual exploitation. Much of the money generated by Breaking Heels is directed to helping fund programs to help combat sex trade practices, even going so far as to use survivors of human trafficking to help design many of their shoes in special workshops. She made it to the list of the "Top 99 under 33 Foreign Policy Leaders" list compiled by The Diplomatic Courier, a Washington DC-based global news and international affairs analysis magazine. She was awarded the UN Association Community Human Rights Award, Zimmerman Fellowship and Freedom Award in 2008 for her anti-trafficking work.
What's Next: She will start her DPhil in Criminology at the University of Oxford in the fall of next year.
Cool Fun Fact: She sleeps with post-it notes at her bedside so that she can quickly jot down her dreams and ideas. A lot of her best work starts there, so don't bug her when asleep!
17. Gurbaksh Chahal
Location: San Francisco
Who is He: Serial Entrepreneur
Why is He Cool: The recent shooting of Sikhs at a Gurdwara in Wisconsin prompted this 30-year-old multi-millionaire internet entrepreneur to launch an online campaign aimed at ending hate crimes. He has initiated the 'Be Proud' movement which he says is not just about raising awareness of Sikhs but also sending out a broader message. "It's about the unifying truth that we are all a little different and we should be proud of what makes us unique," he says. He's also committed $1 million to launch the foundation.
What's Next: The BeProud foundation launched with a TV and social media campaign, including Facebook and Twitter (@BeProud). Through the foundation's website, individuals are able to make donations and Gurbaksh says 100 percent will be used to support families of hate crime victims. In the future, he expects to introduce other ways for people to get involved, including off-line events.
Cool Fun Fact: The initiative has already attracted support from Deepak Chopra, Jay Sean, RDB, Lisa Ray, Priyanka Chopra and Gurinder Chadha.
16. Prabal Gurung
Location: New York
Who is He: Fashion Designer
Why is He Cool: From Kate Middleton and Michelle Obama to the hottest who's who of Hollywood, Prabal's creations have dressed up some of the most powerful divas of our times. For someone who made his debut just a few years back he has made a meteoric rise to the ranks of America's red-carpet royalty. This year his creations were chosen by countless fashionistas for major award functions, premieres, galas and public appearances. His clothes are carried in Saks, Bergdorf's, Barneys and Neiman Marcus; at Brown's, Harvey Nicks and Dover Street in London; and in Paris, China, Korea and in the Middle East. In 2012, he was also named Chief Designer of Onward Kashiyama's ICB brand.
What's Next: Come February 2013 he's giving America an affordable taste of his signature eye-catching prints and bright colors with a limited-edition collection of ready-to-wear, handbags, shoes and jewelry for the mega store Target.
Cool Fun Fact: He's a board member and brand ambassador of Shikshya Foundation Nepal which works towards the education and empowerment of women and children.
15. Dean Obeidallah
Location: New York
Who is He: Attorney turned Comedian
Why is He Cool: He's not a South Asian (he's a Palestinian-Italian-American) but he's contributing bigtime in changing the face of Islam in American media. His documentary 'The Muslims Are Coming!' made its world premiere at the 19th annual Austin Film Festival. The film follows his tour with American-Muslim comedians performing free comedy shows across the South and West in an effort to counter misconceptions about Islam and build bridges with Americans of all faiths. It also features interviews with celebrities including The Daily Show's Jon Stewart and Aasif Mandvi, MSNBC's Rachel Maddow, CNN's Soledad O'Brien and Ali Velshi, Congressman Keith Ellison and more.
What's Next: He is part of a small but growing number of Arab-American comedians who have increasingly received media attention in the past few years, as they use comedy to both entertain and dispel negative stereotypes of Arab-Americans and Muslims and therefore, a majority of South Asians.
Cool Fun Fact: Dean, an award winning comedian, has appeared on "The Axis of Evil" Comedy TV special which aired in the US on Comedy Central and in the Middle East on Showtime Arabia. He is the co-creator of ComedyCentral.com's critically acclaimed Internet series "The Watch List" featuring a cast of all Middle Eastern-American comedians performing stand up and sketch comedy. He is also the co-founder of the New York Arab-American Comedy Festival. He was one of five comedians profiled in the one hour TV Special entitled: "Stand Up: Muslim-American Comics Come of Age" which aired in the US on PBS and internationally on BBC World and Al Jazeera.
14. Salman Rushdie
Location: New York
Who is He: Writer, Novelist
Why is He Cool: This year saw the release of Rushdie's astonishingly well-timed memoir, Joseph Anton, which describes his life in hiding after the 1989 fatwa condemning him to death for The Satanic Verses, a book that fundamentalists deemed offensive to the Prophet Mohammed. Recently, he was ranked 33rd in Foreign Policy Magazine's Top 100 Global Thinkers list for defending freedom of speech. Rushdie has continued to make a powerfully personal case for freedom of expression, writing that the fatwa was "a violent attack not on the novel in general, or on free speech per se, but on a particular accumulation of words, and on the intentions and integrity and ability of the writer who had put those words together."
What's Next: His book 'Midnight's Children' has been adapted as a movie by acclaimed filmmaker Deepa Mehta. The movie, released in November, opened to rave reviews at film festivals.
Cool Fun Fact: Rushdie has also written the Booker Prize-winning "Midnight's Children", "The Ground Beneath Her Feet" and "Step Across This Line: Collected Nonfiction 1992-2002". He was married to Top Chef's Padma Lakshmi.
13. Archie Panjabi
Location: London and New York
Who is She: Actress
Why is She Cool: Archie was nominated in the Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series category at the Emmy's for a third consecutive year. She won it in 2010, the first year she was nominated.
What's Next: Archie reprised her Emmy-winning role as Kalinda Sharma on "The Good Wife" returning for a fourth season on CBS starting September 30th of this year. You go girl!
Cool Fun Fact: She's won accolades for her big screen ventures too. Be it the Best Actress Award at Reims Festival for her role in 'Yasmin' or critical acclaim for her role as a journalist in Anjelina Jolie's 'A Mighty Heart.' Do you remember her from Bend It Like Beckham?
12. Aparism "Bobby" Ghosh
Location: New York
Who is He: Veteran Journalist
Why is He Cool: TIME magazine promoted Ghosh in March of this year to the position of Editor-At-Large. On appointing him, Managing Editor Richard Stengel said, "Bobby is one of TIME's greatest assets and this past year was one of his best yet. He kept us on top of the Arab Spring with a series of cover stories, features, blog posts and tweets which helped our readers make sense of one of the world's most important stories." He's also done much-talked-about international covers of this prestigious magazine on Turkey's Erdogan, Leo Messi and The World After Gaddafi, all of which match up with his classics on life in Iraq. His TIME book 'The New Middle East' also hit bookstands this year.
What's Next: He works closely with TIME international editor Jim Frederick to oversee all content in TIME's international editions.
Cool Fun Fact: An Indian national, he is the first non-American to be named World Editor in TIME's more than 80 years.
11. Sunita Williams
Location: In Texas, Florida or some part of the Universe
Who is She: Astronaut
Why is She Cool: Embarking on her 7th spacewalk on November 1, she bettered her own record. The spacewalk lasted 6 and a half hours and bumped Williams into the No. 5 position of most experienced spacewalkers. She has spent 50 hours and 40 minutes out in the vacuum of space over seven spacewalks, the most by a woman.
What's Next: Can it really get any bigger than getting to walk around in zero-gravity, commanding a space station, impacting and inspiring millions of generations to come?
Cool Fun Fact: Williams is the International Space Station's 33rd commander and only the second woman to lead the outpost since the first crew took up residency on the outpost in 2000.
10. M C Mary Kom
Location: Imphal, Manipur
Who is She: Boxer
Why is She Cool: She is a five-time World Boxing champion, and the only woman boxer to have won a medal in each one of the six world championships. She is the only Indian woman boxer to have qualified for the 2012 Summer Olympics, competing in the flyweight (51kg) category and winning the bronze medal. She has also been ranked as No. 4 in the AIBA World Women's Ranking Flyweight category. Her statistics in the ring are astonishing to say the least - five world and four Asian titles in three different weight categories, besides numerous international medals that she clinched before being catapulted to the status of a living legend by no less than the International Boxing Association. These figures alone are, however, not the complete story of her greatness. The 29-year-old 'pint sized dynamo' got her fourth world title, in 2008, within months of a comeback to competitive boxing following a two-year break forced by the birth of her twin sons.
And when she fought for her fourth Asian title this year, one of her sons was undergoing heart surgery in India. But even that is not a good enough measure of Mary Kom's brilliance considering that her journey started from a remote village in the insurgency-hit state of Manipur where, not so long ago, an economic blockade had crippled normal life.
What's Next: Mary is gearing up for the Rio de Janeiro Games in 2016. She's confident of winning a gold if there is a 46 or 48kg category. For London, she had to move to the 51kg category as there was no category below that weight. "If there is a 46kg or 48kg category in Rio, I am sure I will come back with the gold. If there are no lower weight categories, I will try my best to change the color of my medal in 51kg," she's said.
Cool Fun Fact: Her farmer parents describe her as a no-nonsense fiery character who, while growing up, wouldn't think twice before thrashing boys, dare they tease her and perhaps it proved to be her first lesson in landing blows. Movie director Sanjay Leela Bhansali plans to make a film on her reportedly starring Priyanka Chopra.
9. In Memory of Kuly of RDB
Location: Canada & UK
Who was He: Many of you have loved their music, RDB (Rhythm, Dhol, Bass) - but this year the group of brothers was hit with a tragedy as Kuly passed away. The Punjabi DJ production team consisting of three brothers, Kuly, Manj and Surj, who blend western genres with traditional Punjabi beats and vocals lost their brother and the world lost a massive talent and beautiful person. Kuldeep aka Kuly lost his battle to cancer earlier this year.
Why is He Cool: We recognize and will always remember the talent and presence of Kuly, for he helped cultivate the current position of Indian music in the world.
What's Next: RDB continues to honor their brother's memory by continuing to produce hits and paving new paths. After Snoop Dogg and Ludacris the band has sealed a new collaboration that is yet to be revealed. Their next album is called Worldwide and will be a blend of all styles and features from the camp - be it Nindy, Smooth, Raftaar and some other major international stars. A Bollywood project is in the pipeline as well.
Cool Fun Fact: RDB bagged two awards at The Lebara UK Asian Music Awards 2012 - the Best Desi Act Award and the Commitment to the Scene Award and their new single We Doin' It Big is a tribute to their brother Kuly Ral, and has got special appearances by the whole industry.
8. Red Baraat
Location: New York
Who are They: Musical Group
Why are They Cool: In just four short years, the pioneering dhol n' brass party juggernaut Red Baraat have made a name for themselves as one of the best live bands playing anywhere in the world. Led by dhol drummer Sunny Jain, the eight piece, comprised of dhol, drumset, percussion, sousaphone, and four horns, melds the infectious North Indian rhythm Bhangra with a host of sounds, namely funk, go-go, latin and jazz. Simply put, Sunny Jain and Red Baraat have created and defined a sound entirely their own. Leading an audience as diverse and joyful as the band itself, Red Baraat has subsumed a plateful of global influence, fused it, and is now exporting it Brooklyn-style to the world.
What's Next: Its Shruggy Ji album is all set to be released January 22, 2013.
Cool Fun Fact: From the White House to some of the most prestigious festivals and venues worldwide, it's a band unquestionably on the ascent. We can't wait to see what 2013 has in store for Red Baraat and for those lucky enough to hear and see them perform.
7. Robin Raina
Who is He: CEO, Ebix Inc. and Founder, Robin Raina Foundation
Why is He Cool: Robin has built personal wealth by making life easier and more productive for insurance companies with Ebix's application software. His other passion is using that wealth to help impoverished children around the world through his eponymous foundation. Robin's foundation RRF today runs the largest private initiative in the Indian subcontinent worth $15 million to build 6,000 free concrete homes for the slum dwellers of Bawana, Delhi. The foundation has adopted more than 3,500 children across the Indian subcontinent and supports children by providing them education, food, shelter and medical needs.
What's Next: There have been 1,704 homes built as of now. Given the momentum with which RRF is working towards its goal it won't be long before 6,000 families will have a concrete house to call home.
Cool Fun Fact: A short film on the slum dwellers called 'Dilli' he produced last year has won 19 international awards and 78 finals at numerous film festivals across the world. It is a common thing to see people with great material wealth, but it is especially inspiring to come across someone so abundantly wealthy from within.
6. Salman Khan
Who is He: Founder, Khan Academy
Why is He Cool: In just three years (he quit his job in late 2009 to go full time with Khan Academy) he's already in prestigious Time Magazine's annual list of the 100 most influential people in the world and Forbes Magazine placed him on its cover with the story "$1 Trillion Opportunity." He was awarded the McGraw Prize in Education. He was invited to give commencement speeches at Rice University as well as MIT. His new book, "The One-World Schoolhouse: Education Reimagined" hit the stands this year. It talks about Sal's radical vision for the future of education, as well as his own remarkable story.
What's Next: Khan Academy's Youtube channel sets new viewership records with every passing day and he is on his way to making a huge, huge impact on the lives of millions all over the world - all through the free gift of education.
Cool Fun Fact: Would you believe that he's a self-confessed technophobe! Given a choice he would stay unplugged as much as possible. "I'm not the kind to hang out on Facebook or Twitter or even talk on the cellphone, really. I think I've written like five text messages this year," he told the NYTimes.
5. Priyanka Chopra
Who is She: Actress and now a Singer!
Why is She Cool: Along with several Bollywood hits to her credit, this former Miss India made her big American singing debut with the release of her first single 'In My City.' The single sold more than 130,000 copies within the first week of its release. A video called "In the Studio (EPK)" was uploaded to Universal Music India's official YouTube account and saw 300,000 views in a week, with collective views of the song and the EPK crossing 1.2 million. The single was ultimately certified triple platinum by the Indian Music Industry (IMI). In the United States, after the release of the song to the iTunes Store, it sold 5,000 digital downloads in its first week, according to Nielsen SoundScan. "In My City" debuted on September 13, 2012, on the NFL Network's Thursday Night Football, the league's TV sports channel with the 185th meeting between the Chicago Bears and the Green Bay Packers, the most-played rivalry in NFL history.
What's Next: We expect to hear more music from her along with live performances in the US. Talk about a cross-over!
Cool Fun Fact: The song 'In My City' is about Priyanka who used to move from one city to another because of her father, who was an Army Doctor. It features famous American musician Will.I.Am. The song is co-written by Priyanka and produced by RedOne who has been the producer for many of Lady Gaga's hits. Priyanka has been nominated for the World Music Awards (WMA) 2013 to be held in Los Angeles. She has been nominated for awards in three categories - Best Debut, Best Song and Best Video and she's competing with none other than Rihanna, Lady Gaga and Madonna!
4. Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy
Who is She: Journalist and Documentary Filmmaker
Why is She Cool: She won an Academy Award for her documentary, Saving Face in 2012. She has been lauded as Pakistan's first female Oscar winner by the press and government. The Pakistani President conferred upon her the Hilal-e-Imtiaz in March for bringing honor to Pakistan as a filmmaker. Time magazine has named Sharmeen in their annual list of the 100 most influential people in the world for 2012.
What's Next: In May 2012, from more than 4300 entries in 10 categories, Sharmeen's film, "Transgenders - Pakistan's Open Secret" won the Platinum Remi Award at the 45th WorldFest Film Festival. She also got nominated as SAARC Goodwill Ambassador for HIV/AIDS. In August she received a nomination for the Gucci Award for Women for her documentary 'Saving Face' as a director. This inspiring lady sure is on a roll. Here's wishing more spotlight on her and the issues she's shedding light on.
Cool Fun Fact: Sharmeen has made over a dozen-multi award winning films in over 10 countries around the world and is the first non-American to be awarded the Livingston Award for Best International Reporting.
3. Mindy Kaling
Location: Los Angeles
Who is She: Actress, Comedian, Writer and Producer
Why is She Cool: This year Mindy took her career to the next level with the sitcom 'The Mindy Project' on FOX that ushered a new prototype into the prime-time fracas: the unrepentant, upwardly mobile wacko. Best known till now as Kelly on the Emmy-winning NBC comedy "The Office", Mindy also graced the cover of the September 17 issue of New York magazine. With her primetime show on the air, Mindy has broken so many barriers, we don't even have the space to list them all. She has shown that her talent appeals to the masses and better still, is superior to others we see on primetime. This is only the beginning for this Indian girl born Vera Chokalingam in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
What's Next: Anne Hathaway is attached to star in The Low Self-Esteem of Lizzie Gillespie, a romantic comedy from Good Universe co-written by Mindy Kaling. Kaling is likely to take on a supporting role with Brent Forrester. The two are executive producing with Good Universe.
Cool Fun Fact: Mindy's mother Swati was a gynecologist and she plays one on her new TV show. She's also the author of the bestselling comic memoir "Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns)."
2. In Memory of the Victims of the Wisconsin Gurdwara Massacre
Location: Oak Creek, Wisconsin
Who were They: Satwant Singh Kaleka, Seeta Singh, Parkash Singh, Ranjit Singh, Subegh Singh, Parmjit Kaur Toor, all victims of a brutal hate crime
Fact: President Obama's Diwali message best sums up the response and resilience of the community which has suffered a lot post 9/11. The president said: "In the wake of that horrible tragedy, we saw the resilience of a community that drew strength from their faith and a sense of solidarity with their neighbors, Sikh and non-Sikh alike." The horrific incident showed us the face of evil and ignorance, but as a consequence, a dialogue about Sikh Americans became a noteworthy fact for the masses, who otherwise were unaware of the beautiful community residing in the United States and contributing to its social fabric in countless positive ways - From tragedy came awareness.
What's Next: A diverse group of over 150 organizations led by the Sikh Coalition has asked the Senate Judiciary Committee to conduct hearings on hate crimes and the proliferation of hate groups in the US. Also, an email to members of the US Congress urged them to support Sikh hate crime tracking by the FBI. Nineteen U.S. Senators, led by California Senator Dianne Feinstein, issued a bipartisan letter to Attorney General Eric Holder, urging the Justice Department to track hate crimes against Sikhs. The tragedy introduced many Americans to Sikhism and Sikhs for the first time.
1. Malala Yousafzai
Who is She: A 15-year-old symbol of strength
Why is She Cool: She dared to criticize the Taliban for atrocities committed, especially against women and girls, denying them the right to education. The chivalry almost cost her her life when she looked death in the eye after being shot in her school bus by Taliban assassins. She represents the face of an entire generation of girls around the world who struggle against ignorance, evil and hostile conditions to acquire something as basic as education. Fortunately for Malala and the world, she survived and therefore further light was shed on the subject.
What's Next: The assassination attempt received immediate worldwide media coverage and produced an outpouring of sympathy, along with widespread anger. Former British Prime Minister and current UN Special Envoy for Global Education Gordon Brown launched a United Nations petition in Yousafzai's name, using the slogan "I am Malala" and demanding that all children worldwide be in school by the end of 2015. Brown said he would hand the petition to Pakistan's President Asif Ali Zardari. UN secretary general Ban Ki-Moon announced that November 10 be celebrated as Malala Day. More than 60,000 people have called for a Nobel peace prize for her. The nomination has won the backing of Canada's four largest political parties and has been supported in other countries including the UK, France and Spain. Malala's fight has gained huge momentum. Hopefully the groundswell of support will impact the lives of millions of girls globally struggling to receive that which is rightfully due to them.
Cool Fun Fact: The Dutch international children's advocacy group KidsRights Foundation included Malala as one of five nominees worldwide for an International Children's Peace Prize, after Desmond Tutu nominated her in October 2011. She was the first Pakistani girl ever nominated for the award. She stood runner up. Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani awarded Malala with Pakistan's first National Youth Peace Prize for those under 18 years old - subsequently renamed the National Malala Peace Prize. The Government Girls Secondary School on Mission Road, Karachi, was renamed in her honor in January of 2012. On October 15th, six days after the attempt on her life, Pakistan's Interior Minister Malik said that Malala was a symbol of bravery and will be honored with the Sitara-e-Shujaat award - Pakistan's third-highest civilian bravery award.
Also read our Top 50 Coolest Desis lists from previous years:
DesiClub.com's Top 50 Coolest Desis of 2011
DesiClub.com's Top 50 Coolest Desis of 2010
DesiClub.com's Top 50 Coolest Desis of 2009
DesiClub.com's Top 50 Coolest Desis of 2008
DesiClub.com's Top 50 Coolest Desis of 2007
DesiClub.com's Top 50 Coolest Desis of 2006
DesiClub.com's Top 50 Coolest Desis of 2005
DesiClub.com's Top 50 Coolest Desis of 2004