P.Ramakrishnan/South China Morning Post
Sri Lankan actress Jacqueline Fernandez hopscotched around the globe before landing in Film City, Mumbai, where she has found success and ever-escalating popularity.
Fernandez has never been a contender for any serious acting awards and critics have repeatedly gone after her, relishing opportunities to criticise her performances in dozens of films. She hasn’t lost any sleep over it as she remains one of the most popular actresses in Bollywood with no signs of slowing down. Despite bad reviews, she’s laughed all the way to the bank with smash hit songs and dances, a beauty pageant crown, and box office and commercial successes galore.
As one of the world’s most “liked” and “followed” celebrities on social media – with a whopping 43.9 million followers at last count – she’s defying detractors daily and can do no wrong in her fans’ eyes.
As she turns 35 on August 11, we take a look at what makes her so incredibly successful – despite the haters.
Born in Manama, Bahrain, to a multicultural family (her father Elroy is Sri Lankan while her mother, Kim, is of Malaysian descent) and the youngest of four, it was supermodel Cindy Crawford who inspired her to become a model at a young age.
After a few stints on television, and part-time modelling while studying, she found a global stage when she won Miss Universe Sri Lanka and headed to the international pageant competing against beauty queens from around the world. She didn’t win the title, but she landed a modelling job in Mumbai where, for a lark, she went for auditions for the film Aladin (the 2009 Hindi film, not Disney’s box-office behemoth).
At ease on camera, she got the part of Princess Jasmine though she barely spoke the language. The Hindi film tanked at the box-office but the actress was unscathed. Fernandez’s work ethic and affable charms were noted and she landed another film. Then another. And so on.
Choices made in 2010 were a turning point as after a long spell of bad reviews and tepid responses at the box office, lady luck smiled on her as she had a stunning hat-trick of smashes in franchise films; Murder 2 (2011), Housefull 2 (2012) and Race 2 (2012). Then she topped it all: a superhero blockbuster starring Salman Khan called Kick (2014).
Over the past decade, she’s established herself as a successful true blue movie star, with a not-so-secret formula for success: choose films with singalong spectacles that are long on Technicolor fiestas and catchy, earworm songs.
In all her films, bar none, there’s always a signature Jacqueline Fernandez song and dance routine, catering to the young and restless. These tally views in the 10s or even 100s of millions; for example, the song GF BF (these aren’t complicated features), currently has over 215 million views.
This online presence has favoured her career; she did a Netflix Hindi-language film Drive (2019) and currently she has the title role in Netflix’s thriller Mrs. Serial Killer (2020).
While her film productions are on hold – coronavirus, what else? – she still has a steady audience on social media. A short clip of her doing yoga at home has over 1.7 million views. And all her critics? Well, they can just kiss her asana.