Indians Making it Big in America

Hira Shaikh
July 24, 2020
 min read

Until the 1990s, there were very few Indians in the top tiers of corporate America. The glass ceiling was broken in the mid-1990s, with the rise of Indian executives in the science, technology, engineering, and math fields. For example, Sundar Pichai became the CEO of Google, Satya Nadella as the CEO of Microsoft, Ajay Banga becoming CEO of MasterCard, and Shantanu Narayen as CEO of Adobe Systems, to name a few.

It is widely acknowledged that Indians have made it big in the STEM path, however, Indians have represented themselves in other industries apart from the STEM field as well. When it comes to aromatic and flavorful food or vibrant and colorful clothing, Indian culture is unparalleled. Surprisingly, Indian restaurants and attires have become increasingly popular in the United States. Additionally, Indians have also received much recognition in the entertainment field. From television drama series and films to comedy shows, Indians have made great progress in today’s era by choosing unconventional careers.


In an effort to offer a variety of cultures and tastes, big name Indian chefs are creating Indo-fusion recipes to appeal to wider audiences. Therefore, having complete Indo-Fusion menus has become a trend for many upscale restaurants in big metropolitan cities like Chicago, New York, Los Angeles, and Houston. Foods like turmeric lattes, naan pizzas, butter chicken, paneer, and biryani are enjoyed among many Americans.

Floyd Cardoz, who recently passed away due to Covid-19, had his own Netflix cooking show titled “Ugly Delicious”, was a chef of the New York City restaurant “Tabla”, and also won “Top Chef Master” in 2011. His restaurant Tabla has received numerous accolades from the press and three star ratings. Celebrity favorite Padma Lakshmi is another popular Indian individual known for her role as a co-host of the reality cooking show “Top Chef.” She has also written cookbooks and a collection of multiple recipes. Lastly, Chef Vikas Khanna of New York City’s restaurant “Junoon” has a long list of his own accomplishments. Junoon has been lauded as upscale Indian cuisine and has also received many awards for its innovation.


Additionally, dresses including sarees, kurtis, and jewelry like tikas attract the attention of more than just other desis in the United States. With a strong presence at award shows and premieres, we tend to overlook those who perform right alongside names like Beyoncé and Jennifer Lopez. We’re talking about the outfits that captivate everyone's attention at the red carpets. Competition isn’t just fierce among actors, actresses, singers, and performers, but also amongst fashion designers. Indian designers have made big debuts in the United States dressing up big celebrities for a long time. You’ll always find dresses, gowns, and suits made by Indian designers such as Sachin & Babi, Abu Jani and Sandeep Khosla, Falguni and Shane Peacock, Naeem Khan dressing up famous personalities like Katy Perry, Carrie Underwood, Nicki Minaj, Meta Golding, Michelle Obama, Beyonce, Blake Lively, Demi Moore, Leighton Meester, and more. Another in demand Indian jewelry designer, Rachel Roy, has dressed countless others alone-- including Diane Sawyer, Kate Hudson, Jennifer Garner, Kim Kardashian, Tyra Banks, Penelope Cruz, Lucy Liu, and Wendy Williams. Additionally, apart from red carpets and celebrities, Indian embroidered prints with delicate lace, thread, and stone work have become increasingly popular among clutches, bags, coats and dresses with international brands like Gucci and Christian Dior as well.


Moreover, Bollywood stars have recently had a really big reach within the United States. With actors like late Irfan Khan from Life of Pi and Slumdog Millionaire, Indian talent shone through receiving Academy Awards. Other actresses and actors include Priyanka Chopra from Quantico and Baywatch, Anil Kapoor as a main lead from the hit TV show 24 on Fox Television, and Anupam Kher from Silver Linings Playbook and NBC drama TV series New Amsterdam.


From Lily Singh to Hasan Minhaj, a number of Indian Americans have become legitimate A-Listers in the past few years. Popular Indian comedian Lily Singh started off as a Youtuber, and has successfully built a career as the first South Asian female to host a late night show on NBC called “A Little Late with Lily Singh”. She has recently been renewed for another season. Another millennial favorite comedian Hasan Minhaj was a featured speaker at the 2017 White House Correspondents Dinner, and continues to delight audiences with his own Netflix show titled Patriot Act. He remains one of the few political satirists who are effectively using humor to fill the gap between the society as it is and as it should be. The comedian, writer, TV host, producer and commentator effectively checks lists of all the experiences of a brown kid in America. Minhaj rose to fame with his work on the Daily Show, and from small performances to being on “TIME’s list of 100 Most Influential People for 2019”, he has traveled far and wide. Another popular comedian, Aziz Ansari’s career took off when he starred in NBC comedy, Parks and Recreation. He was also on the TIME list of 100 most influential people in 2016 and had a show on Netflix called Master of None.

In the past decades, we have seen Indians make great progress in representing Southeast Asia in the United States apart from doctors and engineers. This new generation of Indians has recognized that they no longer want to limit their careers to traditional paths like medicine or IT. From food and fashion to entertainment and comedy, they are no longer afraid to take risks and follow atypical methods.

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