Jacqueline Fernandez (born 11 August 1985) is a Sri Lankan actress, former model, and the winner of the Miss Universe Sri Lanka pageant of 2006 who predominantly works in Bollywood. In 2009, she debuted in Bollywood with the movie Aladin and since then has established a career in the industry. Born into a multiracial family of Canadian, Sri Lankan, and Malaysian descent, Fernandez was raised in Bahrain. After graduating in mass communication from the University of Sydney and working as a television reporter in Sri Lanka, she joined the modelling industry. She has crowned Miss Universe Sri Lanka in 2006 and represented her country at Miss Universe 2006.
While on a modelling assignment in India in 2009, Fernandez successfully auditioned for Sujoy Ghosh’s fantasy drama Aladin, which marked her acting debut. Fernandez had her breakthrough role with the psychological thriller Murder 2 (2011), her first commercial success. This was followed by glamorous roles in the commercially successful ensemble-comedy Housefull 2 (2012) and the action thriller Race 2 (2013), which garnered her an IIFA Award for Best Supporting Actress nomination. Fernandez went on to star in the top-grossing action film Kick (2014) and the comedies Housefull 3 (2016) and Judwaa 2 (2017).
Alongside her screen acting career, Fernandez has worked as a judge in the ninth season of the dance reality show Jhalak Dikhhla Jaa (2016–2017), is a popular celebrity endorser for various brands and products, has participated in stage shows, and is active in humanitarian work.
Fernandez was born in Manama, Bahrain, and was raised in a multi-ethnic family. Her father, Elroy Fernandez, is a Sri Lankan Burgher, and her mother, Kim, is of Malaysian descent. After receiving her early education in Bahrain, she studied mass communication at the University of Sydney in Australia. After graduating she worked as a television reporter in Sri Lanka. She also attended the Berlitz school of languages, where she learned Spanish and improved her French and Arabic.
According to Jacqueline, she had aspired to become an actress at a young age and fantasized about becoming a Hollywood movie star. She received some training at the John School of Acting. Although she was a television reporter, she accepted offers in the modelling industry, which came as a result of her pageant success. In 2006, she has crowned the winner of the Miss Universe Sri Lanka pageant and represented Sri Lanka at the world Miss Universe 2006 pageant held in Los Angeles. In a 2015 interview, she described the modelling industry as “a good training ground” and said: “It is a medium that is about shedding your inhibitions, knowing your body, confidence”. In 2006, she appeared in a music video for the song “O Sathi” by music duo Bathiya and Santhush.
In 2009, Fernandez travelled to India for a modelling assignment. She successfully auditioned for Sujoy Ghosh’s fantasy film Aladin (2009) her acting debut. She played the love interest of Riteish Deshmukh’s character, a role based on the character of Princess Jasmine. and Rajeev Masand of CNN-IBN felt that she was: “easy on the eyes and appears confident but has precious little to do”. Although the film was a critical and commercial failure, she won the IIFA Award for Star Debut of the Year – Female.
Mahesh Bhatt’s thriller Murder 2 was Fernandez’s first commercial success and marked a turning point in her career. She took on the role of Priya, a lonely model who is in a confused relationship with Arjun Bhagwat (played by Emraan Hashmi). Fernandez was praised for her performance, and for the boldness and sex appeal, she displayed in the film.
The following year, Fernandez appeared in the ensemble comedy Housefull 2 alongside Akshay Kumar, John Abraham, and Asin. It became one of the top-grossing productions of India that year and earned ₹1.86 billion (US$26 million) worldwide. Fernandez received mostly negative reviews for her performance. While Gaurav Malini praised her for her looks, NDTV called her a “blathering bimbo” who “find[s] no pleasure in [her role]”. Despite the negative reviews, Fernandez received a Best Supporting Actress nomination at the 14th IIFA Awards for her performance.
Fernandez’s first release of 2013 was Race 2, an ensemble action thriller (alongside Saif Ali Khan, John Abraham and Deepika Padukone). The film emerged as a commercial success, with a domestic gross of more than ₹1 billion (US$14 million).
In 2014, Fernandez appeared in Sajid Nadiadwala’s directorial debut—the action film Kick, a remake of a 2009 Telugu film of the same name. She starred opposite Salman Khan, playing Shaina, a psychiatrist. She retained her real voice for the first time in Kick. While Sneha May Francis commented that she is: “incredibly dazzling, and moves like a magic”, Raja Sen of Rediff.com was more critical of her dialogue delivery, calling it “unfortunate.” The film received mixed reviews from critics, but with worldwide revenue of over ₹3.75 billion (US$53 million), it became the fourth highest-grossing Bollywood film. The film established Fernandez as one of the most popular Bollywood actresses.
In 2015, Fernandez featured in Vicky Singh’s Roy, a romantic thriller, which critic Sarita A. Tanwar described as a “boring, exhausting and pretentious” film. She played dual roles, Ayesha Aamir, a filmmaker in a relationship with another filmmaker (played by Arjun Rampal) and Tia Desai, a girl in love with a thief (played by Ranbir Kapoor).
Karan Malhotra’s action drama Brothers was Fernandez’s next release. Co-starring alongside Akshay Kumar and Sidharth Malhotra, Fernandez played Jenny, a fearless mother struggling for her child, a role which she described as “challenging”, “intense”, and “difficult”. The role marked a departure from the glamorous characters that she had a reputation for portraying. Later that year, she starred in the horror-thriller Definition of Fear, which marked her Hollywood debut.
Fernandez began 2016 with a role in the sequel to Housefull 2. The ensemble comedy film paired her with Akshay Kumar as her love interest. The film was a commercial success, grossing ₹1.88 billion (US$26 million) worldwide. Her next film—the action-adventure Dishoom—also grossed ₹1 billion (US$14 million) at the box office. Later that year, she served as a judge to the ninth season of the dance show Jhalak Dikhhla Jaa.
In 2017, she appeared in David Dhawan’s comedy film Judwaa 2, opposite Varun Dhawan and Taapsee Pannu. It was a sequel to the 1997 comedy film Judwaa. The film proved to be a box-office success. In 2018, she starred alongside Salman Khan in Race 3, the third addition to the Race Franchise.
She is filming Tarun Mansukhani’s next, Drive opposite Sushant Singh Rajput. She has recently starred in the Netflix original film, Mrs Serial Killer, directed by Shirish Kunder.
In 2008 and 2011, Fernandez featured in the UK magazine Eastern Eye’s “World’s Sexiest Asian Women” list, ranking twelfth. She was ranked third on The Times of India’s listing of the “Most Desirable Woman” in 2013 and 2014, after being ranked eighth, seventh and fourteenth, respectively, in the preceding three years. In 2013, Rediff.com placed her on their list of “Bollywood’s Best Dressed Actresses”. The following year, she held the sixty-second position in the Indian edition of the Forbes’ Celebrity 100, a list based on the income and popularity of India’s celebrities