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Brawn and bikinis

world Updated: Feb 11, 2010 00:10 IST
Anirudh Bhattacharyya

In further evidence of their remarkable integration into the US mainstream, Indian Americans made their first mark in two facets of US popular culture: an iconic swimsuit calendar and the American football championship game.

A Harvard University student has become the first Indian-American to be featured in the magazine Sports Illustrated’s celebrated swimsuit issue. Sonia Dara appears in the 2010 issue that went on sale in the US on Tuesday.

Another Indian-American made immigrant history on Sunday by becoming the first from the community to be on a team competing in the Superbowl, the American football championship game and the country’s biggest sporting event. That was John Singh Gill of the losing team, the Indianapolis Colts.

The Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue, first published in 1964, is an iconic American publication. It has served as a launching pad for many future supermodels, including Cindy Crawford, Naomi Campbell and Heidi Klum. The issue attracts tens of millions of dollars in advertising.

Dara is the daughter of Atlanta, Georgia residents Poornima and Prithipal Dara. Sonia Dara was discovered by the New York-based Elite Model Management, one of the country’s high-powered modeling agencies.

She later went on to do assignments for magazines like Seventeen and Cosmo Girl. But she never lost sight of academics and she is enrolled at Harvard, studying economics and human evolutionary biology. Dara is also a member of the Harvard South Asian Dance Company.

In a video posted on Sports Illustrated’s website, Dara said of shooting in Rajasthan, “Since this is where my ancestors are, I feel there’s a certain place in my heart for it.”

John Singh Gill came to prominence playing American football at Northwestern University.

In an interview to the University’s nusports.com, responding to the question about what people would be surprised to know about him, he said, “I am half Indian.”

And while he may be playing in a sport known for its aggression, he also said that the person from any period in history he would choose, if given the option, to dine with was Mahatma Gandhi.