Jacqueline Fernandez is a Sri Lankan actress and former model predominantly active in the Indian film industry. She is also the winner of the 2006 Miss Sri Lanka Universe pageant. Hailing from a multiracial family of Canadian, Sri Lankan, and Malaysian descent, Fernandez spent the early part of her life in Bahrain. She got a degree in mass communication from the University of Sydney and worked as a TV reporter in Sri Lanka for a considerable period before venturing into the modelling industry. After representing her country at Miss Universe 2006, she became one of the top models in Sri Lanka. In 2009, during her professional tour to India, she landed the role of Jasmine in Sujoy Ghosh’s ‘Aladin’. Her breakthrough role came about in 2011 when she was cast as the female lead Priya in ‘Murder 2’. The film was a critical and commercial success, leading to a thriving career for Fernandez. She has since starred in films like Housefull 2 and 3, ‘Race 2’, ‘Definition of Fear’ and ‘Judwaa 2’. She has won multiple awards and is a brand ambassador of several international companies. An active member of the community, she supports several charitable organizations and a number of causes.
Born on August 11, 1985, in Manama, Bahrain, to Elroy and Kim Fernandez, Jacqueline grew up in a multi-ethnic family. Elroy Fernandez, a musician, left his native country Sri Lanka due to the 1980s civil unrest between the Tamils and the Sinhalese. Kim, an air hostess, is part Malaysian and part Canadian. After marriage, they settled down in Bahrain. Jacqueline is the youngest of their four children. Besides her, they also have two sons and another daughter.
Fernandez harboured acting aspirations since she was a child and wanted to be a Hollywood star. When she was 14 years old, she began hosting television shows. She received her early education at the Sacred Heart School in Bahrain and later enrolled in the University of Sydney to study mass communication. After she graduated, she moved to Sri Lanka where she began working as a television reporter. She also learned Spanish and refined her French and Arabic at the Berlitz school of languages.
Jacqueline Fernandez has fond memories of the time when she worked as a reporter for a Sri Lankan news channel. As her university education was in the field of investigative journalism, she truly enjoyed her job at the news channel. She has stated that she sometimes still misses her reporting days as it was “adventure every day, coming to work, finding out what the latest news is, working with the team. It was like being a little detective.”
While she was still employed as a reporter, she started accepting modelling gigs. In 2006, she emerged as the winner of the Miss Universe Sri Lanka pageant and subsequently went on to represent Sri Lanka at the world Miss Universe 2006 pageant in Los Angeles. She was a professional model for the next three years and participated in various commercial campaigns.
In 2009, Jacqueline Fernandez travelled to India for a modelling assignment. During her stay, she took acting lessons under British-Indian theatre director Barry John. She later successfully auditioned for the fantasy romance ‘Aladin’, landing the role of the female protagonist, Jasmine. Also starring Amitabh Bachchan, Sahil Khan, Riteish Deshmukh, and Sanjay Dutt, the film was released on October 30, 2009.
The movie was a critical and commercial failure and Fernandez herself received harsh criticism for her acting. Despite this, she was awarded the IIFA Award for Star Debut of the Year – Female for the film.
She shared screen space with Deshmukh once more in her next release, the 2010 science fiction romantic comedy ‘Jaane Kahan Se Aayi Hai’. She portrayed Tara, an alien girl from Venus who comes to Earth looking for love. This film too was a flop. In fact, film critic Anupama Chopra compared Fernandez to “a pin-prick on a balloon” in her scathing review of the film. That year, she also did the item number ‘Aapka Kya Hoga Janabe Ali’ (Dhanno) in the film ‘Housefull’.
In 2011, she was cast in ‘Murder 2’ which proved to be a major hit. After the success of this film, she appeared as one of the female leads in ‘Housefull 2’ (2012). She played Bobby, the love interest of John Abraham’s character, Max. While the film was critically panned, it was one of the most successful movies at the box office that year. Fernandez returned in 2016 for ‘Housefull 3’, playing a character named Ganga "Gracy" Patel this time, the love interest of Akshay Kumar's Sandy.
In 2013, she portrayed Omisha, a femme fatale character in the 2013 action thriller ‘Race 2’. Starring alongside Saif Ali Khan, Anil Kapoor, Deepika Padukone, and Abraham, Fernandez learned fencing and some acrobatics to flesh out her character. Despite this, she once more was at the receiving end of negative reviews for her performance. In Prabhu Deva’s directorial venture ‘Ramaiya Vastavaiya’, she made a special guest appearance as herself in the song ‘Jaadu Ki Jhappi’.
The 2014 release ‘Kick’ is the biggest blockbuster of her career till date. The film also starred Salman Khan, Randeep Hooda, and Nawazuddin Siddiqui. Fernandez played Dr Shaina Mehra, a psychiatrist living in Warsaw, Poland and was allowed to retain her own voice for the first time in a film. The movie was about a thrill seeker named Devi Lal Singh, who, using the pseudonym Devil, becomes an infamous thief.
Her next project was Vikramjit Singh’s ‘Roy’, a 2015 romantic thriller. She also appeared in two other Indian films that year, ‘Bangistan’ and ‘Brothers’. In the horror thriller ‘Definition of Horror’, Fernandez portrayed Sarah Fording, a psychology student. Besides being her first British film, it was also her first outing as the main protagonist.
In 2016, she did many films including ‘Housefull 3’, ‘Dishoom’ and ‘A Flying Jatt’. Fernandez made her debut in Sri Lankan cinema in 2017 with the English-language film ‘According to Matthew’. In the 2017 action comedy ‘A Gentleman’, she worked with Siddharth Malhotra.
She then acted in ’Judwaa 2’, the remake /sequel / reboot of the 1997 film ‘Judwaa’ which was directed by David Dhawan, who had also directed the original. A huge box-office success, the film saw Fernandez portraying Alishka Bakshi, one of the two female protagonists.
Fernandez made a special guest appearance in ‘Baaghi 2’ (2018) in the song ‘Ek Do Teen’. First featured in the 1988 film ‘Tezaab’, the song was originally performed by veteran actress Madhuri Dixit. Fernandez’s rendition did not go down well with celebrities and fans alike. Inevitably, there were comparisons, with many labelling the new version as “unimpressive” and “crass”.
Fernandez served as one of the judges in the ninth season (2016-17) of Colors TV’s dance reality show ‘Jhalak Dikhhla Jaa’. She is set to appear in the action comedy ‘Drive’ and the third instalment of the Race film franchise.
She has been the brand ambassador of HTC One since early 2013. She previously was the face of Indian Bridal Fashion Week—IBFW of 2013. That year, she was picked as the spokesperson for Forevermark Diamonds designed by Gareth Pugh in Mumbai and was present at the inaugural opening of the Forever 21 store in the city. Fernandez also attended the launching of the Gillette Shaving System along with Arbaaz Khan and Aditya Roy Kapur.