Persis Khambatta

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Persis Khambatta
Beauty pageant titleholder
File:Persis Khambatta.jpg
Persis Khambatta, 1978
Born (1948-10-02)2 October 1948
Bombay, Bombay State, India
Died 18 August 1998(1998-08-18) (aged 49)
Mumbai, Maharashtra, India
Years active 1968–1998
Title(s) Femina Miss India 1965
Femina Miss India 1965
(Miss Photogenic)
Miss Universe 1965
Spouse Cliff Taylor (1981–?)

Persis Khambatta (2 October 1948 – 18 August 1998) was an Indian model, actress. and author.[1] She was best known for her role as Lieutenant Ilia in the 1979 feature film Star Trek: The Motion Picture.

Early life

Persis Khambatta was born into a middle-class Parsi home in Mumbai, then known as Bombay. Her father left the family when she was two years old.[2] She first gained fame when a set of her pictures casually taken by a well-known Bombay photographer,[who?] was used for a successful campaign for a popular soap brand. This led eventually to her becoming a model. She entered and won the Femina Miss India contest in 1965. She was the second winner of Femina Miss India and third Indian woman to participate in the Miss Universe pageant. At Femina Miss India contest she also won Miss Photogenic sub-award.[3]


Khambatta first appeared, at age 13, in advertisements for the popular soap brand Rexona and set on her way to becoming a popular model. At age 17, as Femina Miss India, Khambatta entered Miss Universe 1965, dressed in off-the-rack clothes she bought at the last minute. She became a model for companies such as Air India, Revlon, and Garden Vareli.

Khambatta made her Bollywood début in director K. A. Abbas's Bambai Raat Ki Bahon Mein (1967),[4] playing cabaret singer Lily who croons the film's title track. She had small roles in 1975's Conduct Unbecoming and The Wilby Conspiracy. She went on to have a brief movie career that included the role for which she is most recognized, the bald Deltan navigator Lieutenant Ilia, in Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979). She was originally signed to play the role for five years, as the intention was to create a new Star Trek TV series. Khambatta said that she was thrilled when the project became a movie instead, as it was a big break, but also recognised that she had lost five years' work.[5] Khambatta became the first Indian citizen to present an Academy Award in 1980. She was nominated for Saturn Award for Best Actress for her role in Star Trek. This led to roles in Nighthawks (1981), Megaforce (1982), Warrior of the Lost World (1983), and Phoenix the Warrior (1988). She was considered for the title role in the James Bond film Octopussy (1983), but was passed over in favor of Maud Adams.

Khambatta was seriously injured in a car crash in Germany in 1980, which left a huge scar on her head. In 1983, she underwent coronary bypass surgery. She returned to Bombay in 1985, and appeared in the Hindi television series Shingora. Soon after, Khambatta returned to Hollywood and performed in guest roles on various television series such as Mike Hammer and MacGyver. In 1997 she wrote and published a coffee table book, Pride of India, which featured several former Miss India winners. The book was dedicated to Mother Teresa, and part of the royalties went to the Missionaries of Charity. Her final appearance in an acting part was that of Chair of the Congress of Nations in the 1993 pilot episode of Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman.


In 1998, Khambatta was taken to the Marine Hospital in south Mumbai, complaining of chest pains. She died of a heart attack on 18 August 1998 at the age of 49.[6] Her funeral was held in Mumbai the following day.[6]


  1. Singh, Kuldip (20 August 1998). "Obituary: Persis Khambatta". The Independent. London. Archived from the original on 29 December 2012. Retrieved 7 October 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. Reilly, Sue (January 1980). "To the Top". People. |access-date= requires |url= (help)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. "'Star Trek' Actress Persis Khambatta, 49". Obituaries. Bangor Daily News. 20 August 1998. p. B7. Retrieved 7 October 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. "Persis Khambatta, 49, dies". The Indian Express. Aug 19, 1998. Retrieved May 2, 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. "Star Trek The Motion Picture: Remembering Persis Khambatta and Lt. Ilia". Star Trek Communicator. January 1999. Archived from the original on 11 November 2013. Retrieved 7 October 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  6. 6.0 6.1 "Persis Khambatta, Movie Actress, 49: Obituary". The New York Times. 20 August 1998. Retrieved 2010-09-15.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>


  • The Globe: November 10, 1998
  • Beverly Hills [213] magazine: November 1998
  • New York Post: 20 October 1998

External links