In January, 2001, Aishwarya Rai made her Elle India cover debut. The choice for the first cover star of the new century was an accurate prediction, a precursor to the hysteria and adoration that would follow Aishwarya’s rapid ascent to the top of the Bollywood food chain.
Even then, she was in complete control, those piercing eyes staring straight into the camera as if to remind everyone who was in charge.
Sixteen years later, precious little has changed. Marriage, motherhood, long absence from the marquee — formerly considered death knells for an actress’s career — have done nothing to curb the enthusiasm with which Aishwarya is received, whether she appears on red carpets or on movie screens.
Take a look at her earliest shoots for ELLE by clicking through the gallery (above).