FIVE years ago, with just two suitcases and her dreams, actress and model Ayushi Chhabra left South Africa for Los Angeles, in the US, to pursue her passion.
Little did she know she would later find herself on set as a cast member of the TV series franchise Star Trek.
Earlier this year, Chhabra, 29, landed the role of Pel on Star Trek.
When Chhabra was 14, the family moved to Bedfordview, in Johannesburg, after her father got a job in the recycling industry. After matriculating at Bishop Bavin School, she studied broadcast journalism at Rhodes University where she graduated with honour’s in 2011.
That was also when her career in entertainment started. She was cast as a TV host on the lifestyle and entertainment shows Sizzle and East ‘N’ Style on ANN7. Both were produced by Shalandra Bunseelal, a film and TV promoter who also reviews movies for the POST.
“I was fresh out of college, but Shalandra saw a spark in me and gave me a chance. And sometimes all you need is someone to believe in you and your talent.”
While working as a TV host, she featured in a short film, Tender, for the 48 Hour Film Project.
“That was my first acting job and since then, there has been no stopping,” said Chhabra, who won Miss India Gauteng in 2009.
Recalling her move to LA, Chhabra said her life changed overnight. She studied at the New York Film Academy and due to her acting background was granted an entertainment visa to work in the country.
Since 2015, she has appeared in more than 50 adverts for brands including Apple, Emirates, GAP, Google Pixel, Target, Anastasia Beverly Hills and Samsung. She said she had been auditioning for film and TV roles for the past five years when she landed her role on the TV series.
“While I booked roles in films and web series, I got my breakthrough role this year as Pel. I didn’t know I was auditioning for such a huge franchise when I got the call from my agent to go for this audition. Due to NDA (non-disclosure agreement) reasons, the project’s name was different and the role was called something else.
“So I thought it was just another audition and I didn’t think too much about it. I just went in, read for the part and left the audition. The next day, I got a call from my agent and my life changed. All I heard was her screaming on the phone saying ‘You booked Star Trek’.”
On the same day, she had a prosthetics, hair and make-up test. “That’s how quickly things move in LA.”
She said her character was a pregnant Romulan (alien).
“The hair and make-up process was elaborate. From wearing a wig to getting prosthetic ears, a forehead and new brows to a different textured skin tone and a belly, it was a truly transformative experience.”
The process, she said, took four hours.
Chhabra said that despite not watching Star Trek as a child, she now considered herself part of the Trek family.
“I enjoy catching up on all the Trek stories I have missed It’s beyond fascinating.”