Her dramatic Met Gala dress was the talk of the evening, but for many fashion followers around the world, the name Natasha Poonawalla is a familiar one. The Indian businesswoman and philanthropist is known as much for her style choices as her jet-setting lifestyle and celebrity friends, as she's often spotted at some of the biggest fashion events across the world, hobnobbing with everyone from Priyanka Chopra Jonas to Katy Perry and designer Christian Louboutin.
The striking Met Gala look she wore on Monday, celebrating the Indian sari, was created by Indian designer Sabyasachi and worn with an ornate Schiaparelli Couture corset that curved over her head. Accessorised with custom Sabyasachi Fine Jewellery pieces, her take on this year's theme, Gilded Glamour, which honoured New York's 19th century golden age between 1870 and 1890, was one of the most memorable looks of the star-studded evening.
Who is Natasha Poonawalla?
Natasha is the executive director of the Serum Institute of India, the world's largest manufacturer of vaccines. Her husband, Indian billionaire Adar Poonawalla, is chief executive of the company, which produces, among others, the Covishield coronavirus vaccine developed by AstraZeneca and the University of Oxford. Natasha is also chairwoman of the Villoo Poonawalla Charitable Foundation, named after her late mother-in-law, a responsibility that takes her to events around the world.
Natasha was born in Pune, Maharashtra, where she grew up. She later went to pursue her master's degree at the London School of Economics. It was during this time, while on holiday in Goa, that she would meet her future husband Adar at a New Year's Eve party.
"We’d see each other every few months. His focus was clear from day one. He was like, ‘I like you. I know I want to get married. This is it'," she told Vogue India of their budding long-distance romance.
Adar is the only son of Indian billionaire Cyrus Poonawalla, chairman of the Cyrus Poonawalla Group, which includes the Serum Institute of India. Last month, Cyrus was named fourth on Forbes magazine's India's 100 Richest People list, with an estimated fortune of $24.3 billion. He ranks 56th in the world.
Natasha and Adar got married in 2006 and now have two boys, Cyrus and Darius.
Friends in high places
Often branded a socialite, Natasha, who was on the cover star of Vogue India in December last year, told the magazine she was so much more than that.
“I think I was misjudged a little bit,” she says. “People saw me dressing up and said, ‘She’s that fashion person on the racecourse.’ But I didn’t feel the need to expose the serious part of my life to everyone.”
The serious part, as an executive of the Serum Institute of India, was highlighted during the coronavirus pandemic when her and her husband's company became a key player in India's fight against Covid-19.
"This year, people have realised what I do,” she tells Vogue India.
Still, there's no denying her A-list friends, including her close friendship with Bollywood star Kareena Kapoor Khan and her sister Karisma Kapoor, as well as actresses Malaika Arora and her sister Amrita Arora, all of whom appear often on her Instagram feed.
French designer Louboutin also makes regular appearances.
"There’s nothing in the world like friends who make you giggle non-stop," she once posted with a photo of the two of them.
Chopra Jonas and her husband Nick are also often seen photographed with Natasha, and so are Bollywood actress Sonam Kapoor and husband Anand Ahuja.
In January, when the Jonases announced they were expecting their first child together via surrogacy, Natasha posted a congratulatory message along with a photo of herself with the happy couple.
"Congratulations PC and Nick! Thrilled for you guys… brace yourself for life’s greatest joyride! Wish you all the love and strength for this new chapter. From sleepless party nights to sleepless parenting nights — with you all the way!" she said.
A life in fashion
Natasha's Met Gala appearance on Monday was not her first time at the event.
In 2019, she turned heads in an icy-blue custom-made dress by designer Peter Dundas. The crystal embellished mini-dress worn, with a detachable draped skirt in blue and cinched at the waist by a silver belt, matched the theatrics on of the red carpet. As a nod to her Indian heritage, Natasha completed the look with a diamond maang tikka on her forehead.
Of her headline-grabbing dress at this year's Met Gala, she told Vogue India that she chose the Sabyasachi-Schiaparelli ensemble because it was "strong but feminine" and "a powerful tool for social change”
“Fashion to me is wearable art. Art in this sense is communication — it allows people from different cultures and times to communicate with each other via images, sounds and stories," she said. “I feel blessed to be present and happy to have survived the struggles that came with being part of the effort to fight the pandemic."
Scroll through the gallery below for the best-dressed celebrities at the Met Gala 2022: