Star Trek Profile: Persis Khambatta

Persis Khambatta as Ilia in  Star Trek: The Motion Picture

Persis Khambatta as Ilia in Star Trek: The Motion Picture

Indian lifestyle website The Better India recently published a profile of Star Trek: The Motion Picture actor Persis Khambatta. Khambatta played the Deltan Ilia in the film, which is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year.

Born on October 2nd, 1948, in Bombay, India, Khambatta was just 13 years old when she was “discovered” by a photographer and became the face of Rexona soap. At 17, she was crowned Miss India, and in 1965 became only the third Indian woman to participate in the Miss Universe beauty pageant. After her pageant successes, she worked solidly as a model and Bollywood actor. Khambatta was 29 years old when she was cast as Ilia in Star Trek: The Motion Picture

After Star Trek, Khambatta had the honor of becoming the first ever Indian woman to present an Academy Award, in 1980, and in 1997 she wrote and published the book Pride of India, a pictorial anthology of Indian women in beauty pageants. According to Wikipedia, the book was dedicated to Mother Teresa, and some of the proceeds went to benefit her charity. Khambatta’s last on-screen role was that of the Chair of the Congress of Nations in the 1993 pilot for Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman. Persis Khambatta died of a heart attack in 1998, at the age of 49.

Posthumously, the Persis Khambatta Memorial Award was started in 1999 and is now given annually to the top graduating student from the National Institute of Fashion Technology in India.

You can see Khambatta’s performance as Ilia for yourself, when Star Trek: The Motion Picture celebrates its 40th anniversary with a limited theatrical release, on September 15th and 18th. For showtimes and tickets, head to

This article was written for the podcast Daily Star Trek News.

Alison Pitt is the writer, producer, and host of Daily Star Trek News, on the Roddenberry Podcast Network. A veteran Star Trek podcaster, she started her career on the weekly show Priority One: A Roddenberry Star Trek Podcast in 2015. She has appeared on panels at Star Trek Las Vegas, WonderCon, and San Diego Comic Con.

Alison Pitt