Up until now, the Model Spotlight series has featured beautiful women who were known in the glamour/fashion industry first, and only in the entertainment biz second. This trend changes with today's entry, a woman who has definitely graced a few photo ops and magazine covers in her time, but who's primarily known for her strong background in theater, television, and movies. Of course, like the previous entries in this series, she would invariably have to be of either Persian or Indian descent to garner my attention. And in this case, surprisingly, the subject of today's profile is a little of both! Ah, the best of all possibilities.
Hometown: Toronto, Canada
Accolades: 2008 Golden Nymph Award, Montecarlo Television Festival; 2012 Best Supporting Actress, WorldFest Houston; 2014 Actor of the Year, ANOKHI Magazine.
Best Known: As Kayla Hassan on FOX's 24.
Current: Can be seen starring in the 5th season of the USA Network series, Covert Affairs.
Born in Mumbai, India in 1982 to parents of Gujarati-Parsi heritage, Nazneen has lived, among other places, in Nigeria, London, Toronto, and L.A., where she currently resides. At age 9 when her parents settled down in Toronto for good, she took an interest in both drama and dance, going so far as to train in classical ballet for almost a decade. But it was while majoring in both psychology and sociology at the University of Toronto that Nazneen turned her attention toward theater, and the acting bug bit her hard!
Her big breakout role came in 2008 portraying Sergeant Layla Hourani, a Muslim-Canadian ICS agent fluent in 7 languages on the Canadian television drama series, The Border. The following year Nazneen moved to Los Angeles, auditioning for and securing the role of Kayla Hassan on the 8th season of the hit FOX television show, 24. In this role she would get to perform alongside legendary Bollywood actor, Anil Kapoor, who himself was also starring in his first American television role portraying her politically savvy father on the show, President Omar Hassan.
It was on 24 that I first became aware of Ms. Contractor. I'm always super attuned to the appearance of an actress of Middle Eastern or Indian descent on the screen, big or small, but I must admit I was particularly taken when I spotted President Hassan's daughter, Kayla, arrive on the scene. I was immediately smitten! And who could blame me? This woman is amazingly poised and so beautiful. She lends each role this unmistakable strength and centering that can only be a glimpse into who she must be off screen. So naturally I've tried to follow her career as best I could. I was pleased when she showed up in an episode of 2012's short-lived military drama, Last Resort, and even more so when I spotted her last year appearing in the mega blockbuster sci-fi flick, Star Trek: Into Darkness. She played the distraught mother worrying by her sick child's bedside at the start of the film.
Yes, these may seem like very small roles, but Nazneen is clearly going places. Her most recent film, Parts Per Billion, has her acting alongside the likes of Rosario Dawson, Alexis Bledel, Frank Langella, and Josh Hartnett (what ever happened to that dude?), to name a few. Hmmm, not bad. I will definitely continue to keep an eye on this rising star.
In the meantime, direct your own eyes to a few stunning photos of the lovely Nazneen Contractor below. Ah, why must the world be filled with such crushing beauty? It's simply not fair to torture a poor boy so!