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Her off-screen roles include duties as a brand ambassador for several charity organisations and campaigns.
She is a Goodwill Ambassador for the Joint United Nations Programme on AIDS (UNAIDS).
However, for the latter, she won a Screen Award for Best Female Debut.
In the 1998 big-budget Tamil romantic drama Jeans directed by S.
She was then crowned Miss World 1994, after which she began receiving offers to act in film.
She made her acting debut in Mani Ratnam's 1997 Tamil film Iruvar starring legendary versatile actor Mohanlal and had her first Hindi film release in Aur Pyaar Ho Gaya that same year.
In 1993, Rai gained huge public recognition for her appearance in a Pepsi commercial with actors Aamir Khan and Mahima Chaudhry.In 2000, Rai starred in Kandukondain Kandukondain, a Tamil language adaptation of Jane Austen's novel Sense and Sensibility.Directed by Rajiv Menon, the film also starred Tabu, Mammooty and Ajith Kumar in prominent roles.The film was a critical success and among other awards, won the Best Film award at the Belgrade International Film Festival That same year, she was cast as Ashi, a naive teenager in her first Bollywood film – Aur Pyaar Ho Gaya, a romantic comedy opposite Bobby Deol.Both Iruvar and Aur Pyaar Ho Gaya were commercial failures and reviewers were critical of Rai's acting ability in both the films.