Persis Khambatta was born in Bombay. Her father left her family when she was two years old. She first gained fame when a set of her pictures casually taken by a well-known Bombay photographer[who?] was used for a successful campaign for a popular soap brand. This eventually led to her becoming a model. She entered and won the Femina Miss India contest in 1965. She was the second winner of Femina Miss India and third Indian woman to participate in the Miss Universe pageant. At the Femina Miss India contest, she also won the Miss Photogenic award.