Indian American and former Pepsico head Indra Nooyi was on Sunday inducted into the prestigious Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery along with Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos in recognition of their accomplishments, impacting America’s shared history, development and culture. “To be an immigrant, a South Asian immigrant of colour, a woman to be included in the Portrait Gallery... it really says that we are the country where people look for the people who make a positive impact and celebrate them.
"It doesn't matter what your background, colour, creed, ethnicity is. As long as you've made a positive impact to the country, we are going to celebrate you -- actually memorialise -- which I thought was even more spectacular,” Nooyi told reporters during the portrait gallery induction ceremony.
“So, I feel very grateful to be making a home here in this country because this portrait gallery is an accolade which I've never dreamed of. And it's heartwarming to see this,” Nooyi said in response to a question.
Among others included in the portrait gallery were Frances Arnold, Lin-Manuel Miranda and Earth, Wind and Fire. The portrait of Nooyi, 64, has been drawn by artist Jon Friedman, who, she said, has done a "great job". “The way John Friedman painted is... he wanted to bring the inner me out in the portrait. So he took hundreds of pictures, then he picked one and drew from that,”
she said. The portrait looks like a photograph, but, Nooyi said, she watched him paint it as she saw it in different stages. “I watched every hair being painted and so he did a great job,” she said. “I think the big difference in my portrait is that they asked me a question, what's meaningful for you -- a picture of my parents, picture of my husband and kids, a picture of a PepsiCo annual report or a Yale (University) hat. All these are major factors in my life. So, it's in a way an unusual portrait because I have all that behind me, which most portraits don't have,” Nooyi said.
Nooyi said when she received a letter in this regard last year, she thought this was a joke and asked her PR department to take care of this job.
“They came back and said no, it's not a job, it’s for real,” she said, adding she came down to the Portrait Gallery thereafter to see for herself andrealised that portraits here are chosen to tell the story about the history of the country -- not just for the people here today, but for generations to come.
Kim Sajet, director of National Portrait Gallery, inducted Nooyi into the portrait gallery, recognizing her accomplishments as a businesswoman and also as an immigrant. “Indra has run a Fortune 500 company,” she said on the sidelines of the National Portrait Gallery’s gala that was being attended by several celebrities including former First Lady Michelle Obama and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. The sold-out gala raised about USD 2 million.
According to The Washington Post, the gallery has about 23,000 portraits in its permanent collection and adds 150 to 200 per year with 500 to 600 works on public display at any given time. “Historians consider new names and then work with gallery board members to select who should be included and commission their portraits. The process can take a year, even more if the sitter and artist take a long time to complete a work,” the daily reported.