The airport officials who prevented the turban-wearing designer and actor Waris Ahluwalia from boarding a flight from Mexico City to New York City, where he lives and works, are not just incredibly ignorant and prejudiced. They have also never picked up a fashion magazine that might have featured Ahluwalia or heard of the filmmaker Wes Anderson.
Ahluwalia claims that he was denied entry into an Air Mexico plane because of his turban. The Indian-born Sikh, who has his own line of designer jewellery called House of Waris, was not allowed to board his Air Mexico flight to New York City, where he was scheduled to attend Fashion Week. The actor posted a photo of himself at the airport on the House of Waris Instagram account.
Ahluwalia is best known as a designer, but his sartorial sharpness and good looks have not escaped attention in the film world. His first screen appearance was in Wes Anderson’s The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou in 2004. Ahluwalia snugly fit into Anderson’s quirk-heavy and whimsy-driven universe, and he was added to the American director’s repertory. Ahluwalia also had small roles in The Darjeeling Limited (2007) and The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014).
Ahluwalia was most recently seen in Deepa Mehta’s Beeba Boys. Based on true events, the movie revolves around an Indian-born gangster in Vancouver (played by Randeep Hooda), who takes on a crime lord in a battle for control of the city’s arms and drug businesses. Ahluwalia plays the gangster Manny, who helps Hooda’s character reclaim his turf.
The racist treatment meted out to Ahluwalia was anticipated in 2006 in Spike Lee’s bank heist thriller Inside Man. Ahluwalia’s character, the turban-wearing Vikram Walia, is called for questing by the police because they think that he is an Arab. In this scene, he tries to convince the police to give him back his turban and rants about racial profiling.
In 2013, Ahluwalia became the first Sikh male to be featured in a campaign for the clothing brand Gap, but his posters were vandalised, with racist remarks such as “Make Bombs” and ”Please stop driving taxis” scrawled across the posters.