Celebrity news, beauty, fashion advice, and fascinating features, delivered straight to your inbox!
Thank you for signing up to . You will receive a verification email shortly.
There was a problem. Please refresh the page and try again.
In 2003, Sonali Mukherjee was a vivacious 17-year-old college student living in Dhanbad in eastern India when her life was devastated by three male neighbors. The men sexually harassed Mukherjee every morning as she left for class. When she threatened to tell police, the men crept into her room one night and doused her with acid. She was brutally disfigured: The acid burned off most of her face, leaving her almost blind and partially deaf.
Although there are no figures for acid attacks in India, they're almost always perpetrated against women — as are nine-tenths of all violent crimes in India — and activists say such crimes are on the rise. Worse, many perpetrators escape severe punishment. (Mukherjee's three attackers were each sentenced to nine years in prison but were released after serving a little more than two.)
During the next nine years, Mukherjee underwent 22 painful reconstructive surgeries that bankrupted her family. Last year, needing still more surgery that she couldn't afford, the despondent Mukherjee wanted to end her life. "I thought it would be better to die," she says. Because euthanasia is illegal in India, Mukherjee wrote a letter to the government requesting permission.
Then something extraordinary happened. Before the government replied, Mukherjee's heart-wrenching letter was leaked to the media and went viral. Moved by her story, a producer on the country's most popular TV quiz show, Kaun Banega Crorepati (KBC), India's version of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire, asked her to appear. Mukherjee saw the invitation as a possible lifeline — if she won, it might help fund her treatment.
Last November, millions watched as Mukherjee, wearing dark glasses and a red scarf around her scarred face, discussed her plight. "For years, I have only left the house to go to the hospital. It has been like a jail," she said. Members of the studio audience were in tears.
Mukherjee went on to answer 10 questions correctly, winning the jackpot of 2.5 million rupees ($46,000). The audience erupted with joy. Mukherjee says the prize money helped pay for her next round of surgery and restored her will to live. "I know I will never be beautiful again, but now people tell me that my courage and words are beautiful."
By exposing millions of viewers to her tragedy, Mukherjee also helped highlight the problem of acid attacks. After years of inaction, in February the Indian government approved a law that would imprison acid attackers for 10 years to life. The Supreme Court also directed officials to discuss regulating the sale of acid, and to set up a fund for victims. Mukherjee believes the outpouring of sympathy generated by her appearance helped to spur the legislation. The brave survivor says that when she recovers from her operations, she plans to devote herself to speaking out on behalf of other acid attack victims. "I don't want what was done to me done to any other girls," she says.
How to Treat Hormonal Acne: A Dermatologist’s Guide
Peace out, PMS pimples.
By Samantha Holender
The Best Sweaters, According to Our Editors
Bring on the knits.
By Brooke Knappenberger
5 Practical Things You Can Do to Protect Democracy
Advice from top celebrities and Michelle Obama herself.
By Erin Geiger Smith
Rep. Katie Porter's Secret to Being an Effective Politician? Being Prepared
The Congresswoman spoke with Marie Claire about facing off with the CDC director over coronavirus testing.
By Erin Delmore
This 87-Year-Old Hospice Patient Asked Her Doctors to Let Her Live to See the Women's March
What an inspiring and incredible woman.
By Gina Mei
Rosa Parks's Wisest Words
By Diana Pearl
8 Times Gloria Steinem Said What Women Were Thinking
Go speak your truth.
By Diana Pearl
The Blogger vs. The Dictator
She's been called a liar, a traitor, a spy, and a hero. Cuban dissident Yoani Sánchez first caught the world's attention with — what else? — a blog.
By Abigail Pesta
Queens of the Hill
Connections are currency in the nation's capital. So if you want to get in with D.C. power players, start with these in-the-know women.
By Marie Claire
Alyssa Mastromonaco: The White House Gatekeeper
Of the many players working behind the scenes for the president, few wield as much quiet power as Alyssa Mastromonaco, 37, the White House deputy chief of staff for operations — and the woman who sits some 15 feet away from him.
By Reid Cherlin
Falling Toward Grace
Six years ago, a parachuting accident left extreme-sports daredevil Karina Hollekim near dead. Doctors said she'd never walk again, that her life as she knew it was over. But in the grueling years that followed, Hollekim had an epiphany: What if losing everything was the best thing that had ever happened to her?
By Jim Rendon