Nafisa Joseph was born in the southern India city of Bangalore. With the help of a neighbor, Nafisa began a modeling career at the age of twelve. Her beauty caught the eye of Indian fashion designer Prasad Bidapa. With Bidapa’s direction and assistance, she entered the Miss India Universe pageant in 1997 and at nineteen years of age, became the contest’s youngest winner. She placed among the ten semifinalists in the subsequent Miss Universe Pageant.
Her popularity landed her a hosting position on MTV India’s House Full for nearly five years. She also appeared in CATS, India’s version of the American show Charlie’s Angels. Nafisa became the editor of the Indian fashion magazine Gurlz. In addition, she became a strong and vocal advocate for animal rights, campaigning diligently for PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) and various other animal protection groups. She even wrote a weekly column called Nafisa for Animals for the Bangalore edition of the Times of India.
In 2004, she met and fell in love with businessman Gautam Khanduja and plans were made to marry. Just prior to their wedding, Nafisa discovered that Gautam was already married and lied about his divorce. When questioned further, he refused to answer and could not produce official divorce documents he claimed to have. Nafisa immediately called off the upcoming ceremony and broke off the relationship. She was distraught and sought consolation with her family.
On July 29, 2004, Nafisa hanged herself from a ceiling fan in her home. She was 25.