"That's so nice for me because I remember asking questions when I first started out and it's great to be able to give back like this."
The actress made her feature film debut as vamp Maya/Shilpa in "Arya", a psychological thriller written and directed by Manan Singh Katohora and produced by Tirlok Malik, founder of the NRI TV Film Club.
"I was destined for Maya's role. I easily transformed into the dangerous, sexy, determined Maya and in my preparation for the part, I didn't even smile for three months!"
She was nominated for best actress alongside Parminder Nagra of "ER" and "Bend It Like Beckham" fame. Other nominees included Sheetal Sheth ("ABCD", "American Chai") and Pooja Kumar ("Flavours", "Night of Henna").
"I was definitely the underdog in the best actress category so it was a true surprise to me to have won the award," says Shetal, who has also founded If? Productions - an organisation that promotes self-awareness through filmmaking.
An award-winning slam poet all set to perform at the Lincoln Centre, she calls herself "100 percent Indian" despite being born and brought up in New York.
SAMA was the first awards ceremony of its kind to recognise South Asian talent in the US and Canada.
"The fact that SAMA happened is proof that our (Indian) community is growing and succeeding in areas that were not thought of as viable just a short time ago," shetal says.
"And it is proof that we as a community have a solid foundation upon which upcoming artistes like myself can firmly stand on. I feel very proud of the hard work that has been put in by the pioneers of this South Asian community and because of them, my hard work is validated."
Musicians Raghav, Sumeet, Kidd Skilly, and Tina Sugandh performed at the awards function at the Miller theatre June 4 while fashion designer Anand Jon, supermodel Saira Mohan and theatre entrepreneur Geeta Citygirl were in attendance.