Priyanka Chopra covers the latest issue of Glamour Magazine and… I actually liked this interview. You know why? Glamour sent an Indian-American reporter to interview her, and they ended up talking about some Indian-girl sh-t, which appealed to me (as an Indian-American girl). They talked about colorism in India, the idea that Indian-Americans are sometimes seen as or called “the model minority,” the fears of not fitting within white spaces, all of that. Usually, Priyanka tends to avoid those questions, or who knows? Maybe no one bothered to ask her those questions. She’s currently promoting the Baywatch movie (she plays the villain) plus she’s promoting her ABC show Quantico. You can read the full piece here. Some highlights:
She appeals to everyone: “Kids from all over—not just Indians—come talk to me. I met this Dominican girl the other day who said, ‘Everyone tells me that I look like you.’ She gave me a hug, and said, ‘You gave me the strength to stand up onstage and give a presentation in school on where I came from.’ ”
When she first got attention for her looks: “After 15… it was great for my ego. Before 15, I had a lot of self-esteem issues. I was very conscious of the color of my skin. I was very conscious of being, like, a super-gawky, skinny teenager.
Self-conscious about her skin color: “[In] India, because there, you’re prettier if you’re fairer…. I’m, like, dusky. A lot of girls who have a darker skin hear things like, “Oh, poor thing, she’s dark. Poor thing, it’ll be hard for her.” In India they advertise skin-lightening creams: “Your skin’s gonna get lighter in a week.” I used it [when I was very young]. Then when I was an actor, around my early twenties, I did a commercial for a skin-lightening cream. I was playing that girl with insecurities. And when I saw it, I was like, “Oh sh-t. What did I do?” And I started talking about being proud of the way I looked. I actually really like my skin tone.
Wary of being “too Indian” in America: “Well, first off, I don’t think a lot of people understand what Indians are. And that’s our fault, a little. We tend to forget our roots a bit. As kids [we think], If I’m too Indian, I’ll be put in a box, and people will think of me as different. They’ll think I’m weird, because I eat Indian food or my name is difficult to pronounce…. You’re scared of those things. We’re afraid of letting people see the glory of who we are.
The idea of the “model minority,” of being quiet & acceptable: “And trying not to make a ripple. Staying in your lane—I heard that so much. I want to make my lane! And yes, it’s an extremely scary time. Maybe I, being on the platform that I am, can say this louder than the kid who has to get on the subway and go to school: You don’t need to be afraid of who you are. I don’t want any kid to feel the way I felt in school. I was afraid of my bully. It made me feel like I’m less—in my skin, in my identity, in my culture.
The stereotypes: “I did not want to be the stereotype of either Bollywood or what Indian actors are [usually offered]. The exotic, beautiful girl, or the academically inclined nerd. And I wanted to play a lead…. And I’m playing an FBI agent on Quantico. I didn’t settle for less.
She call herself “exotic” but you can’t: “Right. We can call ourselves that. You can’t call us that. When somebody else calls you exotic, exotic is a box—it’s the stereotype of snake charmers and face jewelry. You’re just that stereotype. But I don’t get offended anymore. I used to get offended by things that were said to me, or how I was seen. Now I educate. If I get pissed off, I’ll educate in a sassy way. Other times I educate in a Gandhi-like way. You know—I have my moods.
Whether she’s single: “Me to know, and you to find out. [Laughs.] I’ve always been someone who’s kept my private life a little private. When there’s a ring on my finger, I’ll talk about it.
I’m half-white and half-Indian, and my Indian aunts always praised me for being so “fair” while still looking Indian. It’s a thing in India, likely a remnant of the Empire days or who knows? But colorism runs deep in India and Indian women still face a lot of that bulls–t to this very day. The thing is, I would say that Priyanka IS “fair,” which is why she was chosen to do those skin-lightening commercials in India. At least she realized (after the fact) that it was a huge mistake. Also: I kind of love what she says about the word “exotic.” I’m going to borrow that – I can call myself exotic, you can’t.
Photos courtesy of Glamour.