Priyanka Chopra Curated
Indian Actress, Miss World 2000
CURATED BY :
How do you keep your career interesting?
What’s the population of the world? Approximately 7.3 billion people? Imagine how many characters that gives me to play. I like to look outside at life itself and find new things to move me.
You’re one of India’s biggest stars, and projects like Baywatch and Quantico have raised your profile in the West. Is it getting harder and harder to just go out and watch the world go by?
I’ve been in the public eye for more than half of my life. This is my normal. If I go out and people don’t know me, I’m like ‘Is something wrong?’ No, I mean...I’m practical. I’m not someone who hides herself away or doesn’t want to be recognized and asked for a picture. That’s fine for other people, but I don’t understand it. There’s no free lunch in the world, and every job has a professional hazard, as I call it. But I am very private about my personal life. I do what I have to do, and I have ways of doing it.
You’re completely your own person. How did you get like that?
At an early age, I concluded that you’ll never know who you really are because you’re constantly changing. ‘Who am I?’ is such an absurd question. Every circumstance or person who comes into your life changes a little piece of you. I’m a bit romantic and philosophical, I guess. I just go with it and make the best of whatever comes my way.
What kind of person are you in tough times?
I shut down. I go into a shell. My wrath is pretty bad too. When I’m upset with someone, it’s like they cease to exist. It’s cold and scary, which is unlike me in every other way.
What upsets you more than anything?
I don’t like liars. Honesty is very hot. When you’re scared of the truth, it’s such a turnoff. I also get upset when people try to ‘handle’ you or don’t give you credit for your intelligence and try to manage you for a desired effect. I don’t like games, at work or at play.
To play devil’s advocate: doesn’t a character like Alex Parrish – a hot overachiever with a ripped body – sometimes make it harder for “normal” women to feel like they’re enough as they are?
Yes and no. I find it funny too—my hair isn’t perfect all the time, but Alex’s is. She’s my hot alter ego. It’s TV, so there has to be an element of fantasy. But, that said, when you see Bruce Willis saving the world and blowing up helicopters in a crisp white shirt, men don’t ask why you’re setting a standard for men to look like that. Why do women have to feel that way about it?
When Quantico premiered in 2015, there was a lot of talk about how you were the first South Asian woman to front a prime-time TV show. Where would you like to move the conversation now?
At the time, that was important, but now, I would just like to be ‘normal.’ We’ve established that I’m Indian. I’m extremely proud of my roots, but I’m not defined by my ethnicity. I want to just be seen as an actor and talk about my point of view and who I am as a person. I want to be able to show the world what I can do.
There have been a few A-list Bollywood actors who haven’t succeeded in cracking Hollywood. What difficulties do you think they faced, and what difficulties have you faced in cracking Hollywood?
There’s a couple of things. One, there is a very big stereotype with Indian actors, and you get only Indian parts. But there is a stereotype that there’s a certain accent and there’s a certain vibe and how is that cool. I felt a lot of that and I really want to be able to change that, for people to be proud of their roots. I know I went to school here and I know how much pressure I had to change myself and be a little more normal and acceptable and I think it’s great to be who you are. I also think that’s changing with so much globalization. You see so many people in so many jobs where ethnicities don’t matter, and I think that that’s a really great place in the world to be an actor and I’m happy about that.
What kind of roles do you find yourself drawn to?
I think parts that challenge me, in all the movies that I’ve done, I always end up doing something or the other which people turn around and said ‘how did you do that?’ And I enjoy that, I get bored really easily so I need something that keeps me engaged.
How did the Miss World pageant prep you for showbiz?
It didn’t. I was 17 years old, I didn’t know anything. I just went with my gut and I wanted to take a chance, I was in my teens and my parents supported me, and I was studying to be an engineer, and movies happened, my first movie did really well, and then I won all the awards, and more movies came, and I didn’t know anything. I’ve made so many mistakes along the way, but you just have to push yourself up again and that happens when you don’t have anybody telling you or guiding you or saying this could be a better way to do it ... when you learning on your own, you’re bound to make those mistakes. So I guess I was never at all, and I still am not prepared.
How challenging is it to navigate your film choices while being respectful of Indian cultural traditions?
I am who I am. I am desi, and I am videshi. I’ve been brought up in America, I’ve been brought up in India, and I think the amalgamation of that is what I want to be. I don’t want to be too western or too Indian, or too here or there. I want my work to reflect that. It always has in my movies and I want my music to do that too.
Being in the public eye, you are subjected to a lot of tabloid and paparazzi attention. How do you handle that and how much do you feel you owe your fans and the public?
That’s a difficult question. It hurts, and people are so judgmental so soon, and without seeing things for what they really are, they make their mind up, and I think tabloid culture helps that, encourages it. For me, I think people forget they’re real people too and we might feel too. So that kind of hurts, I don’t think I’ve gotten used to it yet. I don’t think I ever will. Besides that, I think, I have chosen to be a public person so I do owe a certain amount of my life to people who have made me who I am. So I keep my private life, it’s very private to me and I’m very protective of it ferociously, I think I keep just a little bit for myself and the rest of it can be for the whole world.
There are so many parts to the person that is Priyanka Chopra. How would you define yourself?
What are your dreams which you are seeking to fulfill?
What is it like for you as an actor when you’re in Hollywood or on the TV sets there and when you return to India and are on a set here? How do you look at both?
What qualities helped you breakout in Hollywood compared to other Bollywood stars who failed to do so?
Did you reject stereotypical Indian roles in movies or shows that were offered to you in Hollywood?
How different has acting in Hollywood been in comparison to acting in Bollywood?
Do you think the #MeToo movement hit Bollywood the same way it hit Hollywood?
How did your parents raise you in Indian society, where a girl child isn’t given the same kind of push the boys get?
Do you think celebrities should voice their opinion to make the general populace aware of social issues?
What drove you to participate in the Miss India and Miss World pageants?
How tough was it for you to break into Bollywood?
How did your story with Nick Jonas begin?
Being a small town girl with no film industry contacts, did you ever face any trouble in the course of your career? Did you ever feel uncomfortable in your journey?
How did you end up having a 3 day wedding?
How are you and Nick carving time for each other, given that both of you are superstars with a huge following?
Are you planning to bring Nick into the fold alongside you for social work?
What is your focus going to be in your future social work endeavours?
Having recently partnered with a dating app called Bumble, do you think there’s a cultural resonance for dating apps in India?
What’s next for you in the next five to ten years?
What made you associate yourself with Bumble?
Now that you’re living mostly in the USA, how culturally different would you say the younger generations of Indians and Americans are?
What etiquette would you ask people to follow on Bumble?
What are your thoughts on individual independence in a relationship?
You are now dominating the scene in Hollywood. Did you ever face racism in the West or in the course of your career?
What are your plans for the future?
How and when did you step into the stream of acting?
Do you believe in happy accidents?
Is the transition from being a beauty queen to an actor automatic? Can it happen to anyone?
What importance did the #timesup and #metoo movements have in the coming together of the younger generation?
What is your theory behind telling people to be ‘global citizens’?
How was your experience working with UNICEF in countries like Jordan and Syria where you interacted with refugee children?
As a goodwill ambassador for UNICEF, what are your thoughts on the violence across the globe?
Do you think violence is the result of the failure of leadership?
What advice do you have for women who tackle issues related to gender inequality?
What are your thoughts on the objectification of women in entertainment?
How can we change the thought process of parents who make their children choose academic degrees instead of giving them the freedom to pursue a career in arts and crafts?
What do we as humanitarians need to do to make the world a better place for the younger generation?
What goals are you setting with your production house Purple Pebble Pictures, which promotes regional film-making?
How can we work towards a better education system for the less privileged?
Where did your confidence to participate in pageants like the Miss India or the Miss World come from?
What makes you say that you believe in destiny?
How did your work ethic change after you became Miss World?
What according to you is the essence of being a good actor?
Do you have idols in the film industry?
Why are you displeased with the usage of the word ‘Bollywood’, which you have displayed time and again?
Was your transition into Hollywood pre-planned?
How was the experience of acting in Quantico?
Do you think we need more female producers to diversify entertainment?
Do you think your association with UNICEF is what got you into TIME’s 100 Most Influential People list?
How did the amazing reception of your role in Quantico strike you?
Do your achievements in Hollywood surprise you?
How did you react to your name being considered to be in TIME’s 100 Most Influential People list?
What are the sacrifices that you’ve made to come so far in your career?
Do you have a sense of entitlement after achieving so much in your life?
Given your stardom in Bollywood, did you feel weird about having to audition for Quantico?
What scared you about acting in Hollywood?
What kind of things did you experience when, as a child, you went out with your parents to rural parts of India to treat people who couldn’t afford medication?
What does empowerment mean to you?
Do you think the Indian audience will accept a character like Alex Parrish from Quantico?
How big is the gender pay gap in Bollywood according to you?
Being such a loud voice for feminism in Bollywood, where do you stand on the promotion of fairness products?
How was the experience of growing up in the US, where you say you had your first experience of racism?
What kind of backlash do you think you’ll face if you talk about social issues?
What is your opinion on the Indian censor board?
How different was the experience of working in TV in comparison to working in films?
How did your upbringing shape you as a person?
How difficult was it to prove yourself in Hollywood?
What are the struggles you faced that set your path towards a successful career?
What does feminism mean to you?
What’s your biggest challenge with juggling Hollywood and Bollywood?
Do you like to be associated with a project from its inception to the final product?
What are the unique factors that helped you stand out from the rest?
What is the difference between doing a cinema in Bollywood and doing one in Hollywood?
What do you have to say about the #MeToo movement?
Have you ever experienced any harassment as an actor?
Did your parents support you to grow up as an independent woman?
Do you feel that you as a celebrity have a lot of responsibilities towards society?
What drove you to go for the Miss India pageant?
What do you have to say about nepotism in Bollywood?
What made you start work as a producer?
How did your wedding with Nick Jonas happen?
Now that you are married. are you still willing to give away your life for your career?
Could you share the story behind your Met Gala look?
Could you share your views on Skin Clusion?
Why is Skin Clusion important to you?
How did you feel when you first came to the US?
Why do you call your husband OMJ?
You say that winning the Miss World pageant changed your life. Do you recommend it to other young ladies ?
What was the one thing that spoke to you so intimately about The Sky is Pink that you came on board not only as an actor but also as a producer?
This film really got me! It is so lighthearted... it doesn’t feel heavy even though it deals with such a heavy matter. When I read the story, it was clever, well-written and had a very modern take on relationships and had a real-life couple telling it to us. Every single scene in this film is told to us by Aditi and Niren Chaudhary (Aisha’s parents)... How Aditi (Priyanka) used to sneak into Niren’s (Farhan) house in Chandni Chowk, and he would put a helmet on her head so that people would think it’s a boy. Even the songs that you see; Aditi and Niren were and still are big-time Bollywood buffs — and most of Aisha’s (Zaira Wasim) video in the documentary that will come out has her dancing to Bollywood music. These are their stories and we have just incorporated them in a film. I found that so amazing that I had to call Sid (Siddharth Roy Kapur) and Ronnie (Screwvala) and say, “If you will have me, I would love to co-produce it.”
The film also deals with facing death. How personal was shooting that part?
It actually healed me a lot. It helped me deal with my father’s passing away in a very healthy way. I can never compare that to losing a child because that’s not the order of nature. It is something I cannot even fathom because I am not even a mother, but both Shonali (Bose, the director) and Aditi (her character) have lost children. I learnt from them and their experiences, but it helped me have a much healthier attitude towards death — which is to celebrate the life lived instead of (living in) the void that is created, and the sorrow of what is gone, because everybody has a journey and once it is over, they will go.
From the time you started shooting the film to the time of its release, your relationship status has gone from single to married. How much has your life changed?
I didn’t even know Nick when I came on board for this film. I knew him as a colleague, I knew him from red carpets and parties. Shonali Bose met me in January last year. I started dating Nick in June. So, I got engaged while filming this movie, I got married while filming this movie — everything happened under Shonali’s nose, literally. Yeah, a lot changed, but this film has seen me through it all.
Nick and you come from different cultures. Have you ever been surprised or shocked by each other’s customs or traditions?
Especially Nick, since we Indians are a little overboard with everything that we do... I think Nick is very Punjabi like that. He has a big family, he loves having friends and family around, and it’s all about the food and the music. But, yes, I think culturally, we are a bit louder. Nick speaks at a very low decibel, while we (tend to) talk over each other.
You’re not just an artiste but also a terrific businesswoman. What prompts you to put your fingers into so many different pies?
I know that I can, and that is why. I wouldn’t do it if I didn’t think I could. I only do things I can give my 100 per cent to, and I feel like I have set a standard for myself where I seek excellence, and not anything else. I seek something where I can leave my footprint behind, my legacy for my future children.
What is it like to wear so many hats?
You are strapped for time, all the time. You have a million things that you need to do in one day while doing something else. You don’t get enough sleep or enough personal time, but I’m an ambitious girl. I’ve always been driven, and my ambition drives me.
Can you tell us about your upcoming projects...?
There are some things that I am doing and there are some things that I am developing. I’m working on two Netflix films — We Can Be Heroes with Robert Rodriguez and The White Tiger with Ramin Bahrani. They are both American movies. The former is a kid superhero movie and I just finished shooting it. The latter is an English adaptation of the book of the same name, where I play the character of Pinki Madam. I am super excited about it as Ramin is an amazing director and I really want to have another immersive experience as an actor. At the moment, I am developing a project with Mindy Kaling, which is for Universal Studio and will be a ‘buddy’ comedy. Then there is Ma Anand Sheela, which we are writing at the moment and we’re looking for partners with whom we can do it.
How has your association experience with Blenders Pride Fashion Tour in the last 10 years?
It’s been such an amazing association. When we set out on this journey together, the aim was always to support and promote the amazing talent we have in the Indian fashion industry. It’s so fulfilling to see the way the Blenders Pride Fashion Tour has grown over the years and the many talents it has showcased. I’m proud to work with this team who are so thoroughly professional and passionately committed to making this event bigger and better every year. I’ve seen their energy and enthusiasm first-hand to put this fabulous event together year-after-year.
5 steps in your beauty regimen that our readers can take inspiration from.
- Take off make-up before going to bed - Have a daily moisturising routine for your skin – morning and night - Have lots of water - Less is more, when you wear make-up - Have confidence
Your can’t-do-without make-up product and why?
Mascara… because it opens and defines your eyes. It’s an instant pick-me-up.
Do you believe in experimenting with your make-up? What’s your favourite kohl and lipstick shade?
Of course! I love trying new colours and textures on my eyes and lips. It depends on what I am wearing and on my mood of the day.
Please throw some light on androgynous fashion that you’ve sported through blazer dresses, pantsuits, tuxedos and more in the last few years.
I am super moody with my fashion and I love to play with different styles that go from effortless and low-key to super feminine girly pieces. I also really like to push the boundaries and explore fashion from all angles.
We love your red carpet and street style - what do you prefer more? A gown, or a short dress for an outing?
Street style - I’m a jeans and t-shirt kind of girl at heart. It also depends on the outing, but I love to show a little leg.
From Desi Girl to Sky Is Pink promotions - which saree look was your personal favourite?
That’s a tough one. I can’t pick one saree over the other because I absolutely love how I feel when I’m wearing a saree. It’s feminine, it’s elegant and it’s versatile. The drape, the fabric, it’s as traditional as it is modern.
Could you tell us something about turning showstopper for the Grand Finale of Blenders Pride Fashion Tour 2020 - how was the experience?
Being the showstopper for Blenders Pride Fashion Tour over the years has always been a great experience. This one is extra special because of my 10-year-long association with the brand. It was wonderful to see the best designers in the industry come together to showcase the Pride of India. It’s a milestone for all of us involved.
Three years after Prakash Jha’s cop-drama Jai Gangaajal, you have another Hindi film coming up with The Sky Is Pink. How does it feel to be back to your first love, Bollywood?
It’s still my love. I couldn’t do a Hindi film earlier because three seasons of Quantico took up 11 months of a year and I just didn’t have the time or bandwidth. I love the new-wave films being made and how people are reacting to them. As a filmmaker and an actor who likes to do different things, I have a choice and was able to pick a film like The Sky Is Pink.
The film deals with the subject of loss. What drew you to it?
What moved me about this film was its take on family, relationships and loss. Indian culture teaches us to stay together as a family through all trials and this film underlines this even through the loss of a child. Instead of mourning death, Shonali (Bose, director) chooses to celebrate life. My mother, brother and I also agreed not to remember the last few moments before my dad passed away. We remember the man, his spirit and laughter, how he brought families together. Death is inevitable, yet we are afraid of it. Shonali changed my perspective through this film, healed me.
Shonali said recently that during a scene, you couldn’t stop crying even after she called “Cut”. Did it remind you of someone who is long gone?
In that particular scene Zaira’s (Wasim) character Aisha (Chaudhary) decides she’s not going to go in for surgery to extend her life because she doesn’t want to be bed-ridden for the rest of her life. My character Aditi agrees with the decision, but as Aisha’s mother during the scene, I kept thinking about what it must be like to lose a child. So, I just held Shonali and kept saying I was sorry she had to go through this, I couldn’t stop crying. You can empathise with the loss, but won’t really understand the feeling unless you have a child of your own. As a director’s actor, I spoke a lot to Shonali; I also spent a lot of time with Aditi Chaudhary (Aisha’s real mother) in London. The beauty of this film is that every family can relate to it because it’s about normal people with normal problems but extraordinary will.
Tell us about one such conversation with Shonali?
It was during a shoot in Delhi… we sat on a park bench and spoke for an hour. I was about to get married and was missing my dad. We had to shoot a difficult scene as well but we didn’t touch on it, just processed the loss. My dad had been ill and I knew it would happen but it was still painful. We spoke about the inevitability of loss and by the time we went back to the shoot, she didn’t even need to direct me.
Your on-screen daughter Zaira recently announced her retirement from acting, stating that her career was coming in the way of her religion. What do you think of her decision?
It’s a personal choice. Who are we to dictate what someone should and shouldn’t do? She is an amazing actor who has done incredible work. We will always wish her the best.
She has not been a part of the promotions, have you connected with her since her announcement?
I’ve spoken to her many times, but not about her decision to quit films. That’s none of my business. She’s an amazing artiste but maybe it was time for her…
In a recent interview, you spoke about wanting to have a baby. What is the one thing you really want to experience as a mother in real life?
The only thing I pray and wish for is a healthy child who can live life to the fullest.
What kind of a father will Nick Jonas make?
We will find out. It’s a hypothetical question about a hypothetical future.
Okay, what’s Nick like as a husband?
I can only relate to what I saw with my parents’ marriage. That was a marriage of equals, there was a lot of mutual respect and admiration. Nick and I have that too. He is the most considerate man I’ve ever met. In everything he does, Nick puts me first. It’s wonderful to wake up every day and know that there is this person who thinks about you even before you think about yourself. That’s eventually what you want, someone who loves you like a hug.
Did you see your dad in Nick?
The more I get to know him, yes. I feel I have married someone who is my dad’s chhavi. Not just the music, they are both very stable, solid, rooted and dependable.
Has Priyanka, as a person, changed much after the wedding?
I’ve become nicer and happier. This is the most content I’ve been in a really long time and full credit to my husband who is a calming presence while I run a million miles a minute. We are like each other’s Yin and Yang, that’s what you want to find in your partner.
What is your usual day in Los Angeles like?
We don’t have one as both of us travel a lot. Right now, we are based in New York a lot more than LA. When we have a day off, we don’t access our phones, just grab lunch, chat for hours, watch a movie, take Diana (their pet) for a walk… Nick loves walking in NY and I’m trying to learn how to do that since I’m not much of a walker. But there is something romantic about it, apparently.
What’s happening on the work front in the US?
I’ve just wrapped up a kiddie superhero movie with (director) Robert Rodriguez. It also has Pedro Pascal, Christian Slater and a bunch of other actors and 11 kids. Then, there’s the adapation of the book, The White Tiger and a romcom with Mindy Kaling inspired by my own wedding which I’m producing. I’m a huge fan and when I met her for lunch, we started talking about my wedding, her relationship with India and the story just came out from there. It’s a buddy comedy between two girls and travels from the US to India for an enormous wedding like mine. We are still writing that one. I’m also in talks for an American TV show but can’t divulge details. I’m producing two other TV shows in the US too but won’t be acting in them.
What’s happening with the show on Madhuri Dixt’s life in Denver?
We were developing that, but I don’t know what’s the status on it. It was a sitcom inspired from MD’s life, an Indian actor who moves to the US and what happens next.
Madhuri’s back in the Bay. Do you miss Mumbai?
Of course, I do, but I come back every two-three months because I have a home and work here. So, it’s not like I’m really gone. But I miss the city when I am away. Today I had fresh idlis after three months and it was a great start to my morning.
You are house-hunting in Los Angeles, we’re told...
Yup, we sold our house and are looking for another one. My work dictates my life in both countries so it’s important to have a base in India and the US. It will be Nick and my first home together and that makes it exciting.
Your brother Siddharth has reportedly found love again in South Indian actress Neelam Upadhyay…
Like I said with Zaira, I don’t speak about other people’s life because it’s not my business. You should ask him when you meet him next.
After you stepped out of Bharat, buzz was Salman Khan got upset and took jibes at you while promoting the film. Have you spoken to him since?
The only thing I’d say is that if there was a reaction required you’d have had it by now. Salman is amazing. I’ve always admired him. He came for Nick and my reception, we went to his house, I’m really close to his sister (Arpita Khan). So, there’s never an issue with him.
After Dil Dhadakne Do you’ve reunited with Farhan Akhtar for The Sky Is Pink. Can we hope to see you return with Don 3?
You will have to ask the producers that. No one has spoken to me about it, it’s been almost 10 years.
With this film you’ve made your debut as a Hindi film producer. Any plans to revive the Kalpana Chawla biopic?
I don’t believe in projects, I believe in stories. We are working on the script, when it’s ready, we will green-light it.
Meanwhile you’re playing Ma Anand Sheela in a film adaptation of a 2018 documentary on the Rajneesh cult…
That’s another script we are developing. I am doing it with Barry Levinson who directed Rain Man. I will be producing it.
Buzz is, another favourite director of yours, Sanjay Leela Bhansali, has approached you for his dream project, Gangubai, one of the mafi a queens of Mumbai. Simultaneously, it’s also been reported that Alia Bhatt is doing the film.
I have no idea. I haven’t signed a Hindi film yet because the two I’m doing in the US and the one I’m starting next year, are taking up my time. Now, it’s time to go shopping for the next film I’d want to do. I wanted to finish The Sky Is Pink first. I’m a fan of Sanjay Bhansali in whatever he makes, I’ll always be his fan.
What's the first thing you do when you go back to Mumbai, India?
If you and I were to spend 73 hours in India together, what would we be doing?
Can you tell me a misconception Americans have about India?
What's the scariest thing you've ever done?
What's the most common mispronunciation of your name?
What was your best pinch me moment?
Which award are you most proud to have received?
Do you think relevance of beauty pageant still exists?
It gave me a trampoline to my acting career. It gave me a sense of self, a sense of confidence to be able to stand in front of heads of state, to be able to speak in front of media from around the world, and actually know what I’m talking about
Did you find getting a good project tough in America?
there wasn’t a precedence. I didn’t have a road map to follow because there was no one who had done it before. I had to figure it out, walk into rooms, introduce myself, say ‘I am an Indian actor, my name is Priyanka Chopra, these are the kind of films I want to do’. I demanded playing leading ladies, instead of having parts which were the stereotype of what a Bollywood actor would usually get. Those also came to me, but I was very clear about what I wanted to do