June 1, 2017


Priyanka Chopra Details the Racism that Littered her Rise to Stardom

Brooke Nipar for Complex
Brooke Nipar for Complex

It's a little weird using the word "come-up" when talking about Priyanka Chopra. She's already a huge star in India's Bollywood and is currently starring in ABC's Quantico, which isn't too shabby. But Chopra is on the up-and-up, and she's had to fight a lot of American prejudice along the way.

Chopra landed the cover of Complex, which was revealed on Monday (May 23), and she talks about the struggles she's faced while making it in America, starting with her schooling. She left India at 13 to study in Massachusetts, but encountered a memorable bully who made her return home:

“I was bullied by a freshman named Jeanine. She was black, and supremely racist. Jeanine used to say, ‘Brownie, go back to your country, you smell of curry,’ or ‘Do you smell curry coming?’ You know when you’re a kid, and you’re made to feel bad about where your roots are, or what you look like? You don’t understand it, you just feel bad about who you are.”

Priyanka, who just signed on for a Baywatch remake, picked Quantico for her career move because it doesn't stereotype her character as Indian: “I wanted to be seen as just an actor, not because of my ethnicity or where I come from."

And, like Aziz Ansari so pointedly displayed in Master of None, there's way too much stereotyping going on in Hollywood—she uses the Simpsons character Apu (a Quik-E-Mart clerk with a thick accent by actor Hank Azaria, who isn't Indian) as an example of how people in the U.S. view South Asians:

“There are so many Indian actors who have crossed over, and have done a lot of work in the West, but they’ve always been made to speak like Apu. I want to be able to break the stereotype of what Indian people or people of South Asian descent are supposed to be. Nobody’s supposed to be anything. You can be whoever you want. And I want young people to see that.”

Chopra explains that America is the worst at this problem, and other countries are more open to foreign film, particularly Bollywood movies:

“The Hindi film industry is a testament to that. We speak only Hindi, but we premiere in Germany and Japan. Our films do phenomenally well there. We transcend the barriers of language and culture. We welcome you in. I think that’s what art should be, and I hope America reaches that place.”

Read the full Complex interview with Priyanka Chopra here.