Priyanka Chopra Jonas, the international actor whose film The White Tiger recently released on Netflix, spoke about the racism that she faced in the USA and mentioned that endorsing skin lightening creams as an actor in India was an “awful” experience.
In an interview with Marie Claire, Chopra Jonas said she was bullied in the USA as a teenager for her skin tone and spoke about the continued experience of discrimination in Hollywood.
Talking about her experiences as an actor in India, she said that she regretted her decision of promoting “skin-brightening” creams while she was an established actor in the Hindi film industry.
“(Skin lightening) was so normalised in South Asia; it’s such a large industry that everyone was doing it. In fact, doing it is still a check (mark) when you are a female actor, but it’s awful. And it was awful for me, for a little girl who used to put talcum powder cream on my face because I believed that dark skin was not pretty,” she said.
While speaking about racism in the USA, she mentioned that she had to “blindly introduce herself” at a Roc Nation pre-Grammys brunch in 2012. The USA media did not write about her when she released her debut single In My City, she said. When she was promoting a football game, she said some people reacted with cruel comments and someone wrote on Twitter, “What’s a brown terrorist doing promoting an all-American game?”.
“It’s so difficult to hear you talk about it right now,” she said, recalling her teenage days when she was bullied during her high school days in Newton, Massachusetts, where she lived with her extended family. Although she is still unsure of why she was bullied, she said: “It affected me adversely. It affected my confidence; it affected who I wanted to be. I felt exposed, when your skin is raw.”
“In high school, I feel like the kids who were after me didn’t even understand why. I think it’s that they decided that they were more powerful than someone else—me—and when you pick on someone, it’s because you’re insecure. Bullying happens to kids and adults. It happens with positions of power, and we’ve all seen that abused in multiple ways,” she said.
She said while Hollywood was a harsh place, it accepted the fact that difference is not a bad thing, which helped her to stand out. Recalling an incident from the first time she attended the Emmy Awards with comedian Aziz Ansari half a decade ago, she said they had counted the number of South Asians in the room.
“There were six. Aziz was like, ‘This is a lot. Years ago, there were two of us.’ I was cracking up. But that’s what it’s going to take: talent and people who want to work in the industry to see people from different parts of the world. I’m not going to be pigeonholed for the sake of representation,” she said.
Chopra Jonas, who is also a singer and producer, is awaiting the release of her memoir Unfinished. She said that she has explored her “unvisited vulnerabilities” in the memoir, which is releasing on February 9.
Besides her upcoming Hollywood projects Citadel, Text For You, The Matrix, the actor is also launching her own haircare brand named Anomaly, that she mentioned to be a metaphor for the “self-acceptance” that she has finally found. She said she hoped people won’t have to adhere to the restrictive beauty standards that she once had to.
“I’m an anomaly, and everyone else is in their own way,” she said.