Priyanka Chopra Makes History At The People’s Choice Awards, Becomes Poster Girl For Diversity

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When high fashion label Guess announced that Bollywood actress Priyanka Chopra was to be their first official woman of color for a campaign in 2013, the world took notice and praised the fashion house for diversifying its iconic look. But in 2015 when Priyanka made the successful crossover from Bollywood to Hollywood by playing the lead role in the ABC drama ‘Quantico’, it was game on for diversity in mainstream entertainment.

Priyanka is part of a generation of actresses who are teaching audiences as well as networks and studios that character and story go beyond skin color, gender and physical appearance. And in a fitting nod to her presence on screen, she just made history by becoming the first South Asian woman to win a People’s Choice Award, for Favorite Actress in a New TV series.

Let’s not forget she also became the first South Asian woman to headline a prime time American TV series for role as FBI agent Alex Parish on ‘Quantico’.

“It’s my first year in America. And to come to another country, and actually to get this kind of acceptance, I guess what America is all about. Thank you all for accepting me,” she said in her acceptance speech.

The significance of her win and her presence on TV is certainly not lost on the 33 year old who in the past has spoken at length about the need for more diversity in entertainment.

In an interview with Cosmo Magazine in late 2015, Priyanka talks about how important it was for her to put her foot down when looking for suitable roles, and not just play into stereotypical tropes.

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“I’m always playing the Arabian princess and stuff like that, so I wasn’t interested.​ Indians, so far, with an exception of very few actors, have always been put into a box. This is all that we can do and all that we can play. I want to be able to playany role, which has nothing to do with anything else except for the fact that I’m an actor. Any nationality can be Alex Parrish, which is important to me,” she said.

She wants to perfect the balance between acknowledging her Indian heritage, while not being limited to that fact alone.

“I think that I am a huge example of that. [My character] happens to have a name like Alex, but I am absolutely Indian, a modern Indian-American girl. I just feel like as a people in the world, we’ve created too many boundaries. We need to be really proud of where we come from but not expect to only be that, because the world is a global place right now,” she said.

If anything, the entertainment industry is primed to be the shining beacon of diversity, but unfortunately it is still held back by antiquated mindsets which make it harder for a variety of characters and stories to break through the mainstream. Priyanka told the LA Times in October around the premiere of ‘Quantico’ that the industry has an imperative to change.

“Entertainment is entertainment, cast the right person for the job. Let’s get beyond looking at each other for where we come from,” she said.

For Bollywood fans, fear not, she is still well and truly a Bollywood babe at heart and has not abandoned the industry that made her a household name throughout Asia and beyond. In a recent interview for Indian journalist Barkha Dutt’s ‘Townhall’ series, she spoke at length about why diversity matters to her, and why she is now taking her role as a global advocate seriously.

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Priyanks said she felt a duty to represent Indian cinema and Indian actresses in a positive light to Hollywood, and help break down barriers.

“I had to prove that Indian actors are not just what you believe Indian actors are not just what you believe Indian actors are which America does unfortunately. You know, we dance around trees etc, we left that decades ago. Indian cinema has a voice today, we are a celebration of stories, and we do it through music, that’s our culture,” she said.

When asked whether she faced any stereotyping from her audience, she talked about being labelled an “Arab terrorist” after her song ‘In My City’ became the official Thursday Night Football TV anthem for two years. Her perspective on the backlash due to her skin color was interesting.

“Racism exists everywhere in the world, you can’t focus only on that. I have been welcomed so much in this country,” she said.

It’s clear we need more Priyanka Chopra’s on our screens, challenging the narrow boundaries of what we see on a daily basis. Hollywood has the opportunity to enable a generation of young men and women to grow up seeing themselves represented in a variety of story lines, characters and situations in entertainment.

You can watch Priyanka’s full interview with Barkha Dutt in the video below, where she shares more thoughts on solidarity with the LGBTQ community, feminism, and the problem of ageism toward women in the film industry. It is worth watching it in full:


 

One Comment

  1. Pingback: Feminist Conversations: Bollywood Babe Priyanka Chopra And Actress & Humanitarian Olivia Wilde - GirlTalkHQ

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