Priyanka Chopra Says The Media Has A Responsibility To Mirror The Diversity In The World

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Diversity. It is one of those words that is bandied around a lot in the media, we read articles about executives who claim they want it in their networks, studios and productions, artists rally in the name of having it, but how do we actually achieve it? And it is only the responsibility of entertainment and media to fulfill our wishes to see our diverse cultures reflected back in the movies and TV shows we watch?

According to Bollywood actress and model Priyanka Chopra, the media has a vital role in promoting diversity. Priyanka, who famously became the first non-white and blonde woman to be chosen as the face of Guess international, is a living breathing testament to the power of diversity. In an essay as part of her new column series for Elle magazine called Pret-a-Priyanka, she goes into great detail about why diversity is not just a great idea, it needs to happen more.

She won the Miss World competition in 2000 at the age of 17 and had no idea the kind of fame that awaited her. The reception she got in India was overwhelming enough, let alone the global attention that would follow in the years to come. At the time she remembers little Indian girls coming up to her telling her that they now had hope because of what she had achieved.

“At 17, all that kind of talk was a little too intense for me to compute but I heard it very very often through the various stages of my career.  It gave me a few ‘pat yourself on your back’ kind of moments, but I mostly chalked it off to people being kind,” she writes.

“I am a girl from a small town in India, the daughter of two hard-working army doctors who achieved a certain success through hard work and determination.  I understood that it was my underdog story that offered hope to all the young people who nurtured a dream for themselves.  I tried my best to encourage people to look at the world as a place of opportunity and to just give their dreams a shot.”

It wasn’t until she started releasing music internationally in English, and doing the Guess campaign that her fame really sunk in. Her track with Will.I.Am ‘In My City’ was played during the NFL season for two years in a row, making her a mainstay in popular American culture.

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Not too long ago an American girl of Indian descent came up to her one day and hugged Priyanka and thanked her for changing the perception of what Indian people are like in western culture. This girl explained that many of her friends for so long equated Indians with Apu from the Simpsons or people who like to ride elephants. You know, stereotypical portrayals of a certain ethnicity that are allowed to exist because diversity isn’t.

“[She] said ‘Thank you for making us relevant…You broke the norm… the quintessential all-American girl has changed…. She can be of any ethnicity and culture…for the first time in my life I feel like it can be me too!’ That conversation was a real eye opener for me. It inspired me  to champion the cause of diversity in entertainment and media.”

Priyanka goes on to mention her new development deal with ABC Networks, who are now well-known for pushing the boundaries of “normal” thanks in large part to the success of Shonda Rhimes’ shows ‘Greys Anatomy’ and ‘Scandal’. She spoke of how Keli Lee the EVP of Casting at ABC is a big believer in bridging cultures from around the world through pop culture and entertainment. Priyanka happens to agree, which is why she is on a mission to do the same with her work.

“In my opinion, diversity means the inclusion of individuals representing more than one national origin, color, religion, socioeconomic stratum, gender, or sexual orientation, and it is the responsibility of the entertainment community to mirror the world we actually live in every day,” she said. Amen to that!

“To create a screen that shows color—not only black and white, but also brown, Asian, Hispanic, gay, and transgender—and cast an image of the “girl next door” that actually looks like the girls next door with roots from countries around the world.”

“Diversity is the one thing that we all have in common, and so I hope that my presence on your television is accepted for the characters I portray, and not judged by where I come from. We are, after all, citizens of the same world!”

Because it is arguably the most powerful vehicle of communication that exists in the world today, entertainment and media have a wonderful opportunity to set a new standard of excellence. And it will be down to people like Priyanka using their opportunities and recognizing the power of their choices in the fight to create a more inclusive and diverse world- whether on screen or off.

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