Priyanka Chopra Shares Her Thoughts On Diversity, Racial Identity & Feminism

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By now you are familiar with this stunning face. Bollywood actress Priyanka Chopra has been inching her way toward Hollywood over the past few years and has now landed in our living rooms as the star of ABC’s prime time show ‘Quantico’ where she plays FBI agent Alex Parrish who is accused of committing a crime and has to try and prove she is innocent.

If you are an avid reader of GTHQ you will also be familiar with Priyanka’s humanitarian work and advocacy, and her ideas about diversity in entertainment. In an interview with Cosmo magazine ahead of her big ABC debut, the actress talked about the importance of having someone like her be a representative for diversity on a very public platform in the US and around the world, and why feminism is important to her. In some of the images below you can see she is passionate about wage inequality and uses her voice to speak up about this problem.

Her character on ‘Quantico’ is not defined by her race or her looks at all, and that is an important part of diversity, allowing it to be there visibly, with out “tokenizing” it, as has happened to her many times in her career, especially in trying to make the leap to Hollywood.

“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.

Priyanka says it is important to her to be allowed to play ethnically ambiguous characters, but at the same time not forsake her Indian identity in any way. It is a hard balance to find especially when Hollywood does a great job at stereotyping women and minorities.

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“They can absolutely make roles like that. 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.

She recalls going to school in America as a young girl and says many people didn’t know how to say her name. Priyanka believes the race boundaries will become more and more irrelevant when we speak out about our identities, and not try to water it down simply because another person doesn’t know how to pronounce a word. In this process, she believes it will help to alleviate any possible racism.

“I think, you know, we shouldn’t look at is as it’s racism. It’s just teaching people a different way of being. Instead of changing ourselves, I think that it’s important to own who we are and our culture, and we need to show people that in the best possible way instead of hiding from it,” she said, adding that she found when she told people her last name was pronounced like “Oprah”, it became easier for others.

Coming from a conservative Indian culture, to a much more liberal-minded industry like Hollywood, playing a character like Alex Parrish who doesn’t shy away from her sexual desires was important for Priyanka.

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“She’s someone who’s flawed and [she] has been portrayed as an analogy for a woman who takes charge of her own life. It’s empowering in that way, which doesn’t say that sexual freedom is what empowerment needs to necessarily be. It’s extremely individual to each one of us,” she said.

This is certainly an important aspect of modern feminism, where women are reclaiming their own sexual identities away from the misogynistic systems that have maintained them for so long, but often in the process women are shamed. Just look at how Miley Cyrus and Beyonce has been treated. It’s as if when men are controlling women’s sexuality, we see that as acceptable, but when women do it themselves, all of a sudden it’s considered “shameful”. So we need characters like Alex Parrish to break down stigma and portray women as just as complex and sexual as men.

The interview turned to the topic of gender violence in Priyanka’s home country, and she talks about the two perspectives she has being an Indian woman but having gone to school in the States and now working here. For the former Miss World winner (2000), her passion for feminism comes directly from the way women are treated in India.

“In India, [feminism] has empowered me and this is a very, very important cause to me, so I’m very passionate about it. But I feel that women need to have a voice. That’s the basic right of the women, and that’s global. When a woman says something, she shouldn’t be judged or silenced because she’s a woman,” she said.

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“The first step to empowerment and feminism is freedom for a woman to be able to be who she wants to be without being judged or objectified. For centuries, women have always been told to be a certain way or behave a certain way, and it’s time women decide what they want themselves individually.”

There is a lot of evidence that women are being empowered in India in new ways thanks to the way the international media has started to report on the horrific rape and violence committed toward them, and Priyanka is excited to see this.

“The generation of India today is taking charge of their own life and they’re actually talking about it. The young generation today is standing up for a movement where respecting women is extremely prevalent. Yes, it’s going to take time. It’s not going to happen overnight. We can critique and say there’s so much that we have to do, but we will, because now we’re aware of it and we take responsibility for it,” she said.

And for those of you die-hard Priyanka fans in either country, she said she will continue to make films in Bollywood while balancing her burgeoning Hollywood career. In the meantime for the rest of us, it is exciting to see ABC continue to make bold decisions in the name of diversity, especially when it comes in the form of a feminist like Priyanka Chopra.

Hear more of her thoughts about gender equality and the rape problem in India below:


 

 

 

2 Comments

  1. Pingback: Feminist Conversations: Priyanka Chopra, Edgar Ramirez, & Model Adwoa Aboah - GirlTalkHQ

  2. Pingback: FEMINIST CONVERSATIONS: Priyanka Chopra, Amy Schumer, Kether Donahue & Kalki Koechlin - GirlTalkHQ

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