There are gamechanging actors and then there is Priyanka Chopra Jonas. Having starred in more than 70 movies, Priyanka is one of the only actors on the planet to have made the tricky transition from Bollywood to Hollywood, while using her 60-million-strong Instagram platform to raise awareness of the rights of young women across the world. Here, the winner of our Women of The Year 2021 Gamechanging Actor award opens up about refusing to be held back by society’s glass ceiling…
As I dial via Zoom into the London home of Priyanka Chopra-Jonas, I am greeted with that knowing smile. As a second generation British-Indian woman, I’ve exchanged that very same smile with the grandmother who passes me on the street in her salwar kameez, the few South Asian colleagues I’ve ever had in my career or the young girls huddled at a bus stop. Often, it’s less of a smile and more of a feeling like the heart emojis I’m sent after failed dosa-making attempts on social media (why are they so difficult?). And when that exchange occurs it makes you feel seen, supported and says: ‘I get you.’
Priyanka greets me bundled up in a cream and black jumper and immediately asks, “How are you Anitha?” pronouncing my name the way my cousins do back in India. As we talk about our families it becomes apparent that despite a Bollywood meets Hollywood fairy-tale, things haven’t always been straightforward for Priyanka.
The 38-year-old is currently staying in London (home for her is usually Mumbai or LA) to film a new romantic drama called Text For You, starring alongside Sam Heughan and Celine Dion as well as a new Amazon Studios TV series called Citadel. As it’s snowing outside, I make a painfully British quip about how she’s finding the weather here: ‘I’m OK,” she laughs. “This fire is keeping me warm,” referring to the too-large fireplace roaring just behind her.
Priyanka Chopra has been a household name in India since the early 2000s, since she won several beauty pageants as a teen, including Miss World. This opened the door to Bollywood where she rapidly rose to become one of the industry’s most high-profile actors.