If you haven’t heard of Priyanka Chopra, or PC for short, there is a high chance you’ve been living under a rock. Here in the United States, this would be especially true after her marriage to famous singer Nick Jonas.
The ultra-famous Bollywood movie star needs no man to polish her shine, however. She will leave a legacy in her own right.
I grew up on PC’s Bollywood movies.
When the Indian actor entered the stage of American entertainment, I was one of the happiest people I knew. Her show Quantico was one of the first to feature a South Asian female actor as the lead. In it, she played a powerful and intelligent FBI Agent. This was in stark (and much needed) contrast to her earlier roles in Indian cinema.
It was a big deal that the show ever happened. It was tremendous that the series was renewed twice, for a total of three seasons.
PC’s work in the world of entertainment doesn’t encompass the breadth of her accomplishments either. She is is a self-declared feminist who has contributed to the fight against female infanticide and foeticide in the global arena. These are still huge issues in many developing nations. She is also a current UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador.
There are a lot of good things to say about Priyanka Chopra.
One thing I’ve learned as a feminist and a writer is that people aren’t perfect. In fact, there’s no such thing as perfection. It’s a subjective method of measurement. I have written things in the past that make me cringe from embarrassment today. The acute desire to avoid this feeling causes me to carefully weigh the words I use. I still mess it up.
I want to preface the rest of my post with this point. I don’t expect anyone to be perfect, but I do hope that we are all striving to be better.
I am a Pakistani-American. I was born and raised in Texas, and I visited Pakistan often throughout my life since my extended family lived there. I have never condoned the human rights violations I noted while there. Many of these same violations are ubiquitous across South Asian countries.
I sought to understand the region’s national and religious tensions by getting my undergraduate degree in South Asian Studies.
Pakistan and its neighbor India have a relationship that has remained on the verge of collapse since the inception of Pakistan in 1947 after India gained independence from British Rule. During times when a breakdown of the two countries’ mutual understanding seems imminent, there is often an associated loss of civilian life.
Recently, the possibility of war has begun to loom yet again. It is important to keep in mind that both India and Pakistan are nuclear powers, which makes the need to establish peace even more urgent.
Here’s where Priyanka Chopra fits into all of this. She recently spoke at a BeautyCon event, held in Los Angeles.
A Pakistani-American named Ayesha Malik was given the mic to engage with Chopra. She questioned the actor’s commitment to peace, considering Chopra is a UNICEF ambassador, in the wake of heightened tensions between the two nations. You can watch the exchange here.
Malik referred to Chopra’s tweet on February 26, 2019, in which Chopra saluted the Indian Armed Forces. This was also the date that India “launched an airstrike on Pakistan’s side of the disputed Kashmir region.” The airstrike was in response to a suicide bombing that killed upwards of 40 Indian soldiers earlier in the month. A militant faction of Kashmir took responsibility for the fatal attack on Indian soldiers. The problem didn’t begin there.
Kashmir is one of the most divisive issues between the two countries. This violence from both sides has a long-running history.
While Malik had the mic, she called Chopra “a hypocrite” in response to Chopra’s comments during the BeautyCon panel about “loving her neighbors and accepting other cultures.”
Pakistan and India are, after all, neighbors.
Malik emphasized that “there are no winners here.” She was speaking of the fact that both countries are nuclear powers. War will cause tremendous loss of innocent civilian life.
After security snatched the mic mid-sentence from Malik, she projected her voice in order to be heard. Priyanka Chopra responded in a way that can best be described as deeply condescending. She replied, “Whenever you’re done venting. Got it. Done? Okay, cool.”
Chopra also said nothing to stop the aggressive mic-snatching.
She then continued by letting the speaker and the audience know that she had “many, many friends” from Pakistan. Chopra instructed Malik to not yell, even though the mic had been inappropriately grabbed from her.
Chopra concluded with the remark, “Don’t embarrass yourself.”
Priyanka Chopra is a celebrity, and she has been supported by South Asians of many different nationalities and faiths.
I take issue with Chopra’s blatant and disrespectful dismissal of a South Asian American woman. She could have stopped security from aggressively snatching the mic from Ayesha Malik. She could have understood that the speaker was then left only with the option to project her voice. She could have responded with basic human respect.
She could have remembered that feminism is not about silencing women.
Yes, this was a public forum at a beauty event. It wasn’t a political talk. However, when an entertainer decides to become a sociopolitical figure, she is opening herself up to this discourse in many different spaces. This is especially true in this case because Chopra made comments about respect and love toward neighbors and other cultures to which Malik directly responded.
If Chopra intends to live by her philosophy, she has to do it even when it doesn’t immediately serve her business interests.
Even if Chopra thought the venue wasn’t right for such a dialogue, the extent she reached in order to demean Malik was egregious.
Belittling a person who is brave enough to step up is what’s really “not cool.” There were dozens of more authentic, less patronizing ways to handle that situation.
Priyanka Chopra has now become an international public figure. She has worked hard for that. Many people, especially South Asian women, have supported her in her journey and look up to her.
Now, on this global stage, her words and actions matter more.
I hope she realizes this.