Any literature on Priyanka Chopra would be just that – barely scratching the surface. She is bold, nuanced, flawed, performative – but most importantly, a force to be reckoned with. Like a phoenix, she keeps rising.
By Tsunami Costabir
Priyanka Chopra doesn’t need an introduction. Her career spans two decades of being an actor, public figure, producer, recording artist, entrepreneur and philanthropist. And regardless of your preferred medium of entertainment, you can’t ignore her. From Bollywood to Hollywood, television to web series, youtube, podcasts, books, and social media, Priyanka Chopra has carved out her place. And while women continue the fight to be accepted as ‘multifaceted’, she has been living that truth for years, proudly proclaiming, “I don’t want anyone to tell me that I can’t have everything.”
“Just because I’m a public person doesn’t mean everything about my life has to be public knowledge. I get to choose what I share and when I share it.”
2000: Miss World At 17,
Priyanka was named first runner-up at the Miss India pageant and went on to win the Miss World crown in 2000 at 18.
2003: ‘The Hero: Love Story of a Spy’
Priyanka won critical acclaim with her Bollywood film debut in the spy action film ‘The Hero’. After which, she went on to star in blockbusters like ‘Aitraaz’ (2004), ‘Bluffmaster’ (2005) and ‘Don’ (2006).
After suffering a few setbacks in 2007 and 2008, she delivered a performance that proved her standing as an actor in Madhur Bhandarkar’s ‘Fashion’.
‘Barfi!’ turned out to be a major commercial success, becoming one of the highestgrossing Bollywood films of 2012 in India and overseas, accumulating ₹175 crore worldwide.
The film received critical acclaim for its portrayal of differently-abled people and was selected as India’s official entry for the Best Foreign Language Film for the 85th Academy Awards. Director, Anurag Basu, described Chopra’s role as the “toughest” in the film.
2012: ‘In My City’
Priyanka launched her career as a recording artist with a song featuringhttp://Will.i.am of the Black Eyed Peas. This was followed by her song ‘Exotic’ with Pitbull in 2013.
Priyanka Chopra became the first-ever South Asian actor in television history to lead a broadcast show with ‘Quantico’.
Priyanka’s first Hollywood venture was ‘Baywatch’ where she played the antagonist, starring alongside some of Hollywood’s hottest stars, including Dwayne Johnson, Zac Efron, Alexandra Daddario and David Hasselhoff. Since then, she has featured in other Hollywood movies like ‘The Matrix Resurrections’, ‘Isn’t It Romantic’, and most recently, ‘Love Again’.
Citadel’ is a spy action thriller TV series in which Priyanka plays the co-lead opposite Richard Madden. Apart from it being one of the few spy thrillers to cast a female as the lead, it is also the first time in Priyanka’s 23-year-long career as an actress that she has received pay parity with her male co-star.
Family is an indispensable part of Priyanka’s story. She grew up close to her parents and describes them as her “biggest supports”. She has a tattoo on her arm that says ‘Daddy’s Little Girl’, written in his handwriting. Her father, Ashok, passed away in 2013 after battling cancer.
She says her mother, Madhu Chopra, has been the “brains” behind all her business and financial decisions. She (Madhu Chopra) gives parenting advice like: “The most important thing for a parent is to listen to them without imposing their own ambitions. This will help the talent to blossom.”
Madhu and Ashok both made many sacrifices in their personal and professional lives for the sake of their children, as parents do. They were both doctors in the Indian Army who quit practicing to focus on Priyanka’s career. Recently, Madhu got back into her practice through an aesthetics clinic that Priyanka started for her.
Priyanka has a younger brother, Siddharth, whom she credits with starting her career in entertainment. In an attempt to get his room back, Siddharth pushed their mom into sending pictures of Priyanka to the Miss India pageant. This way, she’d be out of the house. As history has it, his dreams worked out! Today, he’s a restaurateur.
Journey In Bollywood
While the industry is male-dominated and ruled over by certain film families, Priyanka rose to the A ranks and held her spot among Bollywood’s best for about a decade. Her first film, where she played the leading lady, was ‘Andaaz’ (2003), a box-office hit. Over the years, she delivered many such hits with ‘Mujhse Shaadi Karogi’ (2004) and had her breakout role in the 2004 romantic thriller ‘Aitraaz’, in which she delivered a stellar performance that won her numerous accolades.
A reviewer from BBC said: “’Aitraaz’ is Chopra’s film. As the deliciously wicked, gold-digging, scheming seductress, she chews up every scene she is in with her magnetic screen presence.” Chopra gained further praise for portraying a range of characters in ‘Kaminey’, ‘7 Khoon Maaf’, ‘Barfi!’, ‘Mary Kom’, and ‘Bajirao Mastani’.
“I no longer think of things as the end of the world. She was a true warrior and my inspiration every day.” – Priyanka on daughter Malti Marie
The film, ‘Fashion’ (2008) was listed by film critic Subhash K Jha as one of the best films of the decade with a female protagonist. It was noted for being commercially successful despite being a women-centric film with no male lead. Chopra said in 2012: “I think ‘Fashion’ kick-started femaledominated films. Today, you have so many other films which have done well with female leads.”
Moving To Hollywood
Priyanka is the first major Bollywood star to make a crossover into Hollywood. But what pushed her into it wasn’t just her “global domination” dreams. On the ‘Armchair Expert’ podcast, she opened up about how she was “tired of politics (in Bollywood) and being pushed into a corner.”
When her world seemed to be crashing down on her, Anjula Acharia, Angel Investor and Founder and CEO of A-Series Investments and Management, reached out to her, saying she’d seen her in a music video and connected with her to ask if she would be interested in building a career as a music artist in the US. Priyanka accepted, and Anjula has been her manager since.
On the ‘Armchair Expert’ podcast, she opened up about how she was “tired of politics (in Bollywood) and being pushed into a corner.”
In 2021, Priyanka joined the coveted panel of Bulgari Global Ambassadors. The list comprises A-list stars like Anne Hathaway, Bella Hadid, Julianna Moore and Lisa Manoban.
Marrying Nick Jonas
In August 2018, Nick and Priyanka caught the world by surprise when they announced their engagement. The couple had only been dating for a few months before they got engaged. Priyanka and Nick’s wedding superseded Royal Weddings! Moreover, the performances that were put up during the sangeet were spectacular – equivalent to Oscartype festivities!
Her husband is all heart-eyes for his woman. Most of his recent music is dedicated to and inspired by her. “I love being married to you. It is the greatest gift,” he said on Instagram. Nick’s family and friends had reportedly “never seen him like this, and they’re all really excited for him,” an insider told ‘People’ magazine when they got engaged. The queen of blending in effortlessly, she also won over her in-laws, Nick’s parents, brothers and their wives. The sistersin- law, Sophie, Danielle and Priyanka, refer to themselves as the ‘J Sisters’ – dancing the night away at every Jonas Brothers’ show and performance together.
Welcoming Baby MM
Priyanka has always been expressive about her desire to start a family and have children. In January 2022, the couple announced they had a baby via surrogate. Little did the world know, at the time, that their baby girl was born premature and spent 110 days in the hospital postpartum.
Priyanka details in an interview that because she had been, “so close to losing her so many times, she (Malti Marie) can get away with anything!”
Seeing her infant go through syringes and needles as a newborn has helped Priyanka take her life less seriously. “I no longer think of things as the end of the world.” She adds, “She was a true warrior and my inspiration every day.”
Priyanka started her hair care line, Anomaly, in 2021 to fill the gap in the market for sustainable, clean, vegan and cruelty-free hair care. In March 2023, Anomaly became the second richest celebrity beauty brand behind Rihanna’s Fenty Beauty, earning over $500 million in revenue.
Food is closely interwoven with Indian culture. Priyanka is the celebrity partner in NYC’s fine-dining Indian restaurant, Sona, owned by her friend Manish Goyal. The venture grew into the interior market as Sona Homes, with a line of lampshades, tableware, and much more.
In July 2022, Priyanka made her entrepreneurial debut in fashion with her husband, Nick, with the premium sportswear brand Perfect Moment.
In 2016, Priyanka was named UNICEF’s International Goodwill Ambassador for Child Rights. Since then, she has travelled with UNICEF to Ethiopia, Jordan, Zimbabwe and Bangladesh to meet with victims of humanitarian crises, refugees, and survivors of sexual violence.
“Along this journey with UNICEF, I have experienced firsthand the transformative power of empowering young girls with opportunities that are rightfully theirs. I am proud to stand with UNICEF to help build a world where children’s rights are respected and protected,” she said.
“I am completely and utterly flawed. I’m not perfect – like none of you are.” Priyanka has endured enormous scrutiny. From getting sidelined after a 15-year-long career in Bollywood, having people root for her failure, call her a scam artist, make fun of her marriage, call her a cougar and an opportunist, the list goes on…
Celebrities often succumb to the pressure of living a public life. They become recluses, battle addiction, and show violent and abusive tendencies. But not Priyanka. To her, it boils down to: “Are you going to swim or sink? And I will always swim.”
Any immigrant knows that it’s never easy to move away from your home, family, friends and familiarity to make it in a new land. But Priyanka doesn’t “carry the baggage of my success from one country into another.” She’s willing to start from scratch, prove herself repeatedly, and give whatever she does her 100%.
What was said in jest when asked in a ‘Vogue’ interview what the title of a book about her would be, Priyanka said, “Unfinished”. She followed that up with a 2021 memoir, ‘Unfinished’, detailing personal stories from her life. She describes the experience as “cathartic. I forgave myself for a lot of things that I hadn’t forgiven myself for.”
Despite being a public figure for more than half her life, Priyanka always puts on a brave front, never discussing her anxietiessadnesses, failures and struggles. “Just because I’m a public person doesn’t mean everything about my life has to be public knowledge. I get to choose what I share and when I share it,” she said.
20 years later, she felt comfortable enough to share certain parts of herself with the world. Her memoir details battling with depression, loneliness, a botched nose surgery, colourism, and the enormous scrutiny and pressure she has dealt with.
In her article for ‘TIME’ magazine, written by Dwayne Johnson, he gushed about his ‘Baywatch’ co-star: “She has the ability to inspire people to do more and achieve more. When I look at her success from the 50,000-ft. view and see everything that Priyanka has already done, is currently doing and has the desire and the bandwidth to do, I can see that her impact is going to be invaluable.”