Priyanka Chopra On Indian Treatments, Quantico & Beauty Standards

Photo: Tibrina Hobson/FilmMagic.
She may not be a household name (yet). But give it some time, the actress is new to these parts — and she knows how to blaze a trail. Star of the ABC series Quantico, Priyanka Chopra is the first South Asian actor to lead an American network drama series. It's a big job, but Chopra is up to the task. Before arriving on the U.S. scene, the now 33-year-old made a career in Bollywood — a pretty lucrative one, might we add — and took home the title of Miss World before that. We chatted with Chopra about the pressures of the industry, her biggest beauty regret, Indian beauty rituals, and that controversial whitening ad she starred in back in the day. Remember the name — and her easy-on-the-eyes face. You're sure to see a lot more of her very soon.
You're the first South Asian woman to headline an American network series. Did the fact that you're breaking barriers result in any added pressure for you?
"In the beginning, yes, because I was walking into unchartered territory and I didn't know anyone. More than anything, it was just the fact that I was coming to a completely different country and starting from scratch. But it was also exciting. As an artist, you're always looking to grow, and that's what I wanted to do. I've always been someone who enjoys pressure because I like winning — I can't help it. Now, I'm really happy the show has reached the success that it has — we've gone through so many countries around the world, we've been dubbed in almost 44 languages. It's amazing to get that kind of response."

A fan once thanked you for "making South Asian women relevant again." Why do you think representation — especially on television — is so important?
"I do think diversity needs to be [more] prevalent [in] the industry, and I don't just stand for South Asian women. I stand for global artists and international artists. Art is transcending languages and barriers, and I want to be a part of that movement — whether it's from the East to the West or the West to the East."

Your character on Quantico, Alex Parrish, has shorter hair now. Is that symbolic of anything?
"A lot of things have happened in Alex's life since we left it off at the winter finale. She messed up, she's in a bad place — she went through what she went through. The first thing I think women do [in these kinds of situations] is change their look. We think that by cutting our hair, we'll become new."

Do you prefer long or short hair, personally?
"I've had my hair long for about 15 years, and I decided to chop it off last year, right after I shot the pilot [for Quantico]. I don't know what I was thinking [laughs]. It was the first time in 10 years that I wasn't shooting for a film or something, so I just cut it off. Then, the pilot got picked up and I was like uh-oh."

Do you regret cutting it?
"No! My hair's grown back a lot now and I enjoyed it while it was short — I think it was fun."
Photo: Bob D'Amico/ABC.
I’ve read that you've picked up beauty treatments like coconut oil hair massages and yogurt baths from your family. Are there any other Indian DIY beauty treatments that you swear by?
"There's this thing that my mom used to make for me whenever I got sunburns and my skin was acting up. It's made with flour, yogurt, tomatoes, turmeric, and a squeeze of lemon. You mix it up and put it on your body like a mask. Leave it on for 10 minutes, let it dry, and then scrub it off — it really polishes your skin." It's interesting; Americans are kind of just now realizing the wonders of natural ingredients like coconut oil and turmeric.
"I'm so glad you guys discovered them — they should be something that the world uses. Coconut oil is like a tradition in the family, from a mother to a daughter in India. It brings them together and bonds them in a way... Turmeric is very healing, so whenever I was sick, my mother used to give me milk with turmeric powder in it. It heals you from the inside as well — it's magical. It's been used in India for thousands of years. In war, they used to put it on wounds." Has your mother influenced you, beauty-wise, in any way?
"My mom has always been a woman who takes care of herself; she looks incredible every day. She's always been about presentation and being proud of who you are and what you look like — being the best version of yourself. She's very adventurous, so I think she helps me to try out different things — to see what works for me and what doesn't." You faced some backlash for an ad you starred in for Pond’s White Beauty back in 2008. How do you think the standards of beauty differ in India from in America? And do you think they’ve changed since that commercial?
"The standards of beauty are different in every part of the world. In America, everyone's trying to get tan, and in India, everyone's trying to get fair — it's pretty funny. In any part of the world, judging someone's looks or judging how they are by the color of their skin is such a primitive thought. Somebody very wise said: Beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder. Beauty is subjective."
Looking back, do you still align yourself with the messaging in the commercial?
"I was such a kid, I didn't even know what I was doing then — I was like 22 or something. But I realized that it made me feel how I felt as a kid. I used to, jokingly, be called 'kali' by my family, and that means 'dark girl.' It made me really conscious of what I looked like. I used to use those [whitening] products as a kid and I thought they would work...and I guess I grew from that. That experience taught me that that's not something I want to do." What's the craziest thing you've done in the name of beauty?
"I love going to spas. After sleeping, it's my favorite thing to do. But [I] never try crazy [treatments]. I've always been really careful with my skin because it gets bruised and battered [on set]."

Are there any makeup tips or tricks you've picked up from your Bollywood or pageant days?
"All the makeup that I own has been given to me [as] charity by makeup artists, because I don't actually own any. They give me anything that they think looks nice on me. So, thank you to all of the makeup artists all over the world, who have contributed to my beauty bag."

Are there any makeup products that you've found that are particularly good for Indian women?
"MAC and Bobbi Brown are amazing for people with my skin tone...and Armani also has really good foundations."

The standards of beauty are different in every part of the world. In America, everyone's trying to get tan, and in India, everyone's trying to get fair.

Priyanka Chopra
Do you remember the first makeup product you ever bought?
"The first one I stole from my aunt (I was 13). It was a mascara. She left it behind on her dresser, and I started using it very lightly... After I started doing my own makeup, when I was about 17, I started learning about what worked on my face and skin. A lot of makeup artists used to use Kryolan in those days, so I did, too. And then I discovered MAC." If you could only use one beauty product for the rest of your life, what would it be?
"Skin care would definitely be moisturizer — that's one thing I can't live without. I'm obsessed with moisturizing and hydrating my hands, my face, etcetera. Makeup, it would be mascara or red lipstick because it can double as a blush, too. Do you have a favorite red lipstick?
"I love Cruella by NARS and Lady Danger by MAC." What would you say is your biggest beauty regret?
"When I first started, I didn't know anything about fashion or hair and makeup — I was literally learning on the job. So, it was always way too much of everything: big hair, big makeup, big jewelry, big clothes, big everything. Oh my god, I felt like a christmas tree. I probably looked like one, too." You wear a lot of hats — actress, singer, philanthropist, writer — is there anything you have yet to explore that’s on your career bucket list?
"I've never really had a bucket list. I feel like if you're a creative person, creativity can come out in so many different ways. You just have to channel it. I think that multitasking is a woman's superpower — it's in our DNA." What are you most excited for in the next five years of your career?
"To see where [my career] is going. I've only been here for one year. I want to be able to balance my Indian films and television and music — all of it. [Quantico] is just about six months old, so I'm a newbie... I want to see what life has in store."

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