I like Priyanka Chopra because I can’t bring myself to hate on a fellow Indian girl. But my general “she’s okay” policy about Priyanka is just that – I think she’s okay, she’s fine, she doesn’t annoy me too much. I don’t think she’s a very good actress, but she’s very pretty and I like seeing Indian women on magazine covers and in fashion editorials. Beauty is diverse, and Priyanka is a hottie. Priyanka talks a lot in interviews too, which is also fine. Personally, I find Mindy Kaling’s interviews more entertaining, interesting and informative, but Priyanka talks about real sh-t too. Priyanka sat down with InStyle for a collection of interviews and essays they did around Equal Pay Day and the issues of feminism, pay equality and more. You can read the full piece here. Some highlights:
The pay gap between men & women: “I feel it every year, especially when you’re doing movies with really big actors, whether it’s in India or America. If an actor is getting 100 bucks, the conversation will start with max, like, 8 bucks. The gap is that staggering… In America, we don’t talk about it as brashly, whereas in India the issue is not skirted around. I’ve been told straight up, if it’s a female role in a movie with big, male actors attached, your worth is not really considered as much.”
Bollywood inequality versus Hollywood inequality: “A producer-director said to me, ‘Well, you know how it is in these big tentpole movies with the big boys. This is the budget for the girl, and we can’t move beyond that,’ which was, like, a measly five percent of what [the male lead] was getting. It happens in both countries, it’s just that here, it’s hidden behind other things. In America, everyone is so worried about being liable that they don’t want to say anything wrong, but they end up doing it anyway.”
How to negotiate as a woman: “I’m a producer, so I understand how much of an asset, as an actor, I would be on a project… I don’t negotiate—I make my [agent] negotiate. That’s step one. But I think negotiating is important. I’m not someone who is demanding. I’m conversational. So when I talk money, I’m not going to be asking for ridiculous amounts that I might not be able to bring back. It starts with me being logical and saying, ‘I deserve that much in remuneration. These are the returns that I see myself bringing to the table.’ And, usually most people come around when you place it like that.”
She’s lost parts because of her skin color: “It happened last year. I was out for a movie, and somebody [from the studio] called one of my agents and said, ‘She’s the wrong—what word did they used?—‘physicality.’ So in my defense as an actor, I’m like, ‘Do I need to be skinnier? Do I need to get in shape? Do I need to have abs?’ Like, what does ‘wrong physicality’ mean? And then my agent broke it down for me. Like, ‘I think, Priy, they meant that they wanted someone who’s not brown.’ It affected me.”
How she handles her own money: “I’m actually really careful with my money. I’ve earned it with a lot of hard work.” Once Chopra’s next batch of paychecks came in, her mother taught her how to invest, advising her daughter to purchase small properties and rent them out as office space. “It really paid off for me. Every month, you take a little bit out and invest it. It doesn’t have to be big investments, because I know how hard it is. Five years later, I was like ‘When did this happen?!”
She does splurge though: “I burn a little bit of plastic if I’m feeling emotional. And when I mean burn plastic, I don’t go, like, shopping at Saks… I’ll buy a car. I like to give myself a good life because I’ve worked really hard for it—I like having good homes, good cars, good clothes and shoes. I treat myself. ‘Cause ain’t nobody else going to do it!”
“The wrong physicality” – well, that’s interesting dog-whistle racism. Donald Trump doesn’t hate Mexicans, he just thinks they have the wrong physicality. He doesn’t hate Haitians and all of those people from the “sh-thole countries,” he just thinks they have the wrong physicality. See? The code word doesn’t make it any better. It’s still awful.
As for what she says about negotiating… “I’m not someone who is demanding. I’m conversational.” Because God help us all if a woman actually IS demanding. God help us if we don’t internalize the message, over and over and over again, that women must always make themselves smaller, that we must not be too talkative or too smart or too demanding or too emotional. And even then, if we follow all of those rules, we still won’t get the raise. Because it’s actually not about who is “demanding” and who isn’t. It’s about how women are devalued at every level of every society.