A passion for helping others
Sophia Lauren,” Paul Marciano, CEO, creative director and co-founder of Guess, said of her. “With the Indian movie industry exploding on a global stage we could not have found a better global brand ambassador.”
Priyanka says she never really planned her career or her life and definitely did not set out to be an actor. “I wanted to be an aeronautical engineer. Going to Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the US was my ambition in life,’’ she says. But she began to accept roles in Bollywood following her MissWorld win and then, she says, “somewhere along the way I realised ‘Hey, I love doing what I do!’’’
The actress took a huge risk accepting a negative role in her very first film, Aithraz – something many Bollywood actors refuse for fear of being typecast or upsetting their fan base. Priyanka was praised by critics for her role as Sonia Roy, an ambitious woman who accuses her male employee of sexual harassment. But once that became a hit, there was no looking back. She was flooded with more offers and went on to do challenging roles including one in 7 Khoon Maaf – in which her character marries seven men and murders them all – and playing an autistic girl in Barfi!
Priyanka is not shy at trying her hand at biopics either. When five-time world boxing champion Indian Mary Kom punched her way into the limelight after winning a bronze at the last Olympics, Priyanka promptly signed up to portray her. The film about Kom, who was born to a landless farmer in Manipur, northeastern India, and overcame many challenges to make As the Goodwill Ambassador for Unicef, Priyanka works tirelessly for the cause of girls in India. “I guess the passion for social responsibility was sown early in my life,’’ she says. Her parents, Ashok and Madhu Chopra, who were doctors in the Indian Army, would conduct medical camps in small villages that had no health-care facilities. “My job was to help the pharmacist hand out pills to the patients. I took my job very seriously,” she says.
When she turned 13, Priyanka was sent to live in Queens, New York, with an aunt so she could get an American education.
“From Bareilly, in India, I was transported to American high school culture in the heart of Queens, almost overnight.
“High school, as you know, can be the world’s biggest culture shock and for me it was multiplied by a billion! It was a completely new and a foreign move for my life as I had known it.
“I went from being this good Indian girl from a small town in India to being a soul sister in my head, complete with the braids, puffy jackets and gold hoops on my ears. I spent all my pocket money on clothes. I was a good girl but I still managed to give my family a few sleepless nights,’’ she revealed recently.
When she was 17, she returned to her family in India and, six months later, walked away with the MissWorld title in 2000 at London’s Millennium Dome.
The title catapulted her to stardom and Bollywood, where she went on to win a clutch of awards, including one of the prestigious Filmfare awards, which recognise Bollywood films, while gaining millions of fans.
Today, she understands the power of stardom and wants to use it to make a difference. “It’s an important part of who I am. It’s a very individual thing, the feeling of giving back is very personal.”
Many movies and millions of rupees-worth of endorsements later, Priyanka is not showing