Despite being one of India’s highest paid celebrities and winner of the Miss World 2000 pageant, Priyanka Chopra wasn’t shielded from racism and sexism when coming to Hollywood, according to her new interview with InStyle.
“It happened last year,” Chopra told InStyle. “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.”
She says her existence as a woman of color puts her at a disadvantage, in terms of both getting roles and getting decent pay. The payroll gap is a problem that Chopra encounters in both India and the U.S., and she’s not the only woman facing it.
And nowadays, many actresses, including Chopra, are vocalizing their gender and racial pay disparities, reports Elle.
“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,” Chopra told InStyle.
She notes the difference is that in the U.S., people try to hide it. “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.”
Chopra says she’s even been told by producers that casting the biggest actress in a movie doesn’t make as many returns as casting a male.
Despite her long career, she’s still breaking the glass ceiling in Hollywood. Chopra became the first South Asian to headline an American network drama series with her present role in Quantico, where she plays an FBI agent who becomes the prime suspect for a terrorist attack on Grand Central Terminal.
When asked about how to start closing the gap, Chopra said, “It happens at the casting level. There are not enough meaty, strong lead roles for women where we don’t have to compromise on every level just to get the best job.”
She thinks that viewers also have a responsibility to support women in Hollywood by changing the way we view women. “People don’t go watch females in movies because they don’t believe that they can be heroes,” she said. “The world has to change the way they look at their heroes.”
Chopra grew up in a household led by a woman, with her now-deceased father having celebrated the talents of the women in his life. She thinks if more people took her parents’ approach, there wouldn’t be these types of problems anymore. “I just think merit should be the name of the game,” she said. “Stop looking at women as women and men as men—just look at us as our ability to deliver at the job given to us.”
Chopra is hopeful that women in Hollywood will continue to stand by each other in support, despite only a few of them actually getting the job in the end.
“We’ve been taught for eons that women need to fight each other, clamber and climb on top of each other to get that one job,” said Chopra. “And, now we’re seeing through it.”
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