Just a little over a decade ago, when Priyanka Chopra came to Hong Kong for a stage show in 2009 along with a handful of other Bollywood stars, she was so far down the totem pole her face barely registered in the fliers and posters studded around places where the 40,000-strong Indian diaspora cluster. At the time of writing, she has 54.8 million people following her every move on Instagram, 47 million on Facebook and another 26.3 million on Twitter.
Her glad rags to riches story can be paraphrased swiftly; unbeknown to her, her family submitted her name and photos to the Miss India pageant back in 1999. She won first runner-up and went on to enter Miss World, where she secured the title and bejewelled crown in 2000.
As is typical for most beauty queens in India, Bollywood beckoned her almost immediately and she signed on to do a handful of films. Her first Hindi film, The Hero: Love Story of a Spy released in 2003, did well at the box office; and there was no looking back. To date she has appeared in nearly 50 Indian films and won a trophy or trinket at every conceivable awards night in Bollywood.
What makes Chopra’s career trajectory so unique is the success she’s had in the West, while many notable others from Bollywood have failed to make any impact in Hollywood. The roster of names is long: from Persis Khambatta (Miss India 1965) to the beautiful Aishwarya Rai, no one else has become a household name in the Americas like Chopra has.
Chopra has landed on the cover of countless major Western publications (from a Annie Leibovitz-shot cover for Vogue to major fashion spreads in every high-end glossy), she’s appeared repeatedly on every major talk show from Ellen Degeneres to Jimmy Fallon, she landed a lead role on a network television show (three seasons of Quantico – and won two back-to-back People’s Choice Awards for it), and she released an album with singles featuring Will.i.am and Pitbull. She also had noteworthy roles in major crowd-pleasing films too such as Baywatch, Isn’t it Romantic and A Kid like Jake.
And of course, there was the tabloid romance with “Jo Bro” Nick Jonas and one of the most seen weddings of the decade. Draped in a 75-foot tulle veil by Ralph Lauren, walking the courtyards of Umaid Bhawan Palace in Jodhpur, Rajasthan, millions watched her wedding across all social media platforms.
For her profile piece in Time magazine, “The Rock” Dwayne Johnson sang her praises: “She has drive, ambition, self-respect, and she knows there’s no substitute for hard work.”
Chopra will next be seen in an adaptation of Aravind Adiga’s satirical novel The White Tiger and Robert Rodriguez’s superhero film We Can Be Heroes; both to hit Netflix this year. With Game of Thrones star Richard Madden, she’s set to star in Amazon Prime series Citadel. In Barry Levinson’s film Sheela, produced for Amazon Studios, she’ll take on the title role of convicted criminal Ma Anand Sheela. To top it all, she dives into The Matrix 4 with Keanu Reeves.
It was also recently announced that Priyanka Chopra-Jonas has just signed a two-year multimillion-dollar first-look television deal with Amazon making her one of the most influential celebrities on the planet, let alone in Bollywood.
With so many projects on the go, it’s abundantly clear that the one thing she’s not good at is taking a break.
Note: This story was originally published on SCMP and has been republished on this website.