There’s More Than Just Priyanka

Before I begin, let me clarify that I, in no way, intend on bad-mouthing Priyanka Chopra’s career. Throughout its entirety, Chopra has faced her own obstacles and has chosen her own way of how to deal with them. However, although she solved her own obstacles she indirectly created obstacles for young Indian women.

Where it all began

During the first week of school, I sat with one of my best friends, Sruthy, and spoke about my application article for Her Campus UFL that talked about the hypersexualizing of hispanic women. All my life, I always thought about my own experiences as a Hispanic woman, and I ignored the discrimination that other women of color face. Once Sruthy mentioned the hypersexualizing of Indian women, we both identified the lack of representation and, in many cases, the misrepresentation of Indian women.

After discussing with both of my best friends, I felt as though I owe it to them to share their stories. There is no singular way of being an Indian woman, yet the media has portrayed them as ‘exotic’ women and have emblazoned them with a false identity.

Priyanka’s move to Hollywood

Everyone knows who Priyanka Chopra is, at least now that she married a Jonas Brother and starred in her own television show, “Quantico.” Chopra is an A-list star in India and found that it was time to move into Hollywood. However, her transition into American stardom started a chain reaction in the roles she would later be cast in.

During one of her principle projects, she starred alongside Pitbull in a music video titled “Exotic.” The term exotic has always (at least for me) been associated with animals, like a peacock would be an exotic bird. Now, if we use the word exotic to describe a woman, what does that truly mean? Chopra’s video has garnered almost 180 million views. Close to 200 million minds have been told Indian women are exotic creatures.

While I believe it’s every woman’s right to express her body and her sexuality whichever way she sees fit, it’s alarming that an actress with such a high profile would expose herself to the stereotyping of society. Throughout the video, she is seen in little clothing, and by pure magic, a gust of wind constantly follows her, swaying her hair in all the right places. Forgive me if I’m wrong, but not all Indian women emerge from the jungle in booty shorts for a choreographed number. So why is this the only image Hollywood makes for Indian women?

Throughout the majority of her Hollywood career, Chopra has played white-washed roles. Now here is where the importance of a name lies. Both of my friends (not my only friends, I promise I have more) have traditional Indian names, Aditi and Sruthy. Neither of them is ashamed of her name even though I, and countless others, butcher it with every breath. Even Chopra’s own name is a traditional Indian name. Yet, instead of sticking to her roots, she has countlessly played parts where her character displays a western name. In “Baywatch,” her first mega movie role, she played a character named Victoria Leeds; in “Quantico,” she played a character named Alex Parrish. In the movie “Isn’t it Romantic,” she played a yoga ambassador and part-time bikini model named Isabella. No, I’m not implying all Indian women have traditional names or that Chopra should only play traditional roles, but it is alarming that one of the few Indian actresses in Hollywood is being used as a sexual object in movies.

Wait, what about Quantico, the one show where she’s an FBI agent? Well, this is just a media play on incorporating women into more masculine positions of power. As I watched the documentary “Missrepresentation,” one of the interviewees spoke about the “Fighting F*#$ Toy” theory. This theory (excuse the name), occurs when filmmakers create female characters that follow action-type plot lines, yet are sexualized to the max in order to appeal to a wider audience.

Yes, Alex Parrish is an FBI agent, but she’s also placed in love triangles and has a blowout in every scene. One of the main problems we see with these type of film representations is the dependency created for the female on the male character. Alex always falls back into the lap of her lover/co-worker Agent Booth.

Chopra has always spoken about the need for a feminist movement in India yet all she’s notably done is advocate for a female-initiated online dating app named Bumble. Don’t get me wrong, I understand the need to make money, but if you call yourself an advocate for feminism, why do continue to choose roles that demean our gender?

Indian women with normal body types have to be funny

“Priyanka Chopra isn’t the only Indian actress in Hollywood.” Yes, I know — thankfully we have Mindy Kaling. Mindy Kaling is a goddess. Not only is she unapologetically herself, she speaks truly about her experience as an Indian woman who didn’t fall into the stereotypes.

By being herself, she did fall into the stereotype that Indian women with real experiences have to be funny. From Liza Koshy to Lilly Singh, Indian women who choose not to be sexualized are automatically placed into the category of being funny.

This is a problem that I’ve seen first-hand. My own best friend views herself as just the funny girl who no guy would want to be with (girl, same), but this is because the reflection she sees on TV is that any Indian girl above a size 0 has to be funny, shy or nerdy. No Indian girl who isn’t a size 0 could ever be seen as sexy or wanted.

There should be a broader portrayal of Indian women. Indian women don’t fall into one side of the spectrum.

Aditi and Sruthy: between two Indians

Aditi and Sruthy have both been an integral part of my UF experience. We’ve all bonded over our senses of humor, our love of food and most importantly, our love for each other. It’s a strange feeling for me to know, for a fact, I have made two friends for life.

Sruthy and I have known each other since elementary school. I remember her being a happy little girl with a cute haircut that she detested. We both joke about how my mother has a secret crush on her dad (Daddy Lu), therefore making us sisters. Sruthy truly loves her culture and has never shied away from showing the whole world the beauty behind India. Here’s the thing I want Hollywood to understand: my friend Sruthy is a smart, funny and beautiful Indian woman with an immensely hilarious dad and a passion for dancing (go GatorAdaa) who has a story worth telling. You don’t have to sexualize women for their stories to be interesting. The most important aspect of making a story worth telling is its rawness and empathetic value.

Now, here comes my short Starbucks Hot Chocolate, Aditi. At one point during a high school, I had a screenplay in mind for her where mother nature was trapped into her little 5-foot body. It was meant to be a comedy about her frustration of the world around her that cared so little about the environment and animals. If you can’t tell from the synopsis, Aditi loves animals. Her love of animals keeps her driven in school and life because she knows that she will make a difference in their lives.

There’s so much more to Indian women than what’s portrayed on screen. It’s in our own hands to make a difference and change the preconceived narrative Hollywood has created. We have to say no to the stereotypes and write our own stories because, as we all know, there’s more than just Priyanka.