After watching ABC’s “Quantico”, the tons of Bollywood masala movies she’s starred in or having heard one of her chart topping songs you might think that Priyanka Chopra is hugely talented, which of course is an understatement. But dig a bit deeper and you would find that she is made of much sterner stuff. Here is a quick dekko into the life and mind of this multifaceted woman.
As a teen, this international celebrity endured bullying while attending school in Massachusetts. She described herself as a nerd at 16, who grew up in India before moving to the United States. “Brownie, go home! Curry’s walking!” were some of the common refrains she endured besides being jumped by 2 girls which she fought back until school counsellors intervened.
Despite these unfortunate and unpleasant circumstances Chopra steeled through the 2 years before moving back to India where she won the Miss India competition—later she was crowned Miss World too. “I taught myself confidence,” Chopra said about her confrontations with bullying in her youth.
Not only is it refreshing to see a celebrity talking no holds barred about such intimate personal battles but also how she ‘taught’ herself confidence. The only motivation to speak about her struggles is to inspire young girls around the world to persevere in spite of what others say or do to put them down.
Besides inspiring girls, this international star puts her might behind girl’s education in India. “Education has always been very important to me. It means you don’t have to depend on anyone else.”
During the initial years of her career, when Chopra learned that her housekeeper’s son was in school but her daughter was not took, she took it upon herself to cover her housekeeper’s daughter’s tuition. This gender discrimination is very common in India where families have the means to educate only 1 child. In such a scenario, the funds are used to educate the son instead of the daughter.
This event remained with her and later became yet another trigger to create her own organization, The Priyanka Chopra Foundation for Health and Education. The Foundation is funded by her donations which are generally 10% of her earnings. With the funds the foundation provides for the education and medical care for 70 children, of which 50 are girls.
Rubina Maqbool Ahmed, one of the girls from the organization says that the influence Chopra has is tremendous.
“Girls, after a certain age, their parents prefer to have them married off,” Ahmed explained. “But when this opportunity came, my father decided, ‘I will let my daughters get an education.’” said Rubina, who herself is now 20 years old and in college studying computer science. Her sister remains in high school because of the foundation.
Along with being an advocate for education, Chopra is also an ambassador for Girl Rising, a global campaign for female education, “Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao.” As CEO, Holly Gordon of Girl Rising puts it, “Priyanka is one of the most recognizable people on the entire Asian continent. It’s impossible to overestimate her power in making it acceptable to send girls to school.”
Chopra’s pillar of strength and the source of her incredible resilience was her late father, Dr. Ashok Chopra. As a child she used to love the fairytale, Cinderella which led her father to tell her that, “you should not want to fit into someone else’s glass slipper. You should shatter the glass ceiling.”
Finally, as a source of her own inspiration, she has a tattoo on her wrist which reads “Daddy’s lil girl.” This serves as a reminder for her to keep pushing and keep shattering that ceiling for herself and others around her.
The former beauty queen’s sentiment is a worthy cause as it is a reality that many children, especially girls, in India are confronted with. Key influential actors in society, such as celebrities like Chopra, need to stress the importance of education because they are fortunate enough to have ready and available social platform in today’s tech-savvy time.