Pardon us, but we’re just slightly crushing on Priyanka Chopra. We’ve been smitten all of 2015, especially when she landed on ABC as the no-nonsense, totally brilliant FBI recruit Alex Parrish on Quantico. She is the epitome of #goals: stunning and smart, badass enough to play kickass Alex, but feminine enough to play a regal Indian queen in Bollywood films. And she wants all women to win, and own it.
Priyanka’s name might be new to American households, but she is Bollywood royalty. We met with the actress at the Regency Hotel in NYC during a press run for her new film, Bajirao Mastani. Press from around the world waited their turn to speak with the beauty, while fans completely flooded the hotel with smartphones perched high to get a quick snap.
After speaking with the superstar, we fell in love just a little more. The total girl’s girl talked about the history behind Bajirao Mastani, a classic Indian love story set in the 1700s. In addition, she shared how she embraces the ambidextrous balancing of Hollywood sets with the colorful stages of Indian films. And all of the dance moves! She may be known as the “Beyoncé of India,” and her castmates call her Priyoncé, but it’s safe to say Priyanka Chopra is a star in her own right.
Check out the exchange below, and get inspired to crush your New Year’s goals with this dope woman’s insight.
Global Grind: I love that you balance two cultures, and the way that you do it is intrinsic to how multiracial kids do it, seamlessly moving within two cultures, or more at times. What’s it like balancing both worlds? What do you love about it, and what can get a little bit complicated?
Priyanka Chopra: I think you just have to be a little unapologetic about who you are. I think first and foremost to be able to do anything well, is that you need to own it. I love doing Indian films, I’m an Indian actor first. That’s what taught me to be the professional that I am today. I’m 15 years into my career so far, I didn’t go to acting school. I started when I was 18. Every single thing that I know, when I walk onto a set on Quantico, and I know exactly what I have to do and where my mark is, and then I can knock out a scene or a monologue in 20 minutes. And it’s because my film school was one of the most prolific film industries in the world. And I’m super proud of it. I really love Indian movies, and I get withdrawal symptoms if I don’t dance for awhile [laughs].
Bollywood films usually have themes centered around love, and everyone loves a love story. So what’s the theme of this movie?
Love [laughs]. Take a guess! But no, this movie is special because it’s inspired from history. Bajirao was a real character, Kashibai was a real character, Mastani was a real character. Bajirao Mastani is a folk Indian love story. It was 500 years ago, it was in the 1700s. And they were different religions, and at that time that was a taboo. And he was already married, but she was in love. But nobody ever talks about what happened to Kashi, because a forbidden love story is so interesting. I love the fact that [director] Sanjay Leela Bhansali etched a character to question what happened to her. She wasn’t even “the other woman,” she was the woman. What did she go through when this amazing love story and Mastani happened? For me, it’s like losing control of your life and not being able to know about it. I mean, if it was Alex in the situation, she’d be like, I’m out, see ya. But she can’t, she’s queen. She has responsibilities. So playing all of that was so much fun. Because I always get to play these badass women, and Kashi’s just graceful and dignified, and gentle, and… soft. It took like a spin of my head to actually get there a little bit [laughs].
Speaking of powerful women, people often call you the Beyoncé of India.
Yeah, my cast keeps calling me Priyoncé [laughs].
Have you ever met the Beyoncé of America?
No, I haven’t. I have met Jay Z though, with Jimmy Iovine. But I’m a huge Beyoncé fan. I love her. I think she’s such a power woman. I love the way she balances her personal life and her professional life, and I think that’s what, you know, women need to be like. It’s not mutually exclusive, like they tell us. We can have both. If guys can, we can, too. Plus that she’s a beast of a performer. Put her on stage and you’re riveted. But I want to be able to have my own identity. I’ve always emulated qualities from women that I admire, but I’m selfish enough to want my own path. Good, bad, ugly, whatever, at least it’s mine.
So many women say, “Priyanka’s my girl crush!” Do you have any girl crushes, and who are the women you look to when you need a little inspiration?
Well, my mom. She’s a complete overachiever. Way to set someone up for failure [laughs]. Please, double M.D., licensed pilot. She’s a graduate in kathak, which is like a traditional form of dance, extremely difficult, takes like insane practice and dedication. She’s a major overachiever, has like three businesses, even right now. So she’s a huge inspiration for me. But besides that, I love Audrey Hepburn. I love the way she lived her life, again on her own terms. I like women who live life on their own terms. Angelina Jolie, Beyonce. I like women who are unapologetic about themselves, but yet are feminine. You don’t have to be machismo to be a feminist. I think it’s great to celebrate womanhood, but at the same time, you’re no less. Whatever you can do, I can do better [laughs].
Bajirao Mastani hits select theaters Friday, Dec. 18.
PHOTOS: Getty, Falco Ink.