Priyanka Chopra knows how it feels to be disqualified because of her skin color.
“It happened last year,” she told the magazine. “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 use? — ‘physicality,’ ” Chopra recalled.
Initially thinking it was something about her frame, Chopra wondered if she needed to lose weight.
“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?” she said.
“And then my agent broke it down for me. Like, ‘I think, Priy, they meant that they wanted someone who’s not brown,’ ” she shared. “It affected me.”
She added: “No one will say that a woman is getting paid less because she’s a woman of color, but the numbers mostly end up reflecting that.”
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Although Chopra is now the leading lady of ABC drama Quantico, her success hasn’t come without trials, including bullying and sexism.
The 35-year-old actress’ first experience in the United States came when she was just a teen. After falling in love with America during a family vacation, she came to live with her aunt and uncle and attended high school in Queens, New York, and later Newton, Massachusetts.
“When I went to school here, I didn’t see anyone who looked like me,” the India native told PEOPLE in 2016. Her different culture made her a target for bullies. “I was called ‘Brownie’ and told, ‘Take your curry and go back to your country.’ It was hard. I wanted to go home, and I did.”
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Back in India, her mom Madhu, a doctor, submitted her pictures to the Miss India pageant. “I won and then I won the U.K.’s Miss World pageant,” Chopra said. “So it was a good thing I went back.”
Her gorgeous looks and pageant success made her a shoe-in for a Bollywood leading lady, and now, she’s the first ever South Asian woman to headline an American network drama.
“I believe in myself and my art so much,” said Chopra, who, aside from Quantico, has 50 Hindi films under her belt. “I’ve always trusted destiny. Wherever it takes me I just work damn hard at the opportunity.”