I met Priyanka Chopra for a dinner the same evening that the Cut (in a now deleted piece) badly embarrassed itself by publishing a horribly sexist and racist piece that called Chopra a global scam artist for marrying Nick Jonas. It was soon after her wedding reception in New Delhi, and Chopra was already back at work.
She was hosting a small dinner to launch her innings as a tech investor in Bumble, a dating and social networking platform that is programmed for women to make the first move. Jonas was by her side as was Whitney Wolfe Herd, the founder of Bumble. I have known Chopra for more than a decade. While at dinner, I asked her how she made sense of the Cut’s bizarre hit job on her.
She just shrugged her shoulders in disdain and made a passing reference to how strangely spiteful the piece was. She then moved on without a blink and spoke of how she would divide her time between Los Angeles and Mumbai.
She didn’t want to spend more time on the Cut. The naked prejudice and ignorance of the editors was well-deserving of her contempt. The outrageous lead said “Nicholas Jones married into a fraudulent relationship against his will this past Saturday, December the 1st,” which suggests that Chopra is the lesser deal in her relationship and hence desperate for validation. The writer and editors obviously had no clue that Bollywood (the Hindi film industry) sells more tickets every year than Hollywood and also makes many more movies. In 2012, 1,602 films from Bollywood led the pack compared with 476 films from the United States and 745 from China. Well before Chopra snagged a lead role in ABC’s “Quantico,” she was already all the rage in India, adored by millions. In a film industry often dominated by family dynasties, she is a middle-class girl — the daughter of army doctors — who is entirely self made. And quite honestly, were she an American getting married to Jonas, I suspect at least Indians wouldn’t have been interested at all.
No disrespect to Jonas, but at least in our corner of the globe, it’s Chopra we know, not him. So it’s ludicrous for the website to suggest that she needed Jonas to up her profile. Most of us had to Google him. Then, of course, there was all the asinine cultural caricaturing. The Cut was worried for Jonas: She “never even took the time to make sure he was comfortable riding a horse before arranging for him to enter their wedding ceremony on horseback.”
A billion Indians laughed out loud. Could the fact-checkers not have done a Google search on Indian weddings to discover the “baraat,” a token tradition that involves the groom perched on a horse, surrounded by his family and friends and usually accompanied by a boisterous brass band. We also have a tradition in which the woman’s side hides the shoes of the groom and doesn’t return them until he pays up. I am surprised the Cut, in all its wisdom, did not include this as an example of Chopra’s extortion and bullying.
Or was the only problem that none of this was white enough or Western enough to make sense to the American audience? Or is it just that they couldn’t handle that an (older) brown woman got married to a white man and has been featured on the cover of Vogue; made appearances on Ellen, the View and Jimmy Kimmel; and speaks in a confident American twang (and not the clumsy English you thought Indians speak) can be comfortable with her roots, her lehenga, her music, her dance — and yes, the horse, too? Honestly, when I first saw the excerpts from the Cut, I thought it might be feminist satire. After all, how could anything this misogynistic, xenophobic and meaningless be anything but a failed attempt at irony, especially from a platform that is the “premier destination for women with stylish minds.” Because whoever could write “Priyanka’s plan to make this Nick Jonas opportunity her forever b---” obviously has no mind at all.
I looked up the author, Mariah Smith on Twitter, to discover that she is a black woman. It makes the internalized racism of the piece even more tragic. She describes herself as a “Kardashian truther,” and though I am not exactly sure what this means, perhaps she believes in the power of notoriety of all costs — such as the reality TV family of her affection.
But eventually the buck stops with the editors at the Cut. They may have taken down the piece, but they can hardly act as if this slipped through the cracks. There is simply no defense for this disgusting personal broadside. It just proves the point yet again: The world is afraid of ambitious and successful women of color. As Chopra once said to me in an interview, “Ambition is like a cuss word for a woman. When a man is ambitious, he is called driven. When a woman is ambitious, it’s a bad thing. It is the irony of our world.”