Priyanka Chopra Jonas opens up about struggles with her skin tone as a teen

Priyanka Chopra Jonas lightened her skin in her teens

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As a woman who pays attention to the patterns of the universe, Priyanka Chopra Jonas can smile about the neat loop in her own life. She’s one of the few actresses to ever make the leap from Bollywood to Hollywood, but now she’s circled back to the start, when she was crowned Miss World at the age of 18.

Then, it was the start of the new century, and a wide-eyed Priyanka found herself whisked from India to London to parade at the just-opened Millennium Dome. Now, two decades later, she’s back living and filming in the capital for a year.

It’s an exciting time for her career but the ongoing restrictions of Covid mean she’s spent far more time away from her husband than usual. Priyanka, of course, is blissfully spliced to fellow superstar Nick Jonas and tells us she misses the singer madly when they’re oceans apart.

While Nick, 28, remains home in the States, Priyanka, 38, is billeted in a plush part of west London with her beloved dogs. She’s also being kept busy as the new face of Max Factor, fronting its 33-shade Facefinity All Day Flawless Foundation. It’s a job her teenage self would never have foreseen when she was trying to lighten her skin, or when racist bullying at school sent her fleeing back to India from the US where she had been living with relatives.

Today, Priyanka is not a woman who runs away from anything. Having faced her demons head-on, she’s happy in herself and tells us she can’t wait to find out where the universe will take her next…

Priyanka is the new face of Max Factor
(Image: Max Factor/Tom Monro)


Hi Priyanka! How are you enjoying being back where it all began?

I have a very special connection with London because of Miss World. I have spent so much time here over the years, but it has been a very different UK this time. I’ve spent a lot of time in the parks – my dogs have loved all the long walks. I’m so excited that the city is opening up again because the energy here is so cosmopolitan.

What are you missing about home?

I miss my husband. I miss my bed. I miss my closet [laughs]. Thank God for FaceTime and video calling.

Priyanka is married to musician Nick Jonas
(Image: Getty Images)

What advice would you give your 18-year-old self?

What I would say is, “Chill out! The world is not going to collapse if you make one mistake.” Every time I drive past the Hilton on Park Lane where the Miss World contestants stayed, it takes me back to my 18-year-old self looking out into the big city and feeling daunted by what the day might hold. Now on the other side of 35, I’m good to say, “It’s OK to chill out.”

You wrote a candid memoir. What made you ready to share your life?

I think that coming into my thirties gave me a sense of self and of self-assuredness that I didn’t have in my twenties. I also think I’m in a place of being content with my life and not insecure about the things that held me down.

You covered personal things like racism, grief and love…

I reached a point when I realised I’ve been a public person half of my life and I still hold the power in my own hands. I choose how much I want to share with the world and how much I want to hold on to myself. That gave me a lot of confidence to share things that aren’t daunting to me any more. These are things I have dealt with. It was very cathartic and I recommend keeping a journal to everybody. It helps you think about everything that you’ve been through.

Priyanka is a global ambassador for Max Factor
(Image: AFP/Getty Images)

How will you look back on the past year?

Lockdown forced me to stay still for the first time in a long time and I definitely want to hold on to that. I had taken so much for granted because I was running so fast. Then suddenly everyone was on the same level playing field. The fact that I could stay with my family and stay healthy was a massive privilege. I don’t think I have ever felt so much gratitude in my life.

You called your memoir Unfinished because your story is only getting started..

Actually, it’s more than I’m not ready for it to end [laughs]. I also believe we put too much pressure on ourselves to perfectly tie a bow on every choice that we make. I’ve left a lot of things unfinished in my life – if things are not assets to the trajectory of my life, I’m happy to leave them behind. I feel like I’m someone who has a thirst for life. I love evolution and I’m really curious to see what else life has in store for me next.

When you went to Hollywood you were determined not to be a stereotype…

I do feel I’ve been able to do that because I demanded to play roles that were not specific boxes that I usually saw South Asian characters being put into. I insisted on roles with something to say. I think I really knocked down the door and demanded for it to shift. But I was working at a time when a lot of other people were calling for inclusivity and diversity, so being among a pack of loud voices really helped me. It wasn’t the easiest. I had to play more ethnically ambiguous parts, initially. After a few years, when people were like, “OK, she’s not that different” [laughs], then I could demand roles where my ethnicity popped. That’s what it took to get a seat at the table.

What advice do you have for aspiring starlets?

The one thing I’ll say, it’s a grind. It looks glamorous and it sounds like it’s just about red carpets and designer clothes, but it’s a grind. Today, for example, I have been in water all day, being hit by waves, and even though it’ll last two minutes in the movie, I am filming it for multiple days. Being a part of this industry is about putting in the work.

You tried to lighten your skin as a teen – does that make fronting Max Factor’s Facefinity Foundation especially personal?

When I was a teenager, definitely the lighter skin you had, the prettier you were. I remember all the “natural” and “nude” skin tones in make-up at that time were all for light skin. The foundations I used to use were probably for someone with skin 20 shades lighter than me, but that was just what you got. So it’s really empowering to see a brand like Max Factor, with so much legacy, having shades for darker skin, lighter skin, different tones, and being so inclusive.

Priyanka is fronting Max Factor's inclusive FaceFinity foundation
(Image: Max Factor/Tom Monro)

Is there a day in your life when you felt your most beautiful?

It would be my wedding. I think the universe was in the right place and I felt my most confident and my most beautiful. It was a really magical day, being surrounded by all the most important people in my life. I wasn’t even thinking about how I looked, I was just in the moment but looking at my wedding photo now I can see I did feel my most beautiful. I was feeling so happy and confident and that’s what shows.

Starting in Bollywood Priyanka is now a Hollywood actress
(Image: Getty Images for dcp)

Do you love being in your thirties?

Oh my thirties are the best! You lose the insecurities of the twenties, and you come into a place when you’re young enough to be stupid but old enough know better. I can say, “Today I’m going to be stupid and I know I’m going to regret it, but it’s my choice!”

And you’re clearly ultra-confident now…

I just feel like I’ve found it in having lived life. Confidence isn’t something that you’re born with. You’re not supposed to always have it, and actually you don’t always need it. To me, it’s like your favourite lipstick. There are days when you might need a lot of it. There are days when you don’t need any of it. It is OK to
be vulnerable. And that is how I treat confidence, as something you hone and keep with you. And when you need it, you pull it out. It’s like a superpower.

Priyanka says confidence isn't something you're born with
(Image: Getty Images for Booking.com)

How do you manage to stay grounded when you’re famous?

Well, my family. If I ever bring fame into the house, my mum will slap me on the back of the head and be like “that kind of thing is not allowed in my house!” [laughs]. We live when my job stops. Work is my work and my home is my home. Everything inside my home is rather normal. Other things take priority. Like, “Oh my gosh, the dog pooped on the carpet.” That’s the reality!

Priyanka Chopra-Jonas is the new global ambassador for Max Factor and wear FaceFinity All-Day Flawless Foundation in shade Warm Caramel, £13.99 at Superdrug

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