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Priyanka Chopra, a star of both Hollywood and Bollywood, had to learn to stand up for herself in the entertainment business.
In her memoir Unfinished, the Quantico actress, 38, details how, on the heels of winning the Miss World pageant in 2000, she pursued a showbiz career and the first director/producer she met with suggested, after she was made to twirl for him, she have plastic surgery to enhance her breasts, jawline and buttocks if she wanted to make it. She stood there as her manager agreed with the assessment, not voicing an objection to the body shaming. She tells the U.K.’s Metro that type of critique was seen as "normal" in the industry and she felt she should stay quiet about it if she wanted to be a star.
"I never had the courage to stand up for myself, and actually admit it," Chopra says. "Because I heard so often, 'Don't be a nuisance, you’re new in the industry, you don’t want to have a reputation that you cause trouble or you're not easy to work with.' Now on the other side of 35. I know that’s a normalized thing that girls hear so often."
The actress, who will be appearing in the upcoming Matrix 4 film, continued, "I fell for it too, even though I consider myself a forward-thinking, smart girl. I learned from that over time, but at that time, I was terrified... I faced that like everybody else when you're in patriarchal industries, which ours has been for a very long time."
She also shared a story in the book "about a movie that I walked out of because of how I was spoken to by the director. It was early in my career, but I never told him why I walked out."
These days, Chopra — who is married to Nick Jonas — says there are "so many women that have banded together" and are "taking back our power." However, she still wishes a young her had better on-screen representation.
“If I had seen somebody else on TV, kicking ass," she said. "The show I did, Quantico, I was the first South Asian to ever [front] a network TV show, in 2015. It was crazy to think about that. To me, if I had had that, maybe I wouldn't have been so insecure in the hallways of my high school, or felt that I was so different.”
In Chopra's memoir, out Tuesday, she detailed that first meeting with the director, writing, “‘After a few minutes of small talk, the director/producer told me to stand up and twirl for him. I did. He stared at me long and hard, assessing me, and then suggested that I get a boob job, fix my jaw and add a little more cushioning to my butt.”
He said if she “wanted to be an actress,” she would "need to have my proportions 'fixed,'" and said "he knew a great doctor in L.A. he could send me to."
Her "then-manager voiced his agreement with the assessment," she continued. She recalled walking out of the director/producer’s office "feeling stunned and small. Was he right that I couldn’t be successful unless I had so many body parts 'fixed'? I thought of how individuals in the media and others in the industry had referred to me as 'dusky' and 'different-looking,' and I wondered if I was cut out for this business after all.'"
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