Priyanka Chopra Says She Lost A Film Role Because Of Her Skin Tone

Written by Ann Brown

Skin tone, let alone skin color, has always been in issue in Hollywood. Think back to the era when white actors would perform in Blackface, or when Elizabeth Taylor was cast as Cleopatra. Moving forward, controversy brewed in 2016 when Afro-Latina actress Zoe Saldana was chosen to portray iconic Nina Simone, who was many shades darker than Saldana. What made it worse was that in the film, Saldana wore makeup to darken her skin and a prosthetic nose to broadens her nose in order to more resemble Simone.

Now, actress Priyanka Chopra, who is of Indian descent, has revealed in an interview with InStyle magazine that she was passed over for a role because of her skin tone.

Chopra, who was one of Bollywood’s tops actresses having been in more than 50 Hindi film and is a former Miss World, is the first South Asian actor to be one of the main stars on an American primetime show, “Quantico,” a hit on ABC-TV on which Chopra plays CIA agent Alex Parrish. Still, Chopra was taken aback when she found out she lost a film role because of her skin color.

Image: atomtetsuwan2002/ Flickr

“It happened last year,” she told InStyle. “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 used?—‘physicality.’ 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?” Chopra pauses. “And then my agent broke it down for me. Like, ‘I think, Priy, they meant that they wanted someone who’s not brown.’ It affected me.”

Chopra has also learned skin color can affect pay in Hollywood. And being a female actress of color is a double whammy. “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,” she said in the InStyle interview.

Chopra has been the victim of American racism in the past, having attended high school in 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 magazine in 2016. Bullies picked on her because of her skin and her culture. “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.”

Despite this, Chopra is hoping to help diversify Hollywood. As she told People, “I’m a producer, so I understand how much of an asset, as an actor, I would be on a project.”