Priyanka Chopra Jonas needs some help with her mangalsutra. She’s in the middle of a traffic-stopping photo shoot in Brooklyn, when Vogue’s guest editor and celebrated designer Sabyasachi Mukherjee steps in to give her a hand. He untangles the sacred necklace at a zebra crossing. We are in Park Slope, a leafy residential neighbourhood with rows of brick houses, indie cafés and the typical bustle of New York life—strollers, skateboards and the odd garbage truck. “Sabya, should I have Diana walk down the street with me?” she asks the designer, who is curating the shots. He smiles with approval. Diana is Chopra’s chihuahua-terrier named after the late Princess of Wales. “Diana is my princess,” she says proudly. “She was adopted and lives a grand life now.” And grand it is—the pup sleeps in between the actor and her pop star husband of almost a year, Nick Jonas. “I keep moving her to the side, but she keeps coming back to the middle. She’s so cute, you can’t help it.”
A passerby recognises her and hovers by the set. “Can I have a picture with you and my baby?” he asks, nervously pointing to his stroller. Chopra Jonas smiles, stops what she’s doing and takes the baby in her arms. If you follow the actor on Instagram you’ll know that she’s always on the go. “My mother used to say you only have stamps on your passport but you haven’t seen anything,” she says. “So I’m trying to change that.”
It’s a wrap for the shoot and our cover girl slips into something comfortable—a black breezy bandhini cape from Mukherjee’s 20th-anniversary show. I ride back to Manhattan with her as Diana settles onto her lap. “For me home is wherever I’m happy, as long as I have the people I love around me.” Her next stop is Los Angeles, a city she sees as a longterm option for her and Jonas. “I have homes in Mumbai and New York, which are very vertical cities. LA is more horizontal,” she says, tempted with the idea of a pool and backyard. The ocean and weather remind her of Mumbai, too. “Buying a home and having a baby are on my to-do list.”
The Friday evening traffic across the bridge is slow but we catch a glimpse of Manhattan’s skyline as we pass a billboard of HBO’s Big Little Lies. “I still haven’t seen the second season yet, have you?” she asks. Her days off are saved for television and she’s been binge-watching The Office. “I just love the straight-faced comedy and really admire Mindy Kaling as a writer.” It was while she was developing ideas for her production company, Purple Pebble Pictures, that she decided to give Kaling a call and meet up for lunch. Two hours and two movie ideas later, the duo were well on their way to working together. In April their pitch for a wedding comedy was picked up by Universal Pictures. Kaling will co-star with Chopra Jonas and co-write with Dan Goor (of Brooklyn Nine-Nine and Parks And Recreation fame). “The story basically came from my wedding, where a bunch of Americans were exposed to this grandiose palace—the food, the family, the culture, the clothes and the comedy that comes with it,” she says. She is also proud to add that it’s an all-South Asian star cast, a minority she hopes to see more of in global pop culture.
THE AMERICAN DREAM
“I think people look at India differently because of Priyanka Chopra. It was stereotypically a land of elephants and snake charmers. She brings a freshness to this and we all feel a strong sense of admiration for her,” shares Mukherjee of his muse today. This year she’s reached No 19 on Instagram’s Rich List (beating Serena Williams and Bella Hadid), created content for her own YouTube channel, and is now writing her memoir. “If you say no, I’ll find someone who will say yes. I’m just that person. If I believe in it, I give my damn best and make it happen.”
“Everything that I am today or am doing in America, I learnt in India. I’m just showing a perspective of it,” she muses as our car weaves through the crowded streets of Chinatown. Chopra Jonas started her film career after she was crowned Miss India and Miss World back in 2000. She was a nervous 18-year-old working with big names like Akshay Kumar and Salman Khan. “I didn’t know anything or anyone. I was yelled at by directors, I was thrown into movies, I was thrown out of movies.” On her dad’s advice—“the more you talk, the less you will listen and the less you will learn”—she shut up and listened. “I taught myself confidence. I learnt it’s what you do after failure that makes you a success.”
“The space I’m in today is the most content I’ve been in a very long time, and I’m not scared to admit it,” she says. Her twenties were more anxious, she admits, but for her thirties she wants to focus on being more present. “I don’t want to be stuck running on a hamster wheel,” she stresses. She is now careful to carve out time for her personal life, swapping hotel room service for dinner and drinks with the crew. The sun is setting just as we arrive at her destination in the Lower East Side, where the Jonas Brothers are shooting a new music video. “Aren’t you tired?” I ask. “Nick loves it when I come by,” she shrugs happily. She scoops up Diana and adjusts her leash before the paparazzi spot her. Once again, she stops traffic, crossing the road in a whirlwind of polka dots. She’s about to meet her husband after a long day of work and there’s no place else she’d rather be.