Priyanka Chopra Opened Up About Racist High School Bullying That Made Her Want to Be “Invisible”
"I've always considered myself a confident person, but I was very unsure of where I stood, of who I was."
Priyanka Chopra Jonas is opening up about her cold introduction to the United States. The India-born actress, details her experience in her upcoming memoir Unfinished, out February 9th, sharing memories of the racist bullying she endured when she attended American high school at age 15. According to People, Chopra Jonas wrote that the torment was so bad, she ultimately returned to India to finish her schooling, and she talked with the outlet to share more about what this time in her life was like.
“I took [the bullying] very personally. Deep inside, it starts gnawing at you,” she told People. “I went into a shell. I was like, ‘Don’t look at me. I just want to be invisible.’ My confidence was stripped. I’ve always considered myself a confident person, but I was very unsure of where I stood, of who I was.”
According to People, in her memoir, the Isn’t It Romantic star says other teenage girls would yell racist comments like, “Brownie, go back to your country!” and “Go back on the elephant you came on” as she walked down the hall at school. The actress writes that she tried to seek support through close friends and a guidance counselor, but it wasn’t enough.
“I don’t even blame the city, honestly. I just think it was girls who, at that age, just want to say something that’ll hurt,” she said. “Now, at the other side of 35, I can say that it probably comes from a place of them being insecure. But at that time, I took it very personally.”
According to People, Chopra Jonas said that after experiencing so much hate in high school, she “broke up with America” and called her parents to make plans to go back home. Surrounded by the support of her parents and her school back in India, she was able to regain her confidence.
“I was so blessed that when I went back to India, I was surrounded by so much love and admiration for who I was,” she said. “Going back to India healed me after that experience in high school.”
Instead of trying to be invisible, as she did in the States, Chopra Jonas said she “chose to be different” in India, participating in extracurriculars and taking to the stage. “People were like, ‘Oh my gosh, you’re so good at this,'” she said. “[That] built my confidence, having made new friends who were amazing and loving and doing actual teenage things. Going to parties, having crushes, dating, all the things, the normal stuff. It just built me up.”
Having overcome racist bullying and the resulting feelings of sadness and low self-esteem, Chopra Jonas hopes her story will give hope to others.
“Insecurity becomes small as soon as you talk about it with someone you trust: A therapist, a counselor,” she said. “I feel like a lot of people spend their time when they’re feeling dark [in isolation]. That’s the worst thing to do, is to feel sad alone.”
She continued, “Sadness is very seductive. It sucks you in and you want to just wallow in it because it feels comfortable and warm—and light is harsh sometimes. [But] you have to look at it, you squint. [The light is] a lot, but it gives you life. It gives you joy. We have the choice, most of the time, to step out of the darkness ourselves. The best way I’ve found of doing it is talking to people who care.”