Opinion

The dark subtext to the headlines calling Priyanka Chopra a “scam artist”

Posted by
Hannah-Rose Yee
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The way some publications are talking about the Bollywood star’s wedding to Nick Jonas suggests something more sinister at play. 

The first day of every month is always a day of new beginnings.

And so it was on 1 December when Priyanka Chopra, beloved Bollywood actress and star of American series Quantico, married Nick Jonas in a traditional Hindu ceremony. 

I assume you’ve seen the video. Chopra, clad in a bespoke Ralph Lauren gown – only the fourth wedding dress the man has ever personally designed – a high-necked, sheer lace confection featuring more than two million mother of pearl sequins, 135 satin buttons that took 1,826 hours to hand-embroider, and topped with a 75-foot-long tulle veil, cascading outwards from all sides.

The bride descended down the storied aisle holding her mother’s hand. (Her father died in 2013.) Her husband-to-be, 26-year-old Jonas, blinked back tears as he watched his wife walk towards him. 

As far as Hollywood romances go, Chopra and Jonas’ meet-cute was firmly of the moment: Jonas slid into Chopra’s Twitter DMs. They met officially at the Vanity Fair Oscar party and Jonas promptly got down on one knee. “You’re real. Where have you been all my life?” he told her, according to Vogue. They flirted via social media. Then they attended the Met Ball together – as friends – before they began dating earlier this year. They were engaged by the end of July. And they were married earlier this week. 

Weddings are supposed to be a moment of celebration, and that’s what Chopra and Jonas’ union has been for those involved. The images from the different Hindu festivities and rituals have been joyous and ebullient. There is Chopra, future sister-in-law Sophie Turner by her side, during the Mehndi where henna tattoos are inked onto the bride-to-be. There is Jonas, dancing onstage during the Sangeet, a riotous pre-wedding party dedicated to dancing, singing and the power of music, a big part of both Chopra and Jonas’ lives.

And then there was the main event itself: The gown, the veil, the tears, the veil, the look of absolute love in the couples’ eyes in the pictures they have shared from the main wedding ceremony, and also did we mention the veil? Congratulations, Priyanka and Nick! Many, many happy returns. 

But there are some who aren’t feeling as celebratory about the union as the rest of the world is. Earlier this week, The Cut published an article called: Is Priyanka Chopra and Nick Jonas’ Love for Real? In it, the writer argued that Chopra was a “scam artist” and Jonas his unwitting victim.

“All Nick wanted was a possible fling with Hollywood’s latest It Woman,” the story read. “But instead he wound up staring straight at a life sentence with a global scam artist.” The story has since been deleted and The Cut has issued an apology. “We’ve received dozens of messages from readers expressing their anger,” the apology read. “We want you to know that we hear you and we’re sorry. The whole piece missed the mark.”

Before it was taken down, the article alleged that Chopra and Jonas’ relationship was a sham and that Chopra was a gold digger looking for a target when she stumbled on Jonas. (“While Priyanka shops around for the finer things in life her team seems to be shopping around for the finer men,” one passage read.) 

It took issue with the elaborate, over-the-top nature of the wedding and Jonas being forced, allegedly, against his will to enter the ceremony on horseback. (This is actually a Hindu tradition called baraat.) 

There is a darkly sexist subtext to the way this piece frames Chopra and Jonas’ relationship. For one thing, Chopra is a global superstar with 32 million Instagram followers, a career in Bollywood spanning more than two decades and a net worth of a reported $28 million (£21.9 million). In fact, she’s worth more than Jonas, who has a reported $25 million (£19.5 million) to his name. 

She has a starring role in the new Rebel Wilson romantic comedy Isn’t It Romantic on the near horizon. She’s the face of Pantene, Pepsi, Garnier and of Assam Tourism. If anything, she comes into her marriage as the partner on a higher footing and not as a “scam artist” attaching herself to a more powerful man. Chopra doesn’t need a man to boost her success. She’s already wildly successful in her own right. 

Priyanka Chopra and Nick Jonas

But it’s when talk turns to the extravagance of Chopra and Jonas’ wedding ceremony that the piece becomes outright racist. The article displays little understanding of the nuance of traditional Hindu ceremonies, which involve several days-worth of festivities, nor the way that short engagements are commonplace in Hindu weddings. As Jezebel pointed out, Chopra’s own parents were engaged 10 days after they first met. Besides, we’re living in the era of the short celebrity engagement. Just think of Justin Bieber and Hailey Baldwin, or even Pete Davidson and Ariana Grande’s short-lived engagement.

The dark subtext to this line of discussion is that Chopra is the foreign scam artist tricking her white Prince charming into a relationship. It’s the same subtext that we’ve seen employed around other celebrity interracial relationships, from Meghan Markle and Prince Harry to Serena Williams and Alexis Ohanian.

The words might change, but the meaning is the same: These women don’t belong. These women are gold digging social climbers, never mind the fact that Chopra, Markle and Williams are impressive businesswomen and enormously successful public figures in their own right. These black and brown women are ‘scamming’ their way into relationships with white men. 

“It’s disheartening,” said Markle to the BBC about the criticism of her relationship with Prince Harry. “You know it’s a shame that that is the climate in this world to focus that much on that or that that would be discriminatory in that sense, but I think…at the end of the day I’m really just proud of who I am and where I come from, and we have never put any focus on that.”

Chopra, to her credit, is making like her friend Markle and ignoring the criticism. Speaking to The Hindustan Times, she said: “I don’t even want to react or comment. It’s not even in my stratosphere. I’m in a happy place at this moment. These kind of random things can’t disturb it.”

But the fact that we have to keep having this conversation reveals that even though the rate of interracial marriages is increasing all around the world, particularly in the US where interracial marriages have jumped fivefold since they were legalised in 1967, there is still a huge problem with the way we talk about mixed race couples. 

Images: Getty

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