On how she appeals to everyone:
Kids from all over—not just Indians—come talk to me. I met this Dominican girl the other day who said, ‘Everyone tells me that I look like you.’ She gave me a hug, and said, ‘You gave me the strength to stand up onstage and give a presentation in school on where I came from.’
On the time when she first got attention for her looks:
After 15… it was great for my ego. Before 15, I had a lot of self-esteem issues. I was very conscious of the color of my skin. I was very conscious of being, like, a super-gawky, skinny teenager.
On being self-conscious about her skin color:
[In] India, because there, you’re prettier if you’re fairer…. I’m, like, dusky. A lot of girls who have a darker skin hear things like, “Oh, poor thing, she’s dark. Poor thing, it’ll be hard for her.” In India they advertise skin-lightening creams: “Your skin’s gonna get lighter in a week.” I used it [when I was very young]. Then when I was an actor, around my early twenties, I did a commercial for a skin-lightening cream. I was playing that girl with insecurities. And when I saw it, I was like, “Oh sh-t. What did I do?” And I started talking about being proud of the way I looked. I actually really like my skin tone.
I did not want to be the stereotype of either Bollywood or what Indian actors are [usually offered]. The exotic, beautiful girl, or the academically inclined nerd. And I wanted to play a lead…. And I’m playing an FBI agent on Quantico. I didn’t settle for less.
On how she can call herself “exotic” but others can’t:
Right. We can call ourselves that. You can’t call us that. When somebody else calls you exotic, exotic is a box—it’s the stereotype of snake charmers and face jewelry. You’re just that stereotype. But I don’t get offended anymore. I used to get offended by things that were said to me, or how I was seen. Now I educate. If I get pissed off, I’ll educate in a sassy way. Other times I educate in a Gandhi-like way. You know—I have my moods.
… says Priyanka in Glamour.