Baywatch star Priyanka Chopra doesn't shy away from talking about the bullying she faced as a 13-year-old girl growing up in the United States. (It ultimately was the impetus for her return to India at 17.)
“One girl used to call me Brownie and tell me to go back to my own country,” Chopra says in InStyle's April #InnerStyle column (now on newsstands). “At lunch I’d get a bag of chips from the vending machine and eat it in the storage room so I wouldn’t have to see her.”
But upon her return to India, instead of feeling defeated, she found a source of strength: her father. “I told my dad about how the teasing affected my self-esteem, and he asked why I wanted to fit in so badly,” she recounts. “I responded, ‘Because that’s what everyone does.’ He said that we’re unique only because of our flaws. I now live by those words.”
That mantra helped propel Chopra to Miss India and Miss World titles, acting credits in more than 50 Hindi films, and being the first South Asian woman to lead an American television series (she stars in ABC's hit Quantico). Now, she has her own words of wisdom for young women everywhere: “Don’t try to squeeze into a glass slipper,” she says. “Instead, shatter the glass ceiling.”
For more of Chopra’s inspiring chat with I Am That Girl co-founder Emily Greener, including how she looks back on her pageant days, pick up the April issue of InStyle, now available on newsstands and for digital download.
—With reporting by Emily Greener