Let Celebrities Be Freaks On the Record
Vanity Fair's Priyanka Chopra Jonas profile shows the form in decline
Priyanka Chopra Jonas is incredibly famous and successful and happy in her marriage. The only thing going wrong is the fact that people aren’t willing to believe all of these facts. That is, essentially, the thesis of a new profile of the actress in Vanity Fair, the headline of which is “Priyanka Chopra: ‘I’m Very Excited About the Future. I’m Terrified of It Too.’” That quote is about as revealing as the story gets.
For many years now the celebrity profile has been in deep decline, and this is no exception. The piece, written by Rebecca Ford, is a publicist’s wet dream. There are quotes from people like Jada Pinkett Smith, who said of Chopra Jonas, “She’s just a ball of light. She’s funny and she’s witty, and she just enjoys life. It’s magnetic.” Her manager, Anjula Acharia, told the magazine, “I see her like Julia Roberts.” If ever someone needed to go to the optometrist, it’s now.
You can almost see Chopra Jonas’s team breathing down Ford’s neck, telling her what questions to ask and which ones to avoid. The idea that Chopra Jonas married her husband, Nick Jonas, in a careerist move to elevate her status in America is called “absurd.” It is made clear that Chopra Jonas was a Julia Roberts type in India, and we get a full list of roles to hammer home the point (“Priyanka played an Olympic boxer, an autistic teen, a femme fatale, a general’s wife, and a model.”).
We are given yet another list, this time of all the incredible things she did last year: “She published her memoir, Unfinished (now a New York Times best seller); launched her hair-care line, Anomaly; raised millions of dollars to aid India during the pandemic; opened an Indian restaurant in New York; and starred in the Matrix sequel.” I think this is included so that we have a clear understanding that she isn’t just a pretty face.
But what is she? I still don’t know. I know that she wants to be taken more seriously as an actress stateside, and that it makes her upset when people say that she and her husband aren’t really in love even though they see each other once every three weeks. I know she has a new Amazon series coming out, Citadel, that promises to be “a global action franchise,” and a rom-com called Text For You. Ford describes Chopra Jonas as “warm and charming, with a ready laugh and engaging eyes,” as if it is not her job to be warm and charming to the intermediary in charge of making her look good.
There are a couple things that seem to be at play here. Number one is that I think Chopra Jonas might be a genuinely boring person who is doing an okay job playing the role of Celebrity Being Interviewed. She had her lines memorized and did not go off-book. She hit every point that she wanted to, and then quickly ushered Ford out of her house. Number two is that in an era when magazines need celebrities more than celebrities need magazines, it is not a smart career move to write a profile that could be in any way construed as “interesting.”
Publicists, why not let your clients be freaks? Let them be dead-eyed or or arrogant or sarcastic or stupid. Whatever it is they are when no one is recording, that is what will get them the most press. Who cares if it’s “bad press?” What we learned last year is that if a celebrity seems comes off as an asshole in a profile, Jessica Chastain will rally her merry gang of famous people to come to their support, and then exactly one month later they will receive an unsolicited defense in the pages of the New York Times and win a Golden Globe. It will all be fine, and I will no longer waste 15 minutes of my time reading about how Priyanka Chopra Jonas is really trying to prioritize her mental health in 2022. A win-win situation.