On Tuesday, New York Magazine’s the Cut published a horribly offensive essay, one that played into racist and sexist narratives, alleging that Priyanka Chopra is a “global scam artist” who manipulated a younger rich white guy into marrying her against his will. The lede of the piece, which was “updated” and later deleted entirely, began: “Nicholas Jonas married into a fraudulent relationship against his will this past Saturday, December the 1st, and I’ll tell you why I think so.”
The original version of the essay is not archived. But the gist was this: After Chopra, portrayed as a cold, fame-obsessed foreigner, established herself in India, she set her sights on success in America. Part of Chopra’s ticket to the top? A white man. Tom Hiddleston didn’t make the cut, so, the piece alleged, Chopra’s team landed on Jonas. It also suggested that contrary to the couple’s story about DMing each other on social media, Chopra’s team arranged a meeting between the two of them, and painted Jonas as Chopra’s victim: “All Nick wanted was a possible fling with Hollywood’s latest It Woman, but instead he wound up staring straight at a life sentence with a global scam artist.”
Chopra’s “scam” seems to be that she’s an older woman, comes from India, snagged a famous man, and then thrust a suspiciously elaborate, multi-day wedding upon him (which is just the way Indian weddings... are).
This xenophobic passage scoffed at the tradition of a baraat, a festive wedding processional in which the groom, accompanied by his family and friends, rides to the ceremony on a horse:
The second edition of the piece was heavily edited to remove the above excerpt, including any mention of Chopra as a “scam artist” or Jonas as a victim. In fact, entire paragraphs disappeared, including these:
The writer, Mariah Smith, is black, but the Cut’s editors, and their perspective, are mostly white. This likely contributed to their ignorance about Chopra’s worldwide fame, or that Bollywood dwarfs Hollywood by sheer size. While Hollywood nets more money (a fact partially attributed to the low cost of tickets in India), Bollywood is the world’s largest producer of films, churning out 1,602 in 2012, compared to the U.S.’s 476 films, with sales of 2.6 billion movie tickets annually in India. Chopra is a rarity in an industry built on nepotism, rising from middle-class obscurity to become one of its biggest female stars with a 20-year career that is almost as old as Jonas himself. Her net worth is more than his. The presumption that Chopra is chasing Jonas (or any other white American) for his success is absurd.
The piece also belies an ignorance over Indian customs and traditions. It acknowledged Chopra as a brown Indian woman, yet hoisted upon her the rules and expectations of Western customs. It is written skeptically of both the multi-day affair that characterizes all traditional Hindu weddings, and the fast nature of their engagement. But in India, where arranged marriages are common and engagements are relatively short, Chopra’s decision isn’t particularly noteworthy (her own parents were engaged 10 days after meeting each other). The piece’s only valid point of cynicism around the engagement and wedding, that the couple is posting SponCon and “finding ways for their relationship to make them money,” is not exactly remarkable. But rather than delve into the culture of influencers monetizing their most private moments, the piece instead fell back on nasty stereotypes about brown immigrant women who marry white American men.
Indian and Indian-American outlets, meanwhile, have expressed skepticism that Jonas can keep up with Chopra. Brown Girl Magazine recently posted an article explaining Bollywood to Nick Jonas that begins:
Dear Nick Jonas,
The Brown Girl community is pleased to inform you that you have WON THE LOTTERY. Confused? Didn’t buy a ticket? We’re not referring to money, but to the Indian goddess who you’ll soon be able to call your wife – Priyanka Chopra.
Every Indian woman I have spoken to about Chopra and Jonas—which includes every Indian woman I know, including my therapist, who promptly said she’d be reaching out to her Indian girlfriends to process the news—has pretty much the same reaction, which plays out something like this:
Who is Nick Jonas?
*looks up Nick Jonas*
Does this white boy understand that he is marrying into royalty?
*ponders for a moment*
I... guess if Priyanka sees something in him....
Look, if he fucks this up, he’s dead.
As an Indian-American woman, it is exciting to see one of our entertainment icons celebrated in the mainstream publications read by my non-Indian friends. Though we are slowly gaining visibility in the media, Chopra’s wedding—and all of the manic media coverage around it—is the first time we’re seeing an Indian woman in the spotlight in this country. (Previously, we were most identifiable as Apu from the Simpsons). That an Indian woman is dominating news controlled by white outlets is hugely affirming, and openly celebrates a culture that most of us have to cultivate in private. The Cut’s piece, though just one miserable bad take on the internet, is emblematic of the type of ignorance that we continue to fight.
One Tuesday, after major backlash from the Indian-American community and other publications, the Cut gutted the essay and posted this update, leaving the “Scam” tag intact:
Early Wednesday morning, Chopra’s soon-to-be sister-in-law, Game of Thrones star Sophie Turner, tweeted disapprovingly about the post:
By mid-Wednesday morning, the Cut deleted the essay entirely with a note that said, “Upon further editorial review, we found this story did not meet our standards. We’ve removed it and apologize.” The tags that remain: “Searching” and “Culture.”