Priyanka Chopra Wants to Give Voice to the Voiceless With Unicef

Priyanka Chopra wanted to be an aeronautical engineer.

But fate intervened, and any dreams of heading to NASA were sidelined for a career that took her from Miss India to Miss World and ultimately acting. Now an international star, she has headlined dozens of movies from Bollywood to Hollywood, along with ABC’s “Quantico,” which premieres its third season in 2018 — and boasts a tremendous social media profile.

Variety Power of Women Cover 2017 Priyanka Chopra
CREDIT: Art Streiber for Variety

She admits it’s nearly impossible to balance all the demands of her life, but one constant has been charity work. She’s worked with Unicef since 2003 and now serves as a goodwill ambassador. She’s spoken at the U.N. General Assembly and met with heads of state.

Chopra’s parents, both physicians in the army, instilled in her and her brother the importance of giving back. “Philanthropy has been something that is inherently a part of my life from when I was growing up,” she says.

As a 17-year-old pageant winner, she realized “I couldn’t change the world, but I could contribute toward change,” she says. “One person cannot eradicate poverty, but I realized that [with] the platform that I had, whatever I said would be spoken about, would be written about.”

The most important issue to her are the needs of children, from food and hygiene to education to the rights of girls. “We keep dividing ourselves between countries and borders and race and gender, but eventually we have to think about the fact that there’s only one world,” she says. “And if we don’t look after it, what are we going to leave our kids?”

One Unicef-led trip that stands out was to India, where she met a 13-year-old girl who was to be married off to help her impoverished parents. “She raised hell at the fact that she was going to get married to a man who was twice her age,” Chopra recalls.

Power of Women LA

The girl learned to sew in a Unicef center, and then started a business making and selling clothes. “That gave not just her but her ill parents the ability to take care of themselves,” Chopra says. “To see success stories like that and to see these girls take charge of their lives is amazing.”

She’s proud to call herself a feminist. “Feminism is not about berating or hating men or trying to make sure we’re better than men,” she says. “Feminism is just saying, ‘Give me the same freedom that men have enjoyed for so many centuries.’”

That’s a message she wants to pass on to girls around the world. “Hopefully all the work that my generation does will make it better for the next generation,” she says.

Watch a behind-the-scenes video of Chopra’s Power of Women L.A. cover shoot.

Popular on Variety

More TV

  • Apple TV Plus

    Apple TV Plus Will Cost $9.99 per Month, to Launch in November (Report)

    Apple is reportedly looking to launch the Apple TV Plus subscription-video service in November — around when Disney Plus is set to debut — for $9.99 per month. Apple TV Plus will bow in November with a “small selection” of shows, Bloomberg reported, citing anonymous sources. At $9.99, which analysts have guessed would be the [...]

  • RuPaul Charles - Outstanding Reality -

    RuPaul Charles to Receive Variety's Vanguard Award at Mipcom

    “RuPaul’s Drag Race” leader RuPaul Charles has been tapped to receive the Variety Vanguard Award at the Mipcom international TV sales conference, set for Oct. 14-17 in Cannes. The award recognizes television industry leaders who have made a significant contribution to the global business of entertainment. Charles has hosted and executive produced the VH1 franchise “RuPaul’s Drag [...]

  • The Tempest review all female

    Harriet Walter Joins 'Killing Eve' as Third Season Begins Production

    British actress Harriet Walter has joined the cast of BBC America’s multi-award winning “Killing Eve” for its third season, which began production this week. Danny Sapani has also been announced to join the cast of the show, which stars Sandra Oh and Jodie Comer. The Olivier Award-winning and Tony-nominated Walter recently finished production on Julian [...]

  • TV News Roundup: Netflix Drops Trailer

    TV News Roundup: Netflix Drops Trailer for Ryan Murphy's 'The Politician' (Watch)

    In today’s TV news roundup, Netflix has drops the first trailer for “The Politician,” and “Killing Eve” adds two to its cast for season 3.  CASTING Harriet Walter and Danny Sapani, both alums of “The Crown,” are set to join the cast of “Killing Eve” for its third season. British writer Suzanne Heathcote, whose past credits include [...]

  • Lady Gaga

    Variety Earns 14 Folio: Eddie & Ozzie Award Nominations

    Variety has received 14 Folio: Eddie & Ozzie award nominations for its coverage of the entertainment industry over the past year. The awards gala, which will take place at The Hilton Midtown in New York City on Oct. 30, celebrates publications that have demonstrated impressive investigative journalism, in addition to thoughtful digital and print design. [...]

  • Disneyland

    Disney Shares Slip Amid Reported Whistleblower Allegations of Inflated Revenue

    Sandra Kuba, a former senior financial analyst for Disney’s revenue operations unit, says she has filed a series of whistleblower tips with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, alleging that the entertainment conglomerate repeatedly and systematically overstated its revenue for years, according to a MarketWatch report, by as much as $6 billion in a single [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content