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Priyanka Chopra on Defying Stereotypes: ‘My Ethnicity Doesn’t Define My Opportunity’

Quantico” star Priyanka Chopra spoke about her journey to become the first South Asian woman to headline a network show, along with her thoughts on the future of the #MeToo movement at Variety’s Empowered Brunch on Wednesday.

Talking to Variety‘s Elizabeth Wagmeister, Chopra said that in India, where she was raised, “it’s a privilege to be able to have an opinion, something that all of us sitting in this room take for granted. We live in a world where we actually have a voice and can use it, we can make life decisions for ourselves, we can go to school the way we want, we can get careers where we want, but I come from a part of the world where that’s a freaking privilege.”

The actress broke barriers in 2016, when “Quantico” first went on the air at ABC, as a lead character of South Asian descent, something she said was strange as “by shear population we’re one-fifth of the world.” She spoke about her constant battle in the entertainment industry to fight against stereotypes, joking that the only person who looked like her on TV when she was growing up was Apu from “The Simpsons.”

“What happens with a lot of immigrants, I think — when you come into the entertainment business — is that we’re put into a box of what the stereotype of that country might be,” Chopra said. “I’m extremely proud of my roots, but that doesn’t define me. My ethnicity doesn’t define my opportunity, my ethnicity doesn’t define my merit and my ability. That’s what I will fight for so I hope the generation that comes in after me won’t even have to think about it, that they’ll just get parts because they’re good enough to do them, not because their skin color defines it.”

At the New York event, which was sponsored by Ciroc, she also gave her thoughts on what’s next for the women’s empowerment movement started by #MeToo and Time’s Up. She stressed that “it’s really easy to critique this momentum and say, ‘When will real change happen?’ Everything takes a second.” She declared that “we’re protecting each other, and I hope that scares the hell out of powerful men who tried to take advantage of young girls.”

After discussing positive fan reactions she’s gotten from young girls of color, she gave them some advice.

“Find your inner strength and your voice. You always had it, now is the time to amplify it,” she said. “Say something, write something, do something, take charge of your future and fight for it because really, no one else will.”

The 2018 Empowered Brunch, held at the Palace Hotel, celebrated accomplished women in business, activism, music, and fashion and was hosted by comedian Sasheer Zamata. Honorees included Carly Cushnie of Cushnie et Ochs, Paola Mendoza of the Women’s March, curator Kimberly Drew, and Sarah Ahmed of Warp + Weft and DL1961.

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