By: Sahar Khan
It was grade 10, when I was sitting in a classroom, having a friendly conversation with my peers about our favourite music artists.
One girl exclaimed that she loved Taylor Swift, to which I replied saying I’m not a fan. She then asked, in a tone of shock, dismay, and disgust “What music do you like then? Bollywood music?” Her face matched her tone. I honestly couldn’t help but respond with “no…”.
I still remember feeling uneasy because it was clear she was trying to insult me. The truth is, I wasn’t even going to say my favourite artist was something from a Bollywood movie, but she never even gave me that choice. She had gotten so offended that I wasn’t a fan of Taylor Swift, that she used my culture against me.
It was reasons like this, that I always felt a kind of embarrassment of the things that made me different; like growing up watching Bollywood movies.
I always felt like my two worlds could never collide. That my Pakistani-Canadian identity had to remain separate. In a social setting, I either had to be Canadian or Pakistani. Never both.
So when Priyanka Chopra began paving her way into Hollywood, for lack of better words, I was shook.
I know Aishwarya Rai had also been introduced into Hollywood before, but only for a short period of time. A time where Hollywood wasn’t ready for Indian actors and actresses to really be involved. If you think about it, Rai was just used as the token Indian woman that Hollywood could get behind. She had eyes the colour of the sea which allowed her to fit the Eurocentric standards of beauty. She was the Indian woman that Hollywood could fetishize.
Chopra, although equally as beautiful, began her career in Hollywood at a much later time. A time where women of colour were breaking boundaries and representation began to matter. And with her rise to fame and popularity in the West, also resulted in people’s familiarity to the Bollywood industry.
However, it wasn’t until Priyanka Chopra and Nick Jonas became a pair, that my two worlds collided. The world of Bollywood was now being introduced in such a major way.
I know I’m not alone when I say it was such a weird yet fascinating feeling for me. I grew up watching Jonas in Camp Rock, listening to Burnin' Up, but also watching Chopra in Don, listening to Desi Girl, and dancing along to her hit songs.
The now married couple, has posted several pictures on Instagram of their Mehendi and Sangeet. Their captions have placed a warm and fuzzy feeling in my heart, and my 14-year-old self is bursting with a bittersweet excitement. Jonas' ability to accept, learn and appreciate her culture may seem small to you, but is actually quite huge.
For girls like myself, we have come a long way for our traditions and cultures to be seen as normal or accepted, without feeling so foreign.
What Chopra's and Jonas' union has done, is allow acceptance to bloom and ignorance to fall.
I hope that now, a brown girl like me, sitting in her class discussing music taste, will confidently respond by saying she loves Bollywood songs. That she won’t have to ever feel out of place, judged or embarrassed. That she’ll show the world how much desi girls with dual-identities rock, just like Priyanka Chopra.