Photograph of Priyanka Chopra wearing a white dress, with her hair up, looking at the camera. Image by Rich Fury/Getty Images
Photograph of Priyanka Chopra wearing a white dress, with her hair up, looking at the camera. Image by Rich Fury/Getty Images

Priyanka Chopra Jonas went to boarding school at the age of seven, moved to America to stay with relatives when she was a teenager, became Miss World at 18, acted in her first Bollywood film just a few years later, and made the rare leap from the Indian film industry to Hollywood.

All this to say that she’s not the type of person you would think would be scared of much. So it’s a surprise to hear that writing her memoir Unfinished was an intimidating prospect.

"I was always scared of structured writing like a book or a novel or a screenplay,” Chopra Jonas, who is currently working in London, tells me over Zoom. "I've done a lot of op-eds and columns and prose and stuff, but I was always afraid of what taking something on that has structure would be, and quarantine gave me the ability to be at home and actually spend that time to do it.”

Unfinished is candid and funny, and gives an insight into the woman behind the superstar. “A lot has been written about me,” Chopra Jonas says in what is a huge understatement. "But people haven't scratched the surface because I've been a very private person and I've gotten away with only sharing a very little bit about my life.” 

The memoir sees Chopra Jonas sharing quite a lot, including talking about the racism she experienced while attending American high schools, her grief over losing her father, and her relationship with now-husband Nick Jonas.

Given her love of books, it was only a matter of time before Chopra Jonas turned her hand to writing something herself, and Unfinished shows her love of novels and poetry: all of the chapters begin with epigraphs, and among those quoted are Charlotte Bronte, William Shakespeare, Rabindranath Tagore and Kahlil Gibran (and also Britney Spears, Dustin Hoffman in The Graduate, and Diane von Furstenburg).

When we begin talking about books, it’s clear that Chopra Jones reads widely, often and enthusiastically. She shows a particular love for political autobiographies, citing Nelson Mandela’s Long Walk to Freedom as one of her favourites ("an amazing piece of writing, honestly”), while also loving Michelle Obama’s Becoming and Jawaharlal Nehru’s Letters from a Father to his Daughter. She recently bought a copy of Barack Obama’s A Promised Land from Daunt Books ("it was so nice to go back to a bookstore, even if it was outside,” Chopra Jonas says, referring to the pandemic rules which mean bookshops, among other retailers, have had to close apart from for takeaway and delivery). 

A still from Netflix's The White Tiger showing Priyanka Chopra Jonas as Pinky and Adarsh Gourav as Balram. Image: Singh Tejinder/Netflix

Priyanka Chopra Jonas as Pinky with Adarsh Gourav as Balram in the Netflix adaptation of Aravind Adiga's The White Tiger. Image: Singh Tejinder/Netflix

Chopra Jonas has always been a big reader ("I was an avid reader from a kid; my parents really pushed me towards reading because my mom loved it,” she says), even going so far as to display some librarian tendencies: "I remember having a little library when I was a kid. I used to lend books to my neighbour's kids and I had a ledger in which I would write who took the book, the date they took it, like a proper librarian."

Chopra Jonas grew up loving Black Beauty by Anna Sewell ("I was always an animal lover, but Beauty's whole journey from her master that she loved to being sold and the treatment of animals and just her feelings, I'll never forget,” she raves), and also consumed the Noddy and The Famous Five books by Enid Blyton, before becoming a fan of Nancy Drew. And she used to “devour” an Indian comic book called Amar Chitra Katha, which tells stories about Indian mythology and history. 

Books have been a much-needed escape for Chopra Jonas, who has often turned to novels while waiting around on film sets. That’s where she first read Aravind Adiga’s The White Tiger, the adaptation of which she recently starred in and executive produced for Netflix, and also Kiran Desai’s The Inheritance of Loss. More recently she’s enjoyed Adiga’s latest novel Amnesty, and is among the celebrity fans of Glennon Doyle’s Untamed

When it comes to gifting, Chopra Jonas is all about the classics. "I'm a fan of a good bound classic: Jane Eyre, Frankenstein, beautiful books that kind of stay and live forever. 

"Those are, I think [books] book lovers love getting, like I know if I get an older classic, a book which is evergreen, that's one of my favourite gifts.”

For herself, Chopra Jones now loves everything from racy murder mysteries to literary novels. She mentions at one point that  she always recommends Yaa Gyasi’s Homegoing, prompting what can only be described as fangirling from the both of us about the book (“It’s amazing, I love it!” “I couldn’t put it down.” “I still think about it.” “Me too.”)

And unsurprisingly for someone who is often juggling a number of projects (from film and TV roles to her humanitarian work), she often has a couple of books on the go at once. "I usually read one or two books at the same time because I have difficulty committing to one book,” she says. "But I'll read a couple chapters here, then I'll jump onto another one and read a couple chapters here.”

But whatever she’s reading, it’s something that relaxes her. "I love having a nook and sitting with a book, just some music playing and going into a world,” she says. "It's my favourite form of meditation.” 

Main image: Rich Fury/Getty Images

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