“Every Time I Looked in the Mirror, I Saw a Stranger,” How Priyanka Chopra Managed to Accept Herself After the Complications of a Medical Surgery
Looking in the mirror, a very daily action with which many of us start the day, became torture for actress Priyanka Chopra at a certain point in her life. She, who today is welcome on the red carpets and most important show business events, in the past felt singled out and even rejected by her environment because of an appearance.
Before Priyanka was launched to international fame, she had already made a name for herself in her native India as a Bollywood actress and public personality. At the beginning of the new millennium, a beauty pageant helped her get her artistic career off on the right foot, only to encounter a painful setback that marked her physically and emotionally.
Although her wish was to go to Australia to study aerospace engineering, everything changed when her younger brother, who was 10 years old, encouraged her to enroll as Miss India in the Miss World beauty pageant.
She, not knowing much about such competitions and without any previous experience, decided to follow her little brother’s idea. “I was so nervous, like a dog with its tail between its legs,” she recalled about her swimsuit catwalk.
To her surprise, none of that was noticeable on stage, and she advanced so much in each of the tests that she ended up charming the audience and the qualifying jury. Finally, she won the crown of Miss World 2000. The following year, fulfilling her commitments as a beauty queen, she made many trips and public appearances. At the end of her busy schedule, Priyanka ended up with what seemed to be a “prolonged cold,” and she thought it was just a very bad sinus infection.
However, this discomfort didn’t disappear, so she sought medical help. “I was having trouble breathing, and that’s something a person with asthma can’t ignore.” What they thought was a cold turned out to be a nasal polyp that needed to be removed in an operating room. The surgery was supposed to be a routine, uncomplicated medical procedure, but things did not go as expected.
In the middle of the intervention, the doctor made a mistake that ended up causing the actress’ septum to collapse. Because of that, the appearance of her face changed completely. Chopra recalled it as a shocking moment: “When it was time to remove the bandages, and the condition of my nose was revealed, my mom and I were horrified. My original nose was gone. My face looked completely different. It was no longer me.”
Faced with that fact, Priyanka felt “devastated and hopeless.” “Every time I looked in the mirror, I saw a stranger, and I didn’t think I could ever regain my self-esteem after that blow.”
While dealing with all those feelings, an extra discomfort came to make everything worse. Priyanka was already fairly popular in India by that time, so her obvious physical change became a common topic in local media, who started calling her “Plastic Chopra.”
Suddenly, she was nothing but a spectator witnessing how her image went down and, with it, the reputation she had worked so hard to build in Bollywood. After her change, she was dropped from two films for which she had already signed a contract, and in a third one in which she was supposed to star, she ended up having a supporting role only. She had to undergo several surgeries to correct the mistake of that first intervention, carrying her physical and mental recovery process very intimately.
In the meantime, she did not give up on her career, regardless of the negative and malicious comments she received about her appearance. On one occasion, a producer suggested that she “adjust her proportions” and have other cosmetic procedures, such as buttock and breast augmentation, to have any chance of making it in the industry. But she, aware of the consequences of that terrible operation, was not willing to undergo such interventions.
Despite the finger-pointing that seemed to force her to explain the reasons for her facial changes, she stood firm in her decision to keep that part of her life hidden from the media and put on her best face as she tried to climb the rungs of the acting world.
“I am an artist. I will do my best to make you laugh and to make you cry, but just because I’m a public person doesn’t mean that everything about my life has to be public knowledge. I choose what I share and when I share it,” the celebrity stated.
But that silent yoke she was dragging did not slow her down. Shaking off the dust, she moved to the United States and debuted in the American market as a singer, releasing a single in 2012 that the NFL chose the following year to open the 2013 season. Two years later came her big success on the small screen with Quantico, a production for which she was recognized as the first South Asian actress to headline an American series.
At the same time, reconciliation with her physique came. “While it was several years of seeing a stranger looking back at me every time I looked in the mirror, I’ve gotten used to this face. I am no longer surprised when I look at myself. I’ve made peace with this slightly different me.”
Years later, when she finally managed to heal the wounds of her soul, she made her experience and the lessons she learned along the way public. She thought it was a good way to perhaps serve as an inspiration to overcome those situations that emaciate our self-esteem. “This is my face. This is my body. I may not be perfect, but this is me.”
Which parts of your body do you like to highlight and which ones do you prefer to hide? What has been the most daring makeover you have done so far?