Hardly Elementary: Spring 2015 Cover Story Featuring Lucy Liu

 

Google “Lucy Liu,” and Liu herself will tell you that most of the information about her on the Internet is incorrect. She’s not Taiwanese, like many websites claim (her parents are from Beijing and Shanghai; they came to the U.S. separately for school and met in New York); she’s misquoted so often in interviews that she stopped reading her own profiles a long time ago; and maybe she’s not even born in 1968. She certainly doesn’t look it.

What is true about Liu is her extensive film and television résumé — from her breakout role in Ally McBeal, to the blockbuster films Charlie’s Angels and Kill Bill, to her current starring role on the CBS Sherlock Holmes reboot Elementary, where she plays Dr. Joan Watson. However, despite her high-profile successes, she takes special pride in her lesser-known creative projects, whether it be theater (her 2010 Broadway debut in God of Carnage, where she held her own alongside stage veterans Jeff Daniels, Janet McTeer and Dylan Baker), directing (her short film Meena tackles child trafficking in India), or visual art (since the mid-’90s, she had exhibited her work in galleries all around the world under an alias, until a few years ago, when her true identity was revealed).

For Liu, not only is working in all these different mediums a natural extension of the same creative impulse, she also believes that as an artist there is no separation between what you make and who you are. “I don’t leave my work at the door when I go home,” she says. “The way you progress in your life is how you progress artistically — especially as an actor, where you bring such complicated and personal experiences into what you do every day.”

Growing up in Queens, New York, Liu was a curious kid, and she points to that as one of her best attributes. (“To continue being curious as an adult is not easy,” she says, “but it’s such a great way to live your life.”) She grew up in what she calls a typical Chinese American immigrant household — Mandarin at home, Chinese school on Saturdays and parents who prioritized education above all. But as the youngest child of three, she was able to do more exploring than her older siblings, who were raised in a stricter environment. She quickly found a passion for acting. “I can’t think of anything I wanted to do before I started acting,” remembers Liu. “I dreamt about that more than anything.”

She did class plays in high school for fun, but they were never lead roles, and she was happy to be in the chorus. Her parents worked multiple jobs and not only didn’t understand the value of art but wouldn’t have had the time to attend her performances even if they did. “Most parents, especially Asian parents, aren’t going to completely grasp something that is intangible,” says Liu.

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In her last year of college, she went to a general audition for the play Alice in Wonderland. She went up to the announcement board to see whether she got cast and was surprised she was chosen to be Alice. “It was a new concept for me,” she says. “I didn’t see myself in the lead because I was so used to not seeing Asians in the lead role.”

After college, she pursued acting full force and began doing a lot of regional theater, as well as bit parts in film and television. Her big break came in 1998, when she was cast as Ling Woo in the second season of Ally McBeal, an hour dramedy that would win the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Comedy Series soon after she joined the cast. Ling, an unapologetically coldhearted client-turned-lawyer-turned-judge, was a character created specifically for her, and she became known for the most comically inappropriate zingers, like “My therapist told me to pay no mind to those who don’t matter” and “Are you sure he didn’t leave you just for being unattractive?”

An aspect of being one of very few Asian American women in mainstream media at the time was that everyone had an opinion about her character: Was Ling the ultimate dragon lady stereotype, was she hypersexualized, seen as “threatening” or “the other?” But Ally McBeal fans will take the nitpicking with a grain of salt. This was a show that featured characters with neck fetishes, dancing baby hallucinations, verbal ticks and gymnastic dismounts in the stalls of the unisex bathroom. Everyone was weird. Within the Ally McBeal world, Ling was funny, honest, clever, confident, unfazed by what others thought of her and perhaps, most important of all, respected.

Though she was nominated for an Emmy for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series for her role, Liu’s star only got brighter when she was cast as the third Charlie’s Angel, alongside Drew Barrymore and Cameron Diaz. At the time, she was a rare Asian American actress who was able to participate in cultural touchstones of American pop culture, whether it be hosting Saturday Night Live or voicing a character on The Simpsons, when Homer visits China. She even played herself in a Futurama episode called “I Dated a Robot,” where Fry downloads the personality of Lucy Liu onto a blank robot to make a “Lucy Liubot.”

Though Ballistic: Ecks vs. Sever, an action film starring Liu and Antonio Banderas, was a critical and box office failure, it was notable because she was cast in a leading role that was originally written as male. She made headlines again when she was selected to play the lead, a media mogul named Mia Mason, in the highly anticipated, albeit short-lived, ABC dramedy Cashmere Mafia, a series produced by Darren Star and hyped to take up the mantle of his mega-hit, Sex and the City. Years later, she’d break the mold once more as Watson in Elementary, the first time the classic Sherlock Holmes sidekick has been played by a woman — an Asian American woman, no less. Currently in its third season, Elementary, which co-stars Jonny Lee Miller as Sherlock, has been well received by critics and viewers who find it to be a novel twist on a familiar story. For her role, Liu won the Teen Choice Award for Choice TV Actress: Action, was honored with a New York Women in Film & Television Muse Award (which gave a nod to her decade of work with UNICEF) and even received the Seoul International Drama Award for Best Actress.

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Despite her two-decade career in Hollywood — which also includes the films Chicago, Shanghai Noon, Lucky Number Slevin and the Kung Fu Panda franchise, as well as television shows like Southland, Ugly Betty and Dirty Sexy Money — Liu knows that her roles in film and television could never display a complete and well-rounded representation of her interests and passions. So visual art was always something she did on the side for herself. She has had art shows since the early ’90s, but for a long time, especially once she became famous, she exhibited under her Chinese name, Yu Ling. Part of it was that she wasn’t ready to be public with her art, and part of it was that she didn’t want people to come to her exhibits looking for the ass-kicking girl from those Quentin Tarantino action films.

She says it’s possible she would have continued leading her secret life, but one day, a book publisher visited her studio, thought her work would be great as an art book, and offered to publish it. It was the first time she was confronted with the suggestion to go with her celebrity moniker.

“At first, I thought it was really important and helpful for people to come in [to see my work] with a clean slate,” she says. “But in the end, it didn’t really matter. The editor said, ‘I think you should just own it,’ and I realized he was right.”

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Lucy Liu’s Seventy Two series (No. 34) Forget Thyself (2009), ink on paper, 8 x 10.5 in. Photo courtesy of the artist © Lucy Liu.

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Lucy Liu’s Seventy Two series (No. 53) No Agenda (2009), ink on paper, 8.5 x 11.75 in. Photo courtesy of the artist © Lucy Liu.

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Lucy Liu’s Seventy Two series (No. 56) Dispelling Anger (2009), ink on paper, 8.1 x 10.5 in. Photo courtesy the artist © Lucy Liu.

Her book, Lucy Liu: Seventy Two, consists of 72 abstract ink and acrylic paintings that are inspired by the Jewish mythical concept of the “72 Names of God.” However, instead of the three-letter Hebrew words, Liu creates images inspired by Chinese brush painting and calligraphy. “I liked how the [72 Names of God] chart looks similar to how Chinese characters are presented in boxes,” she says.

“I also love the idea of ink and its permanence,” she continues, contrasting the medium with paint on a canvas. “You can see the image’s history because when you make a mark, it stays. It’s like people and how the choices you make and the scars you have shape you as a person.”

This was a departure from Liu’s previous artwork, which included photographs, collages and larger-scale paintings. But unfamiliarity with a particular type of art doesn’t deter Liu from experimenting with it; if anything, she’s drawn to trying new things. She’s currently working with silk screens, another medium she’s discovering for the first time.

“Part of what I enjoy is just learning the art and its history,” she says. “I didn’t study it professionally, so I like working with someone I know who can teach me. And then I use my imagination to take it to another place. It keeps it fresh, naïve and different.”

Lately, she’s also been throwing herself into the world of directing. Her first directorial effort, the 2011 PBS short film Meena, was based on a child sex-trafficking story in Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn’s book Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide. It was an extension of the work she had been doing with UNICEF, addressing children’s issues, including education and nutrition. (Coincidentally, the latest film project she’s been attached to is Evan Jackson Leong’s Snakehead, also about human smuggling, but a story that takes place closer to home, in New York’s Chinatown.)

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Last year, she upped her game, taking over the director’s chair for the first time on Elementary, for a second season episode called “Paint it Black,” featuring Sherlock and his estranged brother Mycroft (Rhys Ifans). At the time of this interview earlier this year, Liu had spent her holidays working, planning and creating a shot list for the second episode she was asked to direct — this time, a season three story that will be more challenging to helm because she also has more scenes in it as an actor. “It’ll be a lot more running around,” she says. “I will get my exercise in for sure.”

Liu believes that in directing, she may have finally found an outlet that combines all her artistic passions. “I’m really going on all pistons when I’m directing,” she says. “There’s something so magical about it. You’re in that time-space warp where you’re not even sure how you got there, and you’re so present at every minute that it feels like a maximum heightened state.” She laughs. “It’s like an exam. You cram in as much as you possibly can, everyone’s asking you a ton of questions, and you have a very short time to complete it.”

Though Liu loves to organize and feels comfortable leading the crew, who are all rooting for her to succeed, she admits she’s not the best planner when it comes to future career goals. “I try to be as in-the-moment as possible, which can be good and bad,” she says. “But I’ve been working with the same team of managers for 20 years. I couldn’t do this by myself. You might have an idea or inspiration, but you allow your team to create this world for you.”

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That’s not to say that working in entertainment is always easy — even if you are successful at it. At the end of the day, Hollywood often still doesn’t know what to do with a Chinese American actress, and unfortunately actors can’t always control the types of roles that they’re offered — or if they’re even offered any.

“You live in a limbo-ish world,” says Liu, of the actor’s lifestyle. “It’s an amazing place to grow, and it also can be very frustrating. But isn’t everything?

“It’s not just about being invited to the [Hollywood] community,” she continues. “It’s about living and breathing in it and finding your own space. You have to believe that you have something to offer, before anyone else even sees it. That’s kind of what this business is about. No matter what anyone says to you, whether it’s encouraging or discouraging, you have to listen to your inner voice. Especially if you’re doing art. No one else can do it for you. It’s important to stand behind yourself, because the only thing you can guarantee is yourself.”

To that end, she’s currently working on creating her own official website, which she hopes to launch later this year. She envisions it as a place where she can display all of her art, with proper descriptions she’s writing herself, so she can give her fans insights into her true self — not just the persona we see on film and television. Soon, we won’t have to depend on Google to learn all we want to know about Lucy Liu.

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Story Ada Tseng 
Photos Jeff Vespa
Stylist Ashley Avignone, The Wall Group
Makeup Rebecca Restrepo 
Hair Danielle Priano

This story was originally published in our Spring 2015 issue. Get your copy here

 

 

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Sneak Peek: Introducing Our Spring 2015 Cover Girl LUCY LIU

 

That’s right! Our Spring 2015 cover girl is none other than the incredible Lucy Liu. Throughout the years that Lucy Liu has been in the entertainment industry, she has broken the mold for Asian Americans in countless ways. Be on the look out for our exclusive cover story which proves this actor, director, UNICEF ambassador and fine artist is so much more than meets the eye.

Can’t wait to get your hands on the issue? Click here to purchase it or to subscribe to Audrey Magazine. For now, check out what Audrey’s editor-in-chief Anna M. Park has to say about seeing Lucy Liu for the very first time:

When Ally McBeal first aired in 1997, I watched with interest. After all, back then, I too was a young lawyer in a downtown law firm. Of course, we didn’t get to wear skirts that short, and cases never went to trial that often nor that fast, but it didn’t matter. It was a nice 45-minute escape every Monday, the worst day of the week when you’re in a career you hate.

A year later, I got hooked on the show, and it definitely had nothing to do with those ridiculous dancing baby delusions. Ling Woo, played by then-newcomer Lucy Liu, was introduced to the firm. Who is this woman, I thought, and … why do I find myself loving her? Not everyone liked her, of course. Cries of “Dragon lady!” and “Exoticized geisha!” abounded. But I think that simplified the character. From her quicksilver tongue to her curtain of perfect hair, she was different from any other woman of Asian descent I had seen on TV or film. Someone I wished I could be at times — strong, assertive, not afraid to say it like it is.

Over the years, Lucy Liu has become a bona fide star, the first actor you’d name under the category of Asian American actors. And yet I’d forgotten how much of an influence she’s really had in entertainment, her star big enough to host Saturday Night Live, present at numerous Emmy and Academy Awards, even play herself in an episode of Sex and the City. She’s broken the color and gender barrier so many times, most recently in her role on Elementary as Dr. Joan Watson, the first time the Sherlock sidekick has been played by a woman, and an Asian woman, no less.

And yet for all that, it’s her artwork that really impresses me. Seemingly simple at first glance, but look close up and there is so much depth, so many layers. I’m hardly an art critic, but Lucy’s work gives me more of an insight into who she is than a wealth of IMDB entries.

 

Story by Ada Tseng 
Photos by Jeff Vespa
Stylist: Ashley Avignone, The Wall Group
Makeup: Rebecca Restrepo
Hair: Danielle Priano

 

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Sneak Peek: Introducing Our Beautiful Winter Issue Cover Girl MICHELLE PHAN

 

We’re more than excited to introduce our Audrey Magazine Winter 2014-2015 cover girl Michelle Phan! Be on the look out for our exclusive cover story coming soon. Can’t wait to get your hands on the issue? Click here to purchase it or to subscribe to Audrey Magazine.

For now, check out what Audrey’s editor-in-chief Anna M. Park has to say about YouTube’s beauty bestie:

 

The last time we tried to get Michelle Phan on our cover was 2010. We had the clothes, the makeup, the venue, everything ready. And then she came down with the chicken pox. The day before the shoot. It was clearly not meant to be.

In 2010, Michelle was big. She had over a million YouTube subscribers then. Her Lady Gaga makeup tutorials had gone viral. And she had just become Lancôme’s official video makeup artist. She was hot. And we were so disappointed we couldn’t get her on the cover.

Well, we finally got her on the cover. And today, Michelle Phan is even hotter than four years ago. A million subscribers? Try over 7 million now. Lancôme? She’s still there. But she has her own makeup line as well, backed by beauty giant L’Oréal. YouTube? Sure, but with her own multichannel network, FAWN, where she curates and develops new talent and content as executive producer. Add to that a beauty sampling company, a new book, even her own music label. Michelle isn’t just big anymore. She’s empire big.

Here’s the funny thing about her story. Michelle dropped out of college to pursue her dreams, to work with Lancôme back in 2010. And this year, that same school, the Ringling College of Art + Design, bestowed on Michelle an honorary doctorate of arts in the business of art and design. She definitely proves that life isn’t necessarily a straight line or an even path. It is — as she says — a circle. Read more about her amazing journey in writer Michelle Woo’s story coming soon!

 

 

Story: Michelle Woo
Photos: Jack Blizzard
Stylist: Reichelle Palo
Makeup: Jayme Kavanaugh
Hair: Octavio Molina

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AUDREY MAGAZINE FALL 2014 COVER GIRL REVEALED: EVA CHEN!

 

We are more than a little excited to reveal our Fall 2014 cover girl, Eva Chen!

She’s the chicer, cooler older sister you wish you had — one with all the ins on the best stuff, one you want to have a glass of wine with. Sure, Eva Chen’s the first Asian American editor-in-chief in the Condé Nast publishing empire and the youngest EIC at a major American fashion publication, but don’t let her trailblazing, history-making ways intimidate you. The Lucky magazine #girlboss is redefining what it means to be an editor in the 21st century and leading the charge for print to thrive in an increasingly digital world, one hashtag at a time…

Story by Ko Im
Photos by Conan Thai, conanthai.com
Makeup by Brian Duprey
Hair by Chris Lospalluto
Photo assistant Brian Schutza 

 

This inspiring cover story will be coming soon! If you can’t wait ’til then, get your hands on the latest issue of Audrey Magazine!

 

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Sneak Peak: Sandra Oh on the Cover of Audrey Magazine Summer 2014!

This upcoming summer issue of Audrey Magazine will feature none other than Sandra Oh! In our exclusive cover story, we find out why Oh left Grey’s Anatomy and what’s in store for the actress next. READ IT HERE and be on the look out for our Summer 2014 issue which is packed with even more stunning photos of Sandra Oh!

 

KEEP UPDATED WITH THE SHOP AUDREY PAGE TO GET YOUR HANDS ON THE SUMMER ISSUE COMING SOON!

 

Story: Michelle Woo
Photos: Lever Rukhin
Stylist: Anita Patrickson for The Wall Group
Makeup: Georgie Eisdell for The Wall Group
Hair: Christine Symonds for The Wall Group
Location: The Legendary Park Plaza Hotel

 

Our Winter 2013-14 Cover Shoot With Priyanka Chopra [Photos]

We simply can’t get enough of our beautiful and talented cover girl, Priyanka Chopra.

Not only has she made history by being the world’s first Indian “Guess Girl,” she also became the youngest person to ever win Miss World at the age of 17, has starred in some of the highest grossing Bollywood films of all time, has an album releasing soon, was named a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador for Child’s Rights in 2010, wrote for the Times of India, and is on our list of The World’s 15 Most Followed Asian Female Celebrities on Twitter.

Clearly, the world wants to see more of this amazing women and we certainly want to help. Here are the beautiful photos of Priyanka Chopra featured in our Winter 2013-14 issue.

To purchase your copy of Audrey Magazine’s Winter 2013-14 issue, click here. Be sure to read the amazing cover story on Priyanka here

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Photographed by Yu Tsai and Stevie & Mada.

To purchase your copy of Audrey Magazine’s Winter 2013-14 issue, click here. Be sure to read the amazing cover story on Priyanka here

DESTINY’S CHILD: Bollywood’s Biggest Actress, PRIYANKA CHOPRA

If she hadn’t been bullied at an American high school, she may not have returned to India only to win Miss World. If she hadn’t won Miss World, she may not have become Bollywood’s biggest actress. For Priyanka Chopra, with her debut pop album just on the horizon, destiny is all about taking that next step after you fall. 

STORY by Ada Tseng.
PHOTOS by Yu Tsai.

 BUY OUR WINTER 2013-14 ISSUE WITH PRIYANKA CHOPRA HERE.

 

When PRIYANKA CHOPRA was 17 years old, the young Indian beauty had spent a few difficult high school years abroad in the United States before deciding to go back to India for her senior year. Upon her return, her mother sent some photos Chopra had taken to apply for an engineering scholarship to the Femina Miss India beauty pageant. Within the span of a year, Chopra went from being taunted by American teenagers who called her “brownie” to winning the 2000 Miss World title at age 18 — still the youngest contestant to ever win the pageant in its 63-year history.

Now 31, Chopra says that if she hadn’t been bullied at school and desperate to return home to India, she would have never fallen into her mega-successful career in the Bollywood entertainment industry.

“I think it gave me the strength to take adversity head on,” says Chopra. “I also learned that your life and destiny is in your own hands. Take chances, push boundaries, jump, fall, fail, cry, and then brush it all off and start all over. You will face adversity at many points in your life, but you can’t let it become a roadblock.

“The incident [in high school] upset and hurt me tremendously,” she continues, “but ultimately made me stronger. Then being back home in India led me to participate and win the Miss India and Miss World crowns. I found what I loved to do, gave it everything I had and left the rest up to destiny. Nothing anyone says or does will ever change that.”

In a business that is ruled by Kapoors, Bachchans, Roshans and Khans (who are often sons and daughters of already-successful film industry folk), Chopra prides herself in being a self-made star. Her parents, both doctors in the Indian army at the time, had no connections to Bollywood. But when Chopra was flooded with acting offers after her Miss World win, her mother actually gave up her flourishing practice to come to Mumbai with her daughter to help chase her new dreams.

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“We were so far removed from this world,” says Chopra. “We didn’t know anyone and didn’t know a thing about the film business. What actually helped us through it was that we knew this was not a ‘do-or-die’ situation, so we just trusted our instincts and stuck to our values. Every day was a challenge, everything I had to face, good or bad, was a new experience, and that in itself was a challenge.”

In the beginning of her career, Chopra was involved in some commercial successes — Andaaz opposite Akshay Kumar, Mujhse Shaadi Karogi with Salman Khan and Kumar, Krrish with Hrithik Roshan, and Don opposite Shah Rukh Khan — but it took a while for her to be taken seriously as an actress and gain parts that did more than capitalize on her looks.

“Learning to be an actor and understanding the craft was a huge challenge for me,” says Chopra. “I didn’t go to acting school. My [previously] desired career path was to be an engineer. So I listened, observed and absorbed everything that was happening around me. It gave me the foundation that I needed to build on and really paid off.”

One could argue that Chopra’s biggest turning point came in 2008, with her role as an ambitious supermodel in Fashion. Not only was Chopra in the title role in the women-centric film with no male leads, she picked up most of the major best actress awards that year, including the Filmfare Awards, International Indian Film Academy Awards, and the National Film Awards.

In 2012, she further cemented her acting chops by donning a short curly hairdo to play an autistic girl, rendering her almost unrecognizable as Ranbir Kapoor’s unlikely love interest in the romantic comedy Barfi!. Nowadays, with more than 40 films under her belt, she’s respected as a hard-working actress who is bankable yet not afraid to take chances with her roles.

But it was late 2012 that brought her boldest move yet — a foray into the international pop music scene. Bollywood film is known for its musical numbers, and as part of film tradition, the actors and actresses dance and lip-synch to songs that are pre-recorded by professional playback singers. While there have been instances of actors recording songs for their own films, Chopra is the first major Bollywood star to sign a record deal with the intent of releasing a solo English album for a global audience.

Instead of staying in India, where she is already a bona fide superstar with almost 5 million Twitter followers (the most of any Bollywood actress), Chopra deliberately chose Los Angeles as her base for recording music, and she is working with American artists and producers to develop her own style that fuses universally appealing pop/dance beats with her Indian roots.

“It’s been super fun, but also scary in a way, because as a lyricist you are delving into your own experiences and emotions to create these songs,” says Chopra. “As you will hear, my music is really driven by my moods. When I’m hyper I write a pop song; when I’m sad I write ballads.”

Chopra has since released two singles, with a third due any day now. “In My City,” featuring will.i.am, was certified triple platinum in India when it debuted in September 2012, and it made a resurgence this past September when it was chosen as the NFL Networks’ official new Thursday Night Football opening theme song. Her second single “Exotic,” featuring Pitbull, not only hit number one in iTunes India when it was released this past July, it also appeared on the Billboard Dance/Electronic charts in the United States, as well as the Canadian Hot 100.

Her upcoming debut album, scheduled for early 2014, is a collaboration between Universal Music Group, Interscope Records and Desi Hits!, and both “In My City” and “Exotic” were produced and co-written by Grammy-nominated producer RedOne, a Top 40 hit-maker for artists like Nicki Minaj, Jennifer Lopez, One Direction and Lady Gaga.

“Making music is such an organic process, and there is really no set pattern,” says Chopra. “In the course of putting my album together, I have had such varied experiences. Sometimes a song has been borne out of a melody created while sitting in the studio, or it germinates from a particular emotion that you are feeling on any given day. Sometimes a story or a word tossed into a conversation — that becomes the center point of the idea for your song. It can happen anywhere and anyhow, and that’s what makes it so magical.”

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That said, her ardent Bollywood fans need not worry about her abandoning the silver screen any time soon, as Chopra’s filming schedule has definitely not been put on hold amidst the madness. Always the multitasker, the impossibly busy triple threat recently re-teamed with Hrithik Roshan for the superhero sequel Krrish 3, released in November, and she will soon finish filming the upcoming Mary Kom biopic, in which she plays the titular role of the celebrated Indian boxer. Chopra was also recently named the new Guess Girl, becoming the first model of Indian descent for the clothing brand and following in the steps of such well-known names as Claudia Schiffer, Anna Nicole Smith and Kate Upton. Handpicked by Guess CEO Paul Marciano, not only will Chopra appear in their holiday ads shot by Bryan Adams (yes, the musician) in the December issue for almost all the major American fashion magazines, her music and Guess campaign video will stream across the brand’s 1,700 stores worldwide.

Looking back, even though the teenage Chopra dealt with her share of mean high school girls who didn’t appreciate her South Asian roots, her experiences in the United States weren’t all bad. Her exposure to American hip-hop and R&B during her formative years — she was obsessed with Tupac Shakur and wore black to school every day for a week after he passed away — has influenced the eclectic mix of music she co-writes and listens to today.

And Chopra recognizes that we’re now in a different time: as the world is becoming more global (our own Miss America is of South Asian descent, after all), we just might be ready for an Indian pop star in America.

 

This cover story was originally published in our Winter 2013-14 issue. Get your copy here