Meet Priyanka Chopra. Or should I say, Alex Parrish from Quantico?

The first time I met Priyanka Chopra, she was tucked away in one corner of an extremely chaotic dressing room, devouring an entire pizza. All by herself. Refusing to share. It was a shoot for Cosmopolitan (India) and the young actress was just then stepping into the limelight, riding a combined wave of authentic acting talent and stunning good looks. She was rapidly climbing up the starry pyramid – though still wasn’t anywhere near the point where one could call the shots in a male-dominated industry.

Not that this little bit about maledom and hierarchies and all that other stuff stopped her. Ms Chopra was cool as a cucumber as she chowed down her pizza, waved away the makeup artist while she took time out to help her younger brother with his maths homework and debated the storyboard for the photo shoot till she was completely satisfied. This within an industry where most stars don’t study the storyboard of an entire movie… Priyanka, it was pretty clear even then, was different. Very, very different.

At that point, more than a decade back, I really didn’t like this girl who was so different. There is a safety to interviewing cookie cutter celebs and Priyanka would simply not let you enjoy that comfort zone. She was louder than anyone else I knew in the industry, more vociferous, more challenging, more intelligent, more energetic… just, simply, more of everything.

And she was just simply so contradictory: tough as nails on the surface, yet fragile as glass when she let down her guard (look out for the “daddy’s li’l girl” tattoo on her wrist – it will break your heart); wearing relationships on her sleeve yet refusing to hang out her linen, dirty or otherwise, for magazine inches; chowing down junk food by the carton and yet remaining svelte as a beanpole; scared of heights and yet skydiving from 17,000 feet for fun… you are getting the idea?

And while it was annoying for me as an interviewer to deal with someone who refused to be pigeonholed into mere words, it is this contrariness that has taken Priyanka literally across the world and into the stratosphere. Today, she sings with Pitbull and runs around trees in fantasy-glam Bollywood fashion yet she also shares many of life’s toughest nuances with five-time world boxing champion Mary Kom, who was born to struggle as the daughter of a landless Indian farmer. Her animated Planes was considered for the Best Feature Film category at the 2014 Oscars, while she was busy promoting the cause of Girl Up, a campaign by the United Nations Foundation. Her single In My City, featuring will.i.am, debuted as the theme song for the NFL Network’s Thursday Night Football, even as Matthew Bishop, the United Nations Foundation New York Bureau Chief, referred to her as the smartest Miss World.

And now there is Quantico: the mega-budget television blockbuster which propels Priyanka into the uppermost echelons of American television (winning her the People’s Choice award!), as Alex Parrish. Faces like Nimrat Kaur and Archie Punjabi notwithstanding, this is the first time an Indian actress has grabbed the totem pole in a mainstream television series as a central anchor point and not in a character role or a token Asian presence. Quantico literally revolves around Priyanka’s character, putting her front and centre in the living rooms of possibly those very same “mean girls” who bullied her as a “brownie” when she attended high school in Boston.

Priyanka, as usual, defies stereotyping and pigeonholing. And this time round, I can’t help but cheer for her from the rooftops for this leap of faith.

So, meet Priyanka Chopra: Indian actress, American television star, model, singer, United Nations Foundation ambassador, former Miss World. The new villain of the much awaited Baywatch movie. The second most searched for name during this year’s Oscars and part of the Top 10 Best Dressed lists in literally every publication that tracks fashion on the red carpet.

Combine this with the fact that she’s the first Indian woman to become and international Guess girl – shot for the campaign by none other than Bryan Adams – and you know that this 33-year-old has definitely arrived. With trumpets blaring.

Time then, to have a proper chat with this multifaceted enigma and figure out what goes on behind those doe eyes and how in the world does she look so gorgeous, all the time!

priyanka chopra quantico2

Priyanka Chopra in Quantico

When do you feel most feminine?

When I slip into my Snoopy pyjamas and do my nighttime beauty rituals – applying different kinds of lotions all over my body, brushing my hair and so on.

The secret behind that show-stopping figure?

Pizza! No, seriously. I love junk food and the pizza in Mumbai is so good. And French fries… sigh! That’s soul food. [I can vouch for this after having seen “Piggy Chops”, as she is known in Bollywood, scarf down a whole pizza pie on at least THREE different occasions!]

So that’s it, all the time? Really?

[Big sigh] I do mix up the junk eating with sprouts, raw veggies (especially fresh red carrots), steamed or stewed stuff and high fibre snacks. I am also obsessed with coconut water and can have any amount of it at any time in the day.

And that’s how you get such flawless skin?

That and the CTM method: Cleanse-tone-moisturize. Every single day. I also take multi-vitamins and drink a lot of water to keep my skin clear and healthy. Water is really important as it keeps skin moist and sweeps out toxins, which would otherwise clog your body and make everything look and feel sluggish.

Shot by Bryan Adams for Guess

Priyanka Chopra shot by Bryan Adams for Guess

Do you have a nightly beauty ritual?

I can’t go to bed without washing my face thoroughly. Skin won’t breathe or repair itself till all the pore-clogging grime and make-up comes off.

Any secrets to achieving your silky, shiny hair?

I really believe in indigenous kitchen recipes. Warm coconut oil massages are fabulous, as they keep my hair soft and supple while being relaxing as well. At various times, I also bring out the beer, eggs and yogurt for deep conditioning.

What’s the best part about being a woman?

That we get to dress up! On a more serious note, women are emotionally far stronger than men. We can deal with anything and everything without cracking up like most guys. And more than anything else, our capacity to become mothers: That’s truly the most beautiful thing god has bestowed on women.

Channelling Bollywood for Ram Leela

Priyanka Chopra channelling Bollywood for Ram Leela

What would you do if you were a guy for a day?

Nothing really. I don’t think there is anything that a guy can do that a woman cant. However, I would definitely like to live like Winston Churchill for a day. I want to know how it felt to live with such rigid ideals.

What should guys know about women?

That we love getting loads of attention, lots of sympathy and want to be with someone who understands our point of view. Guys are usually too focused on getting others to see things from their point of view, or in analyzing and solving our problems rather than just listening… and that just does not cut it for women!

What’s the biggest mistake that women make in a relationship?

Being too overbearing or possessive, and not giving any space to your guy.

Priyanka Chopra, India-style!

Priyanka Chopra, India-style!

Your kind of guy?

He will have to meet a long list of requirements. Sincerity, intelligence, good looks — so that our kids, all six of them, will be good looking. He has to be adventurous and spontaneous. A good sense of humour is a must and he should share my fetish for cleanliness. AND he should be understanding, give me my space. Asking for much… why, whatever gave you that idea?

What’s a perfect date?

To the moon and back!

Most romantic dream?

I want to have 6 weddings – all with the same guy! The first will be a typical Punjabi wedding in Ambala (India), with rituals that go on for 18-20 days and the whole extended family stays under one roof. The second will be in a small Mother Mary church in Locarno, Switzerland. The third will be underwater, while the fourth will be in Vegas with Elvis officiating. The fifth will be a nikaah, because I find the whole concept extremely romantic. And the sixth will be as my husband wants it.

Is it easy being a celeb?

I wish people would see an actress as someone who is also human. As a girl at heart who wants to do all the normal girly things, like standing in the rain and having an ice cream. It’s not always about the parties, the glitz and the glamour.

What’s the gutsiest thing you’ve ever done?

Skydiving from 17,000 feet at Locarno, Switzerland. I have always been terrified of heights and had promised myself that I would break the fear before I was 22-years-old.

Excerpted from an interview I did for Marie Claire

Deodorant as face primer? THAT’s how celebs look so flawless on the red carpet

Humid evenings are never a good match for alfresco dinner parties. And yet I keeping getting trapped into them over and over again. So, with makeup literally melting off faster than I could apply it, I decided to risk a truly bizarre beauty tip that I saw in action at the Cannes Film Festival last year – using deodorant as a face primer.

deodarant on faceSeriously! It sounds totally bonkers but works like a dream. The logic is simple: antiperspirants formulated to keep underarms dry should have the same effect when applied to parts of the face that have the most sweat glands. Yes, I am talking about the upper lip and hairline. Today, most celebs on the red carpet stay sweat-free under the glaring lights by applying clear, unscented deodorant to their face (with a foundation brush, in thin layers) before putting on makeup.

I did it yesterday and it totally worked – for the first time, my makeup actually stayed in place. But remember that deodorants were not exactly developed for use on facial skin, so test them a small patch before applying all over the face. And only use the unscented ones for this purpose – I used Dove, though I guess Nivea would work just as well!

What’s your most bizarre beauty tip?

12 seriously strange skincare secrets the experts swear by (I kid you not!)

Having beautiful, glowing, flawless skin is not always about rigorous dermatological treatments or expensive products. Sometimes, simple goes a longer way and every skincare pro I’ve ever spoken to has sworn by at least a couple of kitchen shelf DIYs they call upon in their own life. Some of these secret rituals are merely curious, while others are downright bizarre. But they are all underlined by serious doses of skincare science and the experts promise they perform miracles. So, here you go!

skincare tips1. Do shots… with chlorophyll: Don’t really relish those green juices and salads seem too much of a bother? Just stock up on liquid chlorophyll. This most essential of plant nutrients detoxifies the body, oxygenates the skin, boosts tissue repair, steps up digestion and restores our acid-alkaline ratio to keep the complexion clean, healthy and glowing from the inside out. Added bonus: It works fast and tastes like mint.

2. Order the guac: Or just go straight for the avocados, which are loaded with healthy fats and phytonutrients that nourish skin from the inside out and bring back your glow.

3. Bring on the beer: Beer isn’t just good for your hair, it’s also a powerful skin ally. All those B vitamins, hops, saccharides and yeast help dissolve dead cells, balance pH levels and bust acne-causing bacteria. Simply mix together half a cup of beer with one egg white and slather on your face. Let the mask dry for 20 minutes, then rinse off with warm water. Now say hello to radiant, fresh skin.

4. Freeze up: Late night? Crying bout? Sun scorched? Beauty pros always keep a few sheet of aluminium foil in the freezer. Simply take one of the chilled sheets and put them on your face for a few minutes to de-puff, tighten pores and bring back the glow.

5. Eye it: If it’s your eyes that need the de-puffing and redness relief, pop some eye cream in the  icebox and apply to lids for turbo-charged results.

6. Tea time: Skin more irritated than puffy? Chill some green tea bags and gently press them onto the inflamed areas – the antioxidants will soothe a sore complexion.

7. Tropical treat: Another refrigerated treat for your skin? Pineapple juice. Freeze some fresh pineapple juice and then rub this “ice cube” over clean skin. Let the liquid dry on your face for 5-10 minutes, then rinse away with plain water. Pineapple’s natural enzymes exfoliate, improve hydration and boost elasticity. Hello, luminous skin!

8. Dairy goodness: Swap the hot water with freshly boiled milk while steaming your face for the ultimate skin detox. Simply boil the milk, pour into a bowl and let the vapours float over your face as you lean in under a towel. Milk is full of lactic acid, which will decongest the pores, leaving your skin beautifully clear.

beauty hacks9.  Hydrate NOW: Dewy, glowing skin equals hydrated skin and when you’re sorely lacking in the latter department, whip together an egg yolk and a tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil. Apply a generous layer of this mixture all over your face and leave on for 20 minutes before rinsing off with lukewarm water.

10. Acne Rx: Need to bring down the redness and inflammation of a pimple right NOW? Dab a  bit of Visine on the blemish. This won’t make your pimple smaller, but it will definitely look less obvious for a few hours.

11. Scrub-a-dub: To banish dry, cracked heels, mix a handful of sea salt with enough almond oil to make a thick paste. Use this to exfoliate your feet and toes; say hello to smooth, sandal-ready summer feet!

12. Thigh high: For legs that tend to rub or chafe in summer, apply deodorant to the insides of your thighs… this sounds weird but it works!

What’s the strangest beauty tip you’ve ever heard? And how did it work out for you?

DIY beauty recipes: Victoria’s Secret Angels talk about getting your skin summer-ready

Congratulations world, there’s a whole new batch of Victoria’s Secret Angels out in the universe now. Which means loads more eye candy. And, of course, loads more body envy and general feelings of inadequateness as we shed the layers of our own wardrobe for summer.

But it need not always be so – because not every part of these heavenly bodies is toned and polished in the gym and hi-tech dermatologists offices. Many of their core beauty rituals involve easy kitchen shelf items like coconut water and lemon juice, which are perfectly accessible to us mere mortals as well. So, what are you waiting for?

victorias secret summer beautyA coconut a day

Adriana Lima, Alessandra Ambrosio and Lily Alridge swear by the revitalising powers of coconut water, ideally drunk fresh once a day. Why does this work? Coconut water is packed with potassium and electrolytes, which not only hydrate the body but also balance all our systems and flush out toxins from the liver. Coconuts are also full of natural beauty fat (the good kind that doesn’t have any cholesterol) and lauric acid, which supports our thyroid. Added bonus: it’s easily digested, thereby giving our metabolism a much-needed boost.

Other good juice options: acai and acerola.

Ice it!

Jasmine Tookes learnt this cool beauty trick from her mom’s dermatologist: You take an ice cube and run it all over your face until it melts away and leaves your pores really tight and your face really firm. She does it right before getting into bed every single night. Candice Swanepoel, on the other hand, splashes ice cold water on her face every morning to de-puff and bring on a healthy glow.

Much-o moisturiser

This is one basic we all tend to skip in summer: Plain and simple moisturiser. However, every single Victoria’s Secret Angel I spoke to reiterated that moisturiser is the key to perfect skin. Especially in summer, says Joan Smalls, when the sun tends to dehydrate our complexion, leaving it vulnerable to premature ageing and blemishes. To skip the greasiness, opt for a water-based product, like Biotherm Aquasource. Or head over to this post, where you can figure out exactly what your skin needs.

victorias secret summer beauty 2Going rose-y

Ieva Laguna grew up with a rose garden and continues to dab homemade rose tea under her eyes every single day. Or you can go the way of Behati Prinsloo, who swears by the complexion regenerating powers of rose water spray.

Oil it up!

Then there’s the ultimate beauty multi-tasker: good old coconut oil. Swanapoel, in fact, slathers it on from head-to-toe, using it as a hair and body moisturizer: “Coconut oil does take a bit more time to wash out but it always leaves my hair seriously shiny and healthy looking!” Aldridge goes a step further, mixing together one part coconut oil and two parts sugar with a spoon, then using the blend as an at-home body scrub. The sugar works as a gentle exfoliator, while coconut oil rehydrates the skin, leaving it soft and smooth. Bonus: it smells amazing.

Lemon ‘n lime

Martha Hunt advocates replacing store bought toners with plain lemon juice. Which makes sense really, since lemons are full of vitamin C, an antioxidant that slows down premature aging, while stimulating collagen and elastin production, thereby reducing the appearance of wrinkles and reversing sun damage. And because Vitamin C is extremely unstable – easily broken down by exposure to air and sunlight – what better way than to have it then squeezed fresh? Note: always use fresh lemon juice, and if your skin is sensitive, dilute with water.

Eggy stuff

All that heat styling can leave hair feeling totally dry and damaged. Hunt remedies that with this homemade hair mask: Add 3-4 tablespoons of rosemary oil to the white of two eggs. Whisk together until well blended and slather through your strands. Leave on for 20 minutes, then wash off with your regular shampoo. The eggs nourish strands with proteins and fats to heal damage and keep them smooth and shiny. Rosemary oil is superb at stimulating hair growth, so this DIY mask will ensure healthy, glossy tresses.

Have you ever tried any of these natural DIYs?