It’s a Sunday afternoon on the Upper East Side and “Quantico” actress Priyanka Chopra is busy getting ready at her apartment for Joseph Altuzarra’s Spring 2017 runway show. Justin Bieber tracks are pumping from the speakers, and she's surrounded on all sides by her glam squad, who are putting the finishing touches on her perfectly unfussy ponytail and adding a touch of color to her lips. Her best friend is sitting on the couch next to her, there’s a team busy cooking in the kitchen, and the rest of her team is at her side. She seems like a natural, but despite her many years in the spotlight, this is the actress and former model-slash-pageant girl’s first-ever New York Fashion Week.
“For people who are watching, and not spending their entire year waiting for this one day [like the designers], it’s great fun,” said the stunning Indian actress, who attended the Thakoon show a few days earlier. “You get to sit there with a bellini and watch amazing people wear amazing clothes and say, Oh, I want that one and that one! I love it!”
For the Altuzarra show, Chopra was wearing an unfussy, fitted pink knit dress by the designer. “I have come to the conclusion over the years that less is more, so my bad fashion and beauty moments over the years was when more was more,” she said, sans bellini. “It’s Sunday afternoon, so I want the look to be a little easy, effortless and not too much. That’s why a dress like this is perfect: you just put it on with a great pair of shoes and you are done,” she said.
Before she headed out to the show, talked about how she transitioned from pageant girl to Hollywood starlet, her love of Pokemon, stealing books from the hotel library (don’t worry, she paid for it later), and more.
Do you like this long hair and beauty process you have to go through regularly before events and red carpets?
I hate it! I am huffing and puffing through it all day. You are pricked and prodded—ugh!
When it’s you on a normal day, how long does it take to get ready?
10 minutes. I finish my shower, put on lipstick, mascara, and the easiest outfit (which is probably some sort of onesie), my hair is up or it falls into place. I am so unlike this. I don’t like the whole production…and you are just sitting there with no control, so I usually read or something like this book [picks up a James Patterson book]—I stole it from the hotel library where I was staying at in Europe recently. No, I paid for it, after I stole it and after I was on the plane so they couldn’t yell at me. I was already on the plane so they couldn’t get it back…
What else do you do while you sit there getting your hair and makeup done? Go through lines?
Read, or I am usually catching Pokemons. In our studio we don’t have a Poke stop so it’s a real problem. Very inconvenient! So, then I read books or read through lines.
That’s amazing. Do you have a lot in this area near your house?
Yes, this house is specifically chosen because it has a Poke stop. I am not joking—look! I am hoping I also catch some at Altuzarra. I am on level 20 and hoping to catch more soon. When I was in Europe, I caught some really European Pokemons, it was great.
I have never played, but that sounds fun…
Me and Thakoon, that’s how we got on! That’s what we bonded on is Pokemon. No joke. I thought I wouldn’t get into it either but it’s just so fun. When we were shooting episode three and the assistant directors were just randomly walking around. I was living at The Pierre before I moved into my house and outside the hotel, there were thousands of people standing like zombies and I found out they were playing Pokemon. I just wanted to understand what it was, honestly.
Did you play it the other night at the Thakoon show?
Afterwards, for sure.
What’s this amazing lip color you have on right now?
I have this thing about mixing colors. We usually use like three or four and find the right shade and create dimension on the lip, so some dark and some light, and blended really well.
You were a self-proclaimed tomboy as a young girl, now you're sitting here with multiple people doing your hair and makeup and you look so glamorous. Being in the business that I’m in, I have to know what looks best on me. I am on camera all the time. I’m a smart girl and I know what works for me. I didn’t know that before but as soon as I got thrown into being an actress I had to learn.
When you were first trying to learn how to do your hair and makeup, were you looking at a certain magazine or person for help and inspiration?
No, I was just looking at myself and I could see what worked and what didn’t honestly. These outfits work or this hair works or whatever—I did the addition and subtraction for me. Your style has to be defined by you, it can’t be defined by models you see in magazines or runway shows. Eventually the outfit will make you who you are. It has to be about what it looks like you. Instead of focusing on wanting to be someone else, we have to be the best versions of us. I always wanted to grow up and be Priyanka.
Looking back on your beauty and fashion looks, were there any standout bad ones that you wish never happened?
Ugh, I had a few! More than a few, I must say. It’s usually when I went with more, instead of less. I have come to the conclusion over the years that less is more, so my bad fashion and beauty moments over the years was when more was more.
Was that during your beauty pageant days?
No, that’s when I was 17. I didn’t do anything to myself, it was always hair and makeup people who did stuff to me. Whenever I was not onstage or on camera and training with the girls, I wouldn’t have any makeup on. Maybe just mascara. I was literally out of high school, junior year. But after, when I just started working, I had this vision of what an actress should be like or needed to be like.
What was that vision, exactly? Was it inspired by a certain actress you idolized?
From the eyes of an 18 year old, it was always about the stereotype of what a famous person or a star would be like. An excess of everything. I was thrown into this so haphazardly, I was just running. I didn’t even have time to think about it or prep for it. I was just winging it…
Along the way, have you picked up some great hair and makeup tips?
A lot of things, usually from my hair and makeup team and designers because I don’t know shit about fashion. I really just we wear what I like and that’s that. I like the finer things in life and I like to spoil myself when it comes to good things. But along the way, I have learned that when you are really tired and getting off a plane after a 25-hour flight, where you have paparazzi waiting to take your picture, you wear red lipstick (even if its daytime) and big sunglasses. Undo your hair, do a hair flip or two, and there you go.
Any favorite drugstore beauty products?
Yes! Boots in London has a Vitamin E under eye cram that’s like four or five pounds and it’s amazing. It is so good for dark circles and puffiness. I am a drugstore kind of girl, I love Boots, Duane Reade, CVS, all of it. When I go in, I come out with so much I have to ship it back. No joke.
Let’s talk fashion week. When was your first-ever fashion show?
Right after I became Miss India, I modeled for five or six months and it’s the most terrifying thing on the planet. I am really clumsy. I perform on stage and have sold out Madison Square [Garden], but there is still something about the stillness of walking on the ramp in these clothes and still looking great. It scared the crap out of me and I realized that I couldn’t do that so I stopped. I have walked and modeled for a lot of my friends but I prefer watching. [Laughs]
So, you really like your role in today’s Altuzarra show as a guest in the front-row?
Yes! I am good at sitting and watching a fun show and meeting great people. I went to the Thakoon show earlier this week and that’s it other than this because I am in production for my show every single day.
How did you become familiar with Joseph Altuzarra and his clothes?
I just like his work very much. I just love the clothes! They are effortless. Joseph had invited me to go to the CFDA Awards with him but I couldn’t because I was shooting Baywatch. It’s my first Altuzarra show and first time at New York Fashion Week!
What’s your impression of New York Fashion Week?
Fashion week is fashion week everywhere. It’s insane and backstage is even more insane. For people who are watching, and not spending their entire year waiting for this one day (like the designers), it’s great fun. You get to sit there with a bellini and watch amazing people wear amazing clothes and say, “Oh, I want that one and that one!”
Watch Priyanka Chopra and Jodie Foster sing Britney Spears' "Toxic":