Priyanka Chopra Jonas on baring her soul in Unfinished: 'I hope it's taken with the right spirit'
With her new memoir, the actress gets the chance to tell her life story in her own words.
Priyanka Chopra Jonas is not unknown to many readers. In fact, most people who pick up her new memoir, Unfinished (out Tuesday), will already know much of her life story — how she got her start in pageantry, eventually being crowned Miss World; her domination of Bollywood; her foray into American television and film; her marriage to fellow A-lister Nick Jonas. What the actress hopes to do with the book is to offer something to fill in the blanks, what she describes as everything that happens in between interviews. She spoke with EW from her home in London, where, fittingly, she was balancing pre-press for her film The White Tiger and preparing to start filming her next gig, in addition to rolling out her first book.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: What is it about this moment that felt right for a book?
PRIYANKA CHOPRA: I was writing a lot of op-eds — I'm an opinionated girl, so that made sense — but I was always afraid of formatted writing: screenplays, novels. Last year I was approaching 20 years in the business, and I reached a point in my life where I felt more self-assured, like I'd finally found my footing.
What does the title mean to you?
I was doing an interview for Vogue's 73 Questions, actually, and they asked: If you had a memoir, what would you call it? And I just said without thinking, Unfinished. I then started thinking about what that meant to me. I had this conversation with Pam Cannon at Penguin Random House, and she fanned the flames of introspection for me. I call this the in-between-interviews book because I've given so many throughout my life, and spoken about so many things, but there's still so much that I didn't talk about or even reflect upon — because I was just running from one thing to the next.
Is this book written to address critics in any way?
I really treated it like a diary; that's the only way I could have written it. But it's written mostly to my younger self, really. I've written little notes into the book as well, like reminding myself not to assume. All those anecdotes are directed to myself. It came about because I started this book by just reflecting and trying to remember my life. I'd forgotten most of it; I had these sporadic memories of milestones. So I built around the milestones and then corroborated my memories with the people who were there, my family and friends.
You cover your whole life and career up to the present day. What felt most urgent to include?
I knew I wanted to talk about my father's death [in 2013], because it changed my personality. Afterward, I was alone in America to film Quantico and it was a very dark phase. I got through it by choosing to invest in myself; it's easier to wallow in self-pity, and sadness is strangely seductive, but you have to choose to see the light.
I also wanted to show that I'm very self-made. Every single thing that I have in my life today has been my choice, through my perseverance, blood, sweat, and tears. I wanted to showcase the journey of how I made it, and all the people who came to my aid during the journey.
You write about a lot of your firsts: in pageantry, in acting, in business. How does this first, in publishing, measure up to the difficulty or challenges you experienced in the other industries?
Every first is terrifying, from a first date to a first pitch meeting to first audition to the first time you get on a plane during a pandemic. [Laughs] But early in my career I started relishing doing things for the first time, because I realized how working hard to prepare can help you excel. I remember when I sat with Pam the first time, and we were talking about what the book was going to be, she asked me the most provocative questions. She said, "If we do this together, that's the place I want you to go. Nobody needs another celebrity memoir."
Does anything scare you about Unfinished's publication?
I'm a very private person — if you look at my Instagram, you [might not] think so, but trust me, I don't give you what I don't want you to see. So what surprised me was how much I gave. I can think of six or seven things I wrote about that I've never spoken about, and I'm scared of people reading my innermost thoughts. I've really bared my soul, and I hope it's taken with the right spirit.
What can you tell us about your writing habits?
There's a sun bed on my deck that has a spectacular view, so I would sit there with hip-hop music in the background. I need a journal and a pen in addition to my iPad — and water and snacks. Definitely snacks.