Bollywood star Priyanka Chopra apologized for wearing a t-shirt offensive to refugees

“That was not the intention.”
“That was not the intention.”
Image: Reuters/Adrees Latif
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Priyanka Chopra has played most of her cards right—until now.

Chopra was the first Indian Guess girl and sang at the National Football League’s opening night. Her biggest claim to fame is playing the ethnically ambiguous lead in ABC’s Quantico, Alex Parrish, and she is set to star as a villain in the upcoming Baywatch film. The Bollywood star even made Time magazine’s 100 most influential list in 2016. But the ex-Miss World recently slipped up with the distasteful top she wore on the Indian edition of Condé Nast Traveler’s sixth anniversary cover.

In it, she’s seen wearing a t-shirt that strikes out the words “refugee,” “immigrant,” and “outsider,” while the word “traveler” stands out. People were quick to blast the actor and the magazine over the privileged and insensitive nature of the text, pointing out that being a refugee is generally not a choice for people.

On Monday (Oct. 17)  Chopra apologized on New Delhi Television. ”I’m really, really apologetic about the fact that so many sentiments were hurt,” the 34-year-old said in an interview with Barkha Dutt. ”I was very affected and I felt really, really horrible and that was never the intention.”

The magazine, which specially designed the t-shirt, articulated its intention behind the cover in a statement issued Oct. 10. “It’s about how our labelling of people as immigrants, refugees and outsiders is creating a culture of xenophobia,” the magazine said, explaining that the message was to “demand a world free of racism and bigotry and prejudice” and make a point of breaking down walls. “We must recognise that we are all on a journey. Whether we are moving across oceans or just a few kilometres, or in our mind’s eye, into a completely different world, whether we are doing so due to free will or circumstance—we are all travellers.”

The refugee problem is worse than it was during World War II. By the end of 2015, one out of every 113 people was displaced from their homes because of conflict and persecution, according to the UNHCR.

Chopra, an ambassador for UNICEF, said the idea of the project was simply to dismiss the use of terms that are often “used to berate people, put them in a box, profile them.” Unfortunately, that wasn’t the message that was delivered.