On Sunday evening in Los Angeles, looking like a million dollars (tax free) in sparkling Vera Wang, the actress hit the stage of the People's Choice Awards to collect her prize for Favourite Actress in a New TV Series. That may sound like one of the awards cooked up at ceremonies closer home-but there are many reasons why it is actually a pretty big deal. For one, the PCAs may not be serious awards but they are extremely popular ones-and considering the roster included Ellen DeGeneres, Johnny Depp, Sandra Bullock, Vin Diesel (more on him a little later), Kate Hudson, Claire Danes and Chris Hemsworth, they're doing something right. Two, it suggests that Priyanka Chopra is steadily making her way into the American mainstream. And perhaps she was always the one to do it. (Also Read: Priyanka Chopra Wins People's Choice Award For Quantico)
Every time she has been surrounded by scandal, or teetered on the edge of being written off, Priyanka hasn't just changed tracks, she's built newer, bigger ones on which to blaze her trail. Every. Single. Time.
And this, her biggest gamble, looks set to pay off extremely well. While I'm the first to admit to being more than a bit disappointed with Quantico, despite the promise of its first look, Priyanka herself hasn't been disappointing at all. (And really show writers, if you're paying attention, do watch Bajirao Mastani to see what your leading lady can do and then, please, write up a little?) But more critically, she has made a legitimate, mainstream debut, and the fans are clearly lapping her up. She's done the talk show circuit, acquitted herself pretty well; she's looked the part and kept the fashion police happy; she's on screen once a week with a show that boasts suitable if predictable cliffhangers and clearly she's charming the pants of everyone. Remember - this is a popularity award, and even accounting pockets of enthusiastic NRIs, to win this, just half a season in, is a pretty massive deal.
So, what's she done that others haven't? For starters, she's determinedly and successfully managed to keep her other foot firmly in Bollywood. And since we're always kinder to those who don't appear to be getting 'too big for their boots,' that was the first smart step. The second was that she kept it so slow, so steady that by the time it happened it seemed organic, even inevitable. And, again, to us, her fiercest critics back home. Overseas, well, they didn't have the baggage, and I suspect it had been building for a while. If I recollect, the first bit of the international buzz began when Gerard Butler was reported to be dazzled by her. (He subsequently offered the most original denial of the relationship we've ever heard: 'They kept catching us naked together.....I'm joking. It's a JOKE!').
Then came the songs. Again, say what you will about the lyrics, about the moves (Lots was and will be again), there she was with Pitbull, with will.i.am and at the Super Bowl. She'd done it. We knew she could sing, and goodness knows it was smart of her to save it for there, rather than soundtracks closer home.
Before the TV show even hit screens there she was, hanging cool with Ellen Pompeo (Grey's Anatomy's Meredith Grey) and Kerry Washington (Scandal's Olivia Pope). (I'll confess: this is when I was truly jealous).
A trailer worth talking about, an accent that may not have been but was anyway and a show that's actually doing well. Decent numbers on IMDB and Rotten Tomatoes, topping a few lists here and there. And that brings us right back to the awards - Where she was presenting to her Bajirao Mastani co-star Deepika Padukone's to-be co-star Vin Diesel. And taking home a prize. And looking smashing while she did it.
When NDTV spoke to her at the post awards' party (Oh to have been a fly on the wall) she said, once again, all the things we like to hear: She acknowledged her mother, she acknowledged her privilege, she equated herself as an every man ('if I can do this anyone can') and said repeatedly that she was thrilled to win this as an Indian overseas.
"I was trying to say as much as I could and thank as many people as I could but there was so much to say and I was presenting an award. I was completely crazy at that time because there was so much to do and so much to say and I was presenting an award and was completely crazy at that time. I kept looking at my mother as I gave my speech and I thanked everybody who chose me im really happy and this achievement makes me believe that if I can do it, so can anybody," she told NDTV.
She's kept her fanbase back home right where she wants them, even as she builds new ones overseas. Well played.
And by the way, Freida Pinto, in case you're wondering: that's how it's done.
Aneesha Baig is NDTV's Lifestyle Editor and Anchor, Will Travel For Food
Disclaimer: The opinions expressed within this article are the personal opinions of the author. The facts and opinions appearing in the article do not reflect the views of NDTV and NDTV does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same.