Bollywood star apologises for offensive photo

NEW DELHI • Popular Bollywood actress Priyanka Chopra on Monday apologised for a glossy travel magazine cover after it sparked outrage among social media users accusing her of insensitivity to refugees and migrants.

The 34-year-old former Miss World is featured on the cover of the October edition of Conde Nast Traveller India wearing a white T-shirt with the words "REFUGEE", "IMMIGRANT" and "OUTSIDER" crossed out in red - leaving only the word "TRAVELLER".

Conde Nast Traveller tweeted the cover photo on Oct 7 with the tagline, "Bold and fearless, @priyankachopra makes a statement on our 6th anniversary issue cover. #WhyWeTravel". The message on her T-shirt prompted a flurry of criticism on microblogging site Twitter, with users accusing Chopra of belittling the plight of refugees forced to leave their homes.

Chopra, who was named as one of Time Magazine's 100 Most Influential people and is an ambassador for the United Nations children's agency Unicef, said the message on the T-shirt was aimed at addressing racism and had been misunderstood.

The magazine cover of Bollywood actress Priyanka Chopra prompted a flurry of criticism on social media.
The magazine cover of Bollywood actress Priyanka Chopra prompted a flurry of criticism on social media. PHOTO: CONDE NAST TRAVELLER

Conde Nast "specially got this made and implored me to wear it. They said they were addressing xenophobia, which is a big issue that is happening", she told New Delhi Television in an interview. "So their idea was that. And I bought into it, I guess. And I am really, really apologetic about the fact that sentiments were hurt. The point the magazine wanted to make was actually something good."

About 1.3 million refugees and migrants fleeing war, poverty and persecution in the Middle East, Africa and elsewhere arrived in Europe last year, creating the continent's biggest migrant crisis since World War II. Without safe routes to sanctuaries, thousands more have drowned at sea.

"Maybe your editors need taste editing. I get what you are trying to say. But you just trivialised a serious refugee issue," said one tweet from @1plur1.

"Extremely insensitive in midst of biggest #refugeecrises. All other options listed are forced on people not chosen," said another tweet from @savita-pawnday.

Other Twitter users Photoshopped the struck-off words on Chopra's T-shirt to "COMPASSION", "EMPATHETIC" and "INCLUSIVE" - leaving only the word "OFFENSIVE".

Conde Nast Traveller said in a statement that the message was aimed at challenging stereotypes and how the labelling of people as immigrants, refugees and outsiders is creating a culture of xenophobia.

"At Conde Nast Traveller, we believe that the opening up of borders and the breaking down of walls can help us discover the world and open up our minds and hearts," said the magazine. "So, when we had actor Priyanka Chopra wear a T-shirt we created on the cover of the 6th anniversary issue, we had a point to make."

Chopra is one of the Hindi film industry's biggest stars and one of only a handful of Indian actors who have broken into mainstream Hollywood, starring in the television series Quantico and in the upcoming film based on the Baywatch series.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 19, 2016, with the headline 'Bollywood star apologises for offensive photo'. Print Edition | Subscribe