Priyanka Chopra's decision to wear a gown instead of a sari at the Oscars is a smart professional move. It has little to do with catching the eye of the paparazzi or getting into the Best Dressed List. The strapless gown by Zuhair Murad was rather insignificant from a fashion point of view. It did not make a grand style statement.
She dumped her red pout too. No curls and blow dry. Natural make-up and a low ponytail made up her Oscar look. Priyanka was not making a style statement. She was sending a loud and clear message to Hollywood: She is no exotic creature in a sari or embellished lehenga-choli or salwar kameez making an appearance for the brands she endorses.
No, she did not wear her nationality on her sleeve. Priyanka Chopra wanted the world to see her as any other Hollywood actor who walked into the Dolby Theatre.
With that gown, she worked her way out of the stereotype that Hollywood typically bestows on actors from other countries. Take Sofia Vergara for instance, no matter how gorgeous and beautiful she looks, she will always be a South American character. Or Jennifer Lopez, she will be the Maid in Manhattan even as she plays a powerful lead role.
Why, even the men have not been able to break the code. Do you see Chow Yun-Fat playing anything that does not involve Buddha or Kung Fu? Kal Pen (born Kalpen Kumar Modi in Connecticut, United States) despite adopting a very American name continues to play the Indian geek, even though he speaks English in a perfect American accent because he was born and raised there. What explains that?
So Priyanka knew a sari would stereotype her into the "Patel" and "Kumar" roles with that irritating made-up Indian English accent (for god's sake can someone tell me why Americans can't get the Indian English accent right ever?)
Even Indians don't understand the accent!
Clever girl that she is, Priyanka chose to merge with the crowd instead of "standing out".
Here is the thing if you are planning a long stint in Hollywood - become a part of it. When you work with an international crowd, you don't have to wear your nationality on your sleeve. And Indians sometimes don't get that. We take our tradition and roots too seriously. Here I speak from experience - a sari is certainly a head turner. It always flatters you with those "Oh, so gorgeous", "Oh, it is so elegant and so exotic" compliments.
Yes, it is all of that. And it works once. May be twice. But after a point you are the "Indian in the sari". So take my advice: Saris are gorgeous and probably the most elegant drape a woman can ever wear. But don't make that your calling card in a professional world. The last thing you want to be inside a global boardroom is "exotic."