The most famous woman in the world is surprisingly easy to talk to. I’m not saying I expected Priyanka Chopra Jonas to be standoffish—on the contrary: I figured I’d be so starstruck that I’d have a hard time remembering my questions. In fact, although Jonas is indeed more radiant over Zoom than a person has any right to be, we’re chatting like old friends within minutes of meeting. The whole conversation feels like she’s invited me into her rented London home, poured me a cup of tea, and settled in on the other end of the sofa to catch up.
And there’s a lot of catching up to do. Somehow, amid a year of quarantine and intermittent global shutdowns, the actor and entrepreneur has been busier than ever: her film The White Tiger came out in January; her memoir, Unfinished, came out in February; her new restaurant in New York City, Sona, opened in March; she’s in the middle of production on the upcoming Amazon series Citadel—oh, and by the way, she also launched a haircare brand earlier this year. If you’re exhausted just reading that, well, same. And yet, when discussing each one of these endeavors, Jonas lights up like it’s the only thing in the world she cares about.
As we get to talking about Anomaly, Jonas’s new haircare line sold at Target, it becomes especially clear that this is a passion project for her. For Jonas, it was crucial to offer a product that cost less than $10—a more accessible alternative to the exorbitant price tag that accompanies most hair products from clean and low-waste brands. And don’t even get her started on the global plastic pollution crisis. "The numbers are insane," she says. "Some 8 million pieces of plastic end up in our oceans every day. Every day!" It’s a problem without an immediate solution, but with Earth Day around the corner, the megastar isn’t about to take it lying down. Read on for Jonas’ approach to clean beauty, her go-to strategy for keeping pandemic dread at bay, and her top pick for a TV binge-watching marathon. (Hint: it’s almost definitely not what you think.)
How are you? You’ve got a lot going on right now.
You know, it’s my choice. I kind of picked it, so I can’t cry about it. [Laughs] It’s been a lot, and it is a crazy time, right? But I’m so excited about the various things I’m doing. I’m honestly just happy to be at work and to have the opportunity to go to work and have some semblance of normalcy. Of course, I miss friends; I miss family. I’ve been grateful that I had my mom with me for a while, and I had my in-laws and my husband for a bit. I’ve been in London since November, so we’re really, really locked down.
Where were you before London?
I was in Los Angeles. During the six months of proper lockdown, I was back home in L.A. [Laughs] Basically from peak L.A. lockdown to peak U.K. lockdown. I’ve been in lockdown since March!
It seems wild to be in production on a new show at the same time as the release of The White Tiger, which must have been one of the last projects you worked on before the world changed.
I mean, you’re right. It is crazy to think about filming in crowds and not even have thought about it when I was in Delhi. I mean, Delhi is a really crowded place, but we’d be fine with a crew of 200 standing in the middle of 500 people watching, and now it’s none of that. We’re tested every single day. We stay in a bubble. There’s massive social distancing. Only actors take off masks when we’re in front of the camera—it’s a different world. But human beings are resilient; we have adapted. Look at us, doing this interview on Zoom!
It just goes to show that we can get through anything, and I’m just glad to be able to have the tools to do that. And there are so many people during the pandemic who have been consuming content. I know that being able to watch a movie every night after dinner or sometimes during the day kept me sane, and I’m glad to be contributing to that with my job. We’re creating an escape for people for however many hours you like to binge watch TV—I can do 10 sometimes. [Laughs] You know, it’s a way to escape from something that you want to get away from, and I take a lot of pride in being able to be a vehicle for that.
What are some of the things you’ve been binge-watching lately?
Actually, a really interesting one—[laughs] it’s so funny. I’ve been binge-watching this show called Ancient Aliens right now. [Laughs] It’s so fascinating because it’s science-driven, and it makes you question how man came to be, and it’s just really interesting. I love watching History Channel and documentaries; I’m a big fan of that. I don’t know if you’ve seen it, but you should see The Dissident.
I haven’t, no.
It’s really amazing. It’s the story of Jamal Khashoggi and his murder. You should watch that. You should watch The Assassin. That’s another good documentary. I’ve been catching up on a lot of the Oscar movies, as well. I recently watched Minari. I watched The Mauritanian, which I loved. Borat was really funny. Judas and the Black Messiah—so amazing. I’ve been catching up on a lot of movies, specifically. For shows, I watched The Undoing just like everybody else. I watched Bridgerton. [Laughs] But yeah, it’s like my post-dinner thing. That’s how I decompress.
What else have you been doing to take care of yourself and stay sane?
Well, I have to say the one thing that has surprised me is how consistent I’ve gotten with working out. Because when quarantine started, I was like, "Yeah! Vacation!" Even before that, I was someone who always makes excuses for going to the gym, like, Oh, I’ve been on set for 12 hours, I don’t feel like working out, and I would always cancel working out. But starting my day with that since quarantine started, I don’t think I’m going to let go of that now. I try to do at least 4 days a week, even if I’m filming, and especially with lockdown, we’ve learned how to do easy workouts at home, which don’t require a gym or a treadmill or a reformer, and it makes such a difference. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to go back to making excuses again.
It’s really unfortunate how much exercising helps me focus on work. I would love for that not to be the case.
It’s really unfortunate. [Laughs] I would love for a pizza to do that! Doing things that are good for me was just not something that I thought of before. I was a seven-espressos-a-day kind of girl, and now I’m eating avocado for breakfast and drinking celery juice. It’s really changed me.
How has that affected your beauty routine?
I mean, I’m usually in the glam chair a lot, but since I’m doing just one thing now, and we’re not doing red carpets and photoshoots, I just don’t wear makeup. Max, I wear a little mascara or a little stain on my mouth, but my skin has started feeling really great because I just don’t put that much stuff on it anymore. And skincare has become a big part of my routine. I mean, I would always moisturize my face before bed, take off my makeup. I’ve always been good with that. But doing a mask here and there, like, it’s not something I used to take care of routinely. At the moment, I’m using Dr. Barbara Sturm’s face moisturizer for darker skin tones, and that’s really worked very well for me. She also has a serum which is a hyaluronic acid serum and a moisturizer, and that’s all I do to moisturize my skin at night.
In the morning, I add some sunblock. People think with darker skin, we don’t need sunblock, but that’s not true. Sunblock is very important; every skin tone needs sunblock. And that’s usually my skincare. My haircare is also very simple: it’s just shampoo and conditioner, and I mix and match the Anomaly shampoos and conditioners. I like to find what works with my hair, and my hair is moody itself. There are days when it needs more moisture, there are days when it doesn’t need so much moisture, and there are days when I have products, and it needs to strip a little bit more. And then I have textured dry hair, and sitting in the glam chair, my hair gets blow-dried so much that I like to do the Anomaly deep conditioning mask twice a week. That’s really changed the game for my hair.
What are some of your favorite products in the line?
The Anomaly Dry Shampoo ($6) is fire. It’s amazing. It smells divine. It’s unisex, the smell, so it’s clean and intentional, and it really gives your hair the good morning wakeup it needs. But yeah, depending on the day and what my hair needs, I like to mix it up. At the moment, I use the Hydrating Shampoo ($6) a lot because I’m on the job and my hair is blow-dried and stuff like that, and the Hydrating Shampoo doesn’t strip my hair of the natural nutrients it has. And I use the Smoothing Conditioner ($6) because it de-frizzes my hair, so I don’t really need a blowout after my hair is done. It just naturally falls into its natural texture and feels and looks super healthy when it’s air-dried. That’s my favorite thing to do these days. And I’m a big admirer of Oribe ($42). Theirs is the one hairspray that I use because I love the smell of it, and it’s awesome.
Are there any clean beauty brands you really admire? Were there some in particular that were big points of inspiration for you while developing Anomaly?
I didn’t make a comparison with any other brands because if you want haircare that is clean and vegan and does not have sulfates and parabens and any of that, you have to shell out a bunch of money to get it, whereas, with skincare, there are multiple brands out there for that. It was really hard to do clean, cruelty-free, vegan products without the price tag being in the double digits, whereas I wanted to democratize beauty, and it was really crucial that it happen in single digits for me. As an entrepreneur, I always try to look for the gap in the market, and this is the gap that I found: that trifecta of sustainable packaging with clean, affordable products didn’t exist in haircare. So that’s why I’m super proud of it because I feel like it’s pioneering as an idea.
And I was just so happy because we spent so little on our packaging, which usually takes a big chunk of the budget when you’re creating a bottle. The cap of each Anomaly bottle is only 3 cents, and our packaging is made out of 100% plastic trash, so we’re not creating new plastic that goes into the world. We’re taking plastic and reusing it again and hoping that you will recycle it again because I feel like our generation’s responsibility in a huge way is to not leave the earth worse than we found it, especially when it comes to the environment. We have to take ownership, and especially with the beauty industry. It creates too much of a plastic footprint, too much of a carbon footprint. I’m very much about recycling my beauty products. This is a thing that people miss a lot—if we had a recycle bin in our bathrooms for beauty products, mouthwash, plastic glasses, papers, it’s just so much better in terms of sustainable living.
I know we’ve been talking about self-care in the physical sense, but how have you been taking care of your mental health over the last year?
Well, when this first started, I think everybody felt like, "Um, this is gonna be over soon, right?"And then, over time, there have been days where all of us probably feel like you’re hitting a wall, and the days are blurring into each other, and that’s bound to make you feel bogged down. One thing that really helped me was to find a purpose or project. Initially, of course, it was sitting on the couch and binge-watching TV for hours and ordering food, doing the things that I would not do before because my life was so chaotic. That lasted about two weeks. [Laughs] After that, I was like, "Alright, gotta find a sense of purpose to stay sane."
We moved into our new house during quarantine, so it was really great to have that as a project. We adopted a puppy during quarantine, Panda, so he was a big project because he was really little when he came to us. I have a first-look deal with Amazon, so I set up my production company really well. The predominant part of Anomaly’s work happened during quarantine. I just helped launch a restaurant in New York, which we worked on during quarantine. I also decided to write my memoir at that time because it gave me time to sit down and actually look inward. And I also started working on myself.
I think a couple of things that really worked for my sanity and my mental health were, one, having a sense of purpose every given day, deciding that I’m going to work on something that’s larger than myself, which is outside of myself. Second, to surround myself with people that I love. So I had my husband, my dogs, whenever I could include people in my bubble—but also staying in touch with family and friends, taking the time to put someone on Facetime and do whatever you’re doing and just chat. I think that talking instead of just binge-watching TV has been really, really been helpful for me.
It's kind of mind-blowing to me how much you’ve been doing throughout quarantine. For me, it’s a good day when I cook dinner.
[Laughs] See, I don’t do that! That’s one thing I cannot do. I have tried, and I am impossible in the kitchen. I can make an egg sandwich, but anything else is outside of the realm of what I can do.