In conversation with Ayesha Malik, who raised a question many wanted answered
  • 31 Aug - 06 Sep, 2019
  • Attiya Abbass
  • Spotlight

Weeks back, at the annual edition of BeautyCon in Los Angeles chaired by Priyanka Chopra, the unexpected happened. An arduous crowd sat batting eyelashes at Priyanka – gulping down every word the South Asian actress spoke, as if they were infused with elixir of youth. As the session continued in full swing, a “fan” requested for the microphone – but what she asked were not pointers from Chopra’s night-time skin routine, but about her conflicting stance on politics and war.

In a video that went viral on social media and later major news portals, features a curly-haired woman shooting a condescending question at Chopra.

“So it was kind of hard hearing you talk about humanity, because as your neighbour, a Pakistani, I know you’re a bit of a hypocrite,” said Ayesha Malik. Malik noted how on the 26th February Priyanka Chopra, the UNICEF ambassador for peace had tweeted “Jai Hind #IndianArmedForces”, squarely in the middle of escalating military hostility between India and Pakistan, two nuclear-armed countries. She continues, “You are a UNICEF ambassador for peace, and you’re encouraging nuclear war against Pakistan. There’s no winner in this,” Ayesha stressed. “As a Pakistani, millions of people like me have supported you in your business of Bollywood, and you wanted nuclear war,” Malik tried to conclude to the best of her ability, as a security personnel urgently snatched the microphone from her, as momentarily-shaken Priyanka and stunned audience watched.

Ayesha Malik, a natural-hair influencer who has more than 100,000 followers on both Instagram and YouTube, is spotted frustrated and helpless as Priyanka begins with her response with; “Whenever you’re done venting … got it, done? Okay, cool.”

A little backstory

Priyanka Chopra was awarded the title of UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador in 2016. The South Asian actress earlier too came under a lot of fire for her public declaration of triumph after India launched airstrikes in Pakistani territory, reportedly killing nearly 40 soldiers in Kashmir. The incident followed into retaliatory Pakistani airstrikes, bringing the neighbouring countries on the verge of a hot war.

The crowd at BeautyCon was blanketed in verbal pandemonium as Priyanka began speaking, “So, I have many, many friends from Pakistan, and I am from India, and war is not something that I am really fond of, but I am patriotic. So, I’m sorry if I hurt sentiments to people who do love me and have loved me, but I think that all of us have a sort of middle ground that we all have to walk, just like you probably do, as well.”

In a manner which was equal parts entitled and dismissive, Chopra further clamps down on Malik, whose voice was already lost in packed room full of influencers after snatching the mike. Girl, don’t yell,” Chopra said. “We’re all here for love. Don’t yell. Don’t embarrass yourself. But we all walk that middle ground, but thank you for your enthusiasm and your question and your voice.”

MAG got in touch with the beauty influencer Ayesha Malik who bravely confronted Chopra with a question, everyone wanted an answer to.

Talking about her Pakistani roots, Malik shared that she was born in Lahore, Pakistani and majority of her family still lives here. “I moved to the United States as a child and became a citizen where when I was about 8 or 9, some 20 years ago. I visit Pakistan, almost every year. Growing up, I would visit during the summer and spend nine months of the school year here in Alaska, and three months in Pakistan.” Malik admits that she

is a product of both these places, “I was raised in both places and consider myself both Pakistani and an American.”

Did she plan on confronting Priyanka Chopra Jonas at BeautyCon, or it came out in the spur of the moment listening to her talk? Malik disagrees on this confrontation being pre-planned. “I am a part of the influencer world and this was that one time where all of us got to hang out at one place, the BeautyCon LA,” she begins. “I was just passing one of my friend's meet and greet booth and I happened to walk past Priyanka Chopra. There were these giant screens with her beautiful face and she was saying that being a humanitarian she believes we all should love our neighbours. It made me stop in my tracks and I went like, "whattt is she even saying?" My friend kept pushing me, telling me to let go of this and how she's not worth it. But all of what she said didn't make sense to me at all, because of her recent tweets,” Malik says. “You can say it was a spur of the moment thing, because if I had actually planned this, with my talent pass I could have easily sat in the front, nearer to the stage where she sat.

I could have been way more eloquent, well-rehearsed and not emotional at all. I may have appeared very angry and heated, because for 20 minutes I was listening to her talk about how she cared about planet, humanity and feminism and the audience was eating it up,” spills Malik. Your ensuing comments were drowned out by Priyanka, after the mic was taken away from you. Did you have any measure of support from the audience? “If you look at the video, you'd notice me looking out at the audience first as I speak. My eyes were searching for anybody who looked like me, any desis in the audience,” she says. “From what I could see, there were none. The audience looked so invested in the persona Priyanka was putting on. She had her pageant voice, saying very trendy buzzwords, empty promises, very fluffy nice things... it didn't strike a chord with me.”

How important is it for us to call out people with influence who monger for war, spread disinformation and hate?

“This transcends more than BeautyCon or UNICEF Ambassadorships. This is about calling out hypocrisy from our leaders. In today’s world we are becoming more and more desensitised by a constant stream of people saying one thing and doing another. From those on Twitter, the talking heads on the news and even to the White House, it is apparent that things are shifting so radically that it’s hard to keep up,” Malik states. “It’s time we do something about Kashmir. It’s time we called out those inauthentic statements and actions because that’s what we need in order to heal our broken world.”