Priyanka Chopra: Standing Up for Girls

Priyanka Chopra

By Mackenna Cummings
Priyanka Chopra, the current star of the ABC series Quantico, has risen well beyond her title as the lead actress of a television series. Success is important to her, but so is changing the world, which why she is making great strides not only in the entertainment industry but also as a humanitarian.

When she was young, Chopra dreamed of being an aeronautical engineer, but it was her success in pageants that gave her confidence. She struggled with insecurities and bullying due to her darker skin and ethnicity, but much of that changed in 2000 when she was crowned Miss World. This title helped her career path as well as showed her how instrumental her voice and presence in entertainment could be. She quickly became an empowering figure to women of color, and she continues to use her success as an advocate for equality, diversity, and positive change.

Priyanka Chopra on “Good Morning America” with Robin Roberts. (ABC/Lou Rocco)

At 17 years old, Chopra found herself with multiple opportunities ahead, having just won Miss World. She turned to film and music. One of her earliest roles was in a commercial for a skin lightening product. It was shortly after this that she realized she had just become an advocate for something that caused her insecurities when she was young. Chopra knew she could use her voice and celebrity status for much more positive impacts around the world. She had a heart and drive to make a difference.

“I couldn’t change the world, but I could contribute toward change,” she says. “One person cannot eradicate poverty, but I realized that [with] the platform that I had, whatever I said would be spoken about, would be written about.” It was through this that she has found a multitude of ways to champion for others. As one person doing something she can inspire countless more to also change the world. Now, when girls and women approach her in appreciation for the representation she brings to television and the strength she gives them through her success, she says she feels that insecure girl she was quake inside.

UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador Priyanka Chopra in Johannesburg Photo/Unicef/Karel Prinsloo

Chopra credits her parents for much of her success, saying she comes from a family of overachievers. Both of her parents were doctors in the army. While she was raised in a small town in India where most girls were not given the opportunity of an education in favor of marriage, her parents encouraged her to study and strive for success. This support was crucial for her drove her to start The Priyanka Chopra Foundation for Health and Education, which allows 70 children in India to have access to medical coverage and education. A personal experience inspired her to support such a cause. When it came to her attention that, due to expenses, the daughter of her family’s housekeeper was not being sent to school while the son was, she immediately paid for the young girl’s tuition. But Chopra did not stop there. She knew she could do more. “Education has always been very important to me. It means you don’t have to depend on anyone else,” she says. These children now have mobility and options because of her passion and awareness.

Priyanka Chopra UNICEF
UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador Priyanka Chopra comforts youth living with HIV. UNICEF/KAREL PRINSLOO

Her humanitarian efforts extend beyond her own foundation. In 2016, she was appointed UNICEF’s Global Goodwill Ambassador but had been involved with UNICEF for nearly ten years prior. “My wish for children is freedom. The freedom to think, the freedom to live,” she said when she was appointed. Chopra has spent many years working to help others, particularly girls who have not been given many opportunities. She says she has “experienced firsthand the transformative power of empowering young girls with opportunities that are rightfully theirs.”

With the knowledge that changing the world can be achieved through giving these young girls a voice and access to education, Chopra has met with children victims of abuse in Zimbabwe, and Syrian refugees in Jordan, and supported the programs in place to help the youth recover from trauma and be empowered. She even utilized social media for her recent UNICEF trip, and these posts ranked her number one for a period of time among other celebrities, guaranteeing that her hope to contribute to change by getting others to also contribute is working. She is raising awareness not only of problems for youth globally but also about the programs already in place to help, programs that can change the world with the support a voice like Chopra’s.

Priyanka Chopra
Priyanka Chopra UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador-PHOTO: KAREL PRINSLOO

Chopra also serves as a Girl Up Champion for the United Nations Foundation’s Girl Up campaign. She raises awareness and funds for UN programs that provide girls around the world with life-changing opportunities, like the chance to go to school, see a doctor, and stay safe from violence.

“As a Champion for Girl Up, I am lending my voice to a cause that is very close to me. I come from a country where girls are not treated fairly—many girls are kept out of school, get married at a young age, and don’t have access to health services,” she says.  “I joined Girl Up because I firmly believe in the campaign’s mission, that every girl, no matter where she is born, should grow up safe, healthy and empowered. Every girl should have the opportunity to reach her full potential.”

When she is not traveling to help children and young women, she continues to break barriers in her own field. Chopra is relentless, to her, “success is a journey, you have to be consistently successful to be called successful.”

Late Late Show Priyanka Chopra
The Late Late Show with James Corden. TERENCE PATRICK/CBS ©2017 CBS BROADCASTING, INC.

Choosing the role of Alex Parrish in Quantico was a very particular choice for her in fighting for equal representation and diversity. “I did not want to be the stereotype of either Bollywood or what Indian actors are [usually offered]. The exotic, beautiful girl, or the academically inclined nerd. And I wanted to play a lead…. And I’m playing an FBI agent on Quantico. I didn’t settle for less,” she said of her starring role.

She hopes to make diversity normal as opposed to a novelty,knowing that once it is, then equality can truly gain traction. So long as it is a novelty, people of diverse backgrounds are limited by the stereotypes and associations of society rather than their skills. “Celebrating our differences doesn’t necessarily mean that we need to be different,” Chopra says. “Celebrating our differences is being proud of where you come from but engulfing other people who are different than you into your world.”

Chopra is an outspoken feminist and champion for diversity, with a goal to educate rather than be angry when someone is misinformed. Through everything Chopra does, these priorities are clear: As a humanitarian, she is giving opportunities of education and independence to many, and as a celebrity, she is using her voice to advocate and encourage others to do the same.

Nicole Maines on Being TV’s First Trans Superhero


On Saturday at Comic-Con came news that Nicole Maines would be making history on the fourth season of CW’s “Supergirl,” becoming the first ever trans superhero on television.

Variety sat down with the trans activist shortly after the news broke to talk about her character Nia Nal aka Dreamer as well as what the TV casting means for the trans community.

“I haven’t really wrapped my head around it,” Maines told TV exec editor Debra Birnbaum at Variety’s Comic-Con Studio. “It feels fitting to say with great power, comes great responsibility,” adding, “I’m nervous because I want to do it right.”

Maines, who was featured in the HBO documentary “The Trans List,” says she wants fans and TV viewers to take away a better understanding of the trans community with the casting.

“We can be whoever we want, we can do whatever we want, we can be superheroes, because in many ways we are,” adding, “We’ve had trans representation in television for a while but it hasn’t been the right representation.”

Continue onto Variety to read the complete article.

Marysol Castro, Mets’ first female PA announcer and MLB’s first Latina, hits it out of the park


Marysol Castro remembers a hot and humid summer day between third and fourth grades. She was playing stickball with her brothers and neighbors in her native Bronx, New York, and she remembers some boys looking at her with disdain when she hit her first home run.

She noticed the looks, but it didn’t stop her, and it certainly hasn’t stopped her yet.

Castro, who’s about to turn 44, has spent a little over a month in her job as the first female public address (PA) announcer for the New York Mets and the first Latina PA announcer in Major League Baseball.

“This month has been incredible,” said Castro, speaking to NBC News from her new “office” in Citi Field. “The minute I open this door and look at this view, I realize how incredibly fortunate I am.”

During her two-decade career, Castro has worked in local TV news and has been a national network weather anchor on ABC’s “Good Morning America,” and on the “The Early Show” at CBS, as well as a reporter on ESPN — all positions often dominated by men.

“I’ve worked really, really hard,” said Castro.

Sporting feminine wedge sandals and bright red nail polish, Castro is petite, yet she speaks with an authoritativeness and power that shows she’s used to hanging with the guys and isn’t afraid to speak her mind.

Castro was ambitious at an early age; she recalls first wanting to be the shortstop for her hometown team, the Yankees, and then wanting to go into politics. At 12, she decided on her own that she would get a full scholarship to boarding school, and she did. Castro says she knew the world was bigger than the Bronx, and she wanted to see it and learn about it.

She taught English at Poly Prep Country Day School in Brooklyn, and it’s there, Castro says, where she learned the power of real communication. After attending Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism, she began her career in broadcasting.


The new PA announcer is proud of her job and of being a Latina role model.

“In almost every job I’ve had, I’ve been the only Latino,” said Castro. “We have to reflect the eyeballs that watch us.”

Both of Castro’s parents were born and raised in Puerto Rico. Her father, who passed away when she was 10, was a U.S. Navy veteran, a NYC bus driver and was active in the Young Lords, a groundbreaking civil rights group, as well as other community organizations.

Landing her new position “means everything,” said Castro, because she gets to “be a bridge builder for other Latinos” at a time when Hispanic-viewing baseball audiences are at an all-time high in the U.S.

A study showed that the addition of international players to MLB teams, many from Caribbean and Latin American countries, have resulted in a jump of millions in profits. As of last year, MLB players hailed from 19 countries, including the Dominican Republic (93 players), Venezuela (77) and Cuba (23).

Continue onto NBC News to read the complete article.

Two Women Refereed An NBA Game Together For The First Time Ever


Two black women did something this week that no other women have done before: They refereed a professional basketball game together.

Danielle Scott and Angelica Suffren officiated an NBA Summer League game between the Los Angeles Lakers and the Miami Heat on Tuesday evening. Marc J. Spears, a senior writer for ESPN’s The Defeated website, pointed out the news in a Tuesday tweet.

“First time I’ve ever seen two black women referee an NBA game of any kind,” Spears wrote. “Violet Palmer would be proud Danielle Scott and Angelica Suffren reffing at the California Classic Summer League Lakers versus Heat.”

NBA spokesman Mike Bass confirmed to HuffPost that this was the first time two women have officiated an NBA game.

Palmer, a retired basketball referee, broke the NBA’s gender barrier in 1997 when she and Dee Kanter were hired. Palmer was the first woman to officiate an NBA game ― on Oct. 31, 1997, between the Vancouver Grizzlies and the Dallas Mavericks. She was also the first woman to ref an NBA playoff game ― between the Indiana Pacers and the New Jersey Nets on April 25, 2006.

Twitter users applauded the historic moment this week.

“Now, it’s time to have a woman coach,” one user wrote.

Continue onto the Huffington Post to read the complete article.

Netflix Orders Mexican Drama Series ‘Monarca’ From Salma Hayek


Netflix has greenlit another international series.

The streaming giant has handed out a series order to Mexican drama Monarca, starring Irene Azuela (Quemar las Naves, El hotel de los secretos, Las oscuras primaveras). The new series, which will begin production this fall and will launch globally in 2019, will follow the world of wealthy Mexican elites riddled by corruption, scandal and violence.

Produced by Salma Hayek’s company Ventanarosa, along with Lemon Studios and Stearns Castle, Monarca is described as a high-stakes, multi-generational family saga about a tequila-born Mexican business empire and the battle that ensues when a member of the family decides to fight the dirty system her family helped create.

In addition to Azuela, the series will star Juan Manuel Bernal. Monarca was created by Diego Gutierrez and written by Fernando Rovzar, Julia Denis, Ana Sofia Clerici and Sandra García Velten. Michael McDonald from Stearns Castle will serve as a producer.

“I’m extremely excited to partner with Netflix, and to be working with amazing Mexican talent in front of and behind the camera,” said Hayek. “We are proud to show Mexico as a vibrant, sophisticated and culturally rich nation fighting to control its own destiny.”

Added creator and showrunner Gutierrez: “This is the definition of a passion project for me. Having been born and raised in Mexico, I’m humbled to have the opportunity to tell this story with Netflix and the incredibly talented team of people we’re assembling, both in the U.S. and Mexico.”

Continue onto The Hollywood Reporter to read the complete article.

Barbie Has a New Career of the Year: Robotics Engineer


And she comes with a matching coding e-book.

Since 1959, the Barbie doll has undergone many transformations. Not only does pretty much every celebrity from Gigi Hadid to Frida Khalohave their own doll, but also, the original Barbie has had careers as a firefighter, nurse, astronaut, and many more (including, in 2016, president). The latest “career of the year” from Barbie’s makers, Mattel, is yet another field where women are underrepresented: robotics engineering. According to People, only 12% of the field’s employees are women.

“For almost 60 years, Barbie has exposed girls to roles where women are underrepresented to show them that they can be anything,” said Lisa McKnight, Barbie’s global general manager and senior vice president, according to People. “By playing with Robotics Engineer Barbie on and offline, we are giving girls a new platform for play in their imaginary world and teaching them important skills for their real world.”

In collaboration with Information Science Professor and Coder Casey Fiesler, PhD, Barbie is releasing Code Camp for Barbie and Friends, an e-book that provides a kid-friendly introduction to coding and will be available on Amazon, according to a press release by the company. Mattel has also provided a grant of support to Black Girls CODE and gifted dolls at robotics workshops to “reach young girls interested in developing skills in the field” and will continue a multi-year relationship with Tynker, a coding platform for children, to provide workshops. Krishna Vedati, cofounder and CEO of Tynker, says, “Our mission is to empower youth to become the makers of tomorrow through coding, and the Barbie brand is an ideal partner to help us introduce programming to a large number of kids in a fun, engaging way.”

There will be four versions of Robotics Engineer Barbie, each with different skin tones, hair types, and hairstyles. All four, however, will wear black jeans, a blue denim jacket, a graphic T-shirt, white sneakers, and safety glasses. The different versions seem to be part of Mattel’s commitment to a more inclusive Barbie doll following the 2016 release of dolls with petite, tall, and curvy body types with customizable hair textures and skin tones.

Continue onto Teen Vogue to read the complete article.

P&G partners with Katie Couric to champion women


Procter & Gamble Co.has revealed the new ways the company is pushing for more accurate and positive portrayals of women in advertising and media.

The Cincinnati-based maker of consumer goods (NYSE: PG) said a new series of commitments and partnerships with advocates such as journalist Katie Couricand actress/producer Queen Latifah is designed to increase diversity throughout the creative supply chain.

The effort was outlined by P&G chief brand officer Marc Pritchard in conjunction with the Monday opening of the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity in France, which is an annual gathering of some of the world’s top advertisers and agency representatives.

“As the world’s greatest creative minds gather to celebrate creativity, we are committed to do our part with meaningful actions to advance gender equality in advertising, media and the creative pipeline in the next five years,” Pritchard said. “We also know no company can do it alone, so we hope to inspire others to be agents of change to accelerate momentum.”

Gender equality is good for society and business, said Pritchard, who oversees $7 billion in advertising spend annually for Procter & Gamble.

“Some of P&G’s best-performing brands have the most gender-equal campaigns,” Pritchard said, citing Always’ #LikeAGirl ads, SKII’s “Change Destiny” advertising and Olay’s “Live Fearlessly” spots as well as Tide, Ariel, Dawn and Swiffer ads that show men sharing the load in household chores. “It’s clear that promoting gender equality is not only a force for good, it’s a force for growth”

To inspire broader efforts on gender equality, P&G will partner with the nonprofit social action group Global Citizen and co-host the first #SheIsEqual Summit on Sept. 28 in New York during United Nations General Assembly Week.

The event will bring together companies, government officials and influencers from advertising, media and entertainment to share perspectives on gender equality, women’s economic empowerment, girls’ education and advocacy.

In addition, P&G will be among companies partnering with Katie Couric Media to collaborate on content that reflects their mutual values and commitment to important issues. Couric’s firm will produce and distribute stories in a variety of formats, including digital series, documentaries, scripted projects, podcasts and live programing.

“My mission for Katie Couric Media is to lead a female-driven team in partnership with leading brands that share our values to develop meaningful content that will help people navigate our complicated world, promote understanding and enrich their lives,” Couric said.

Continue onto Chicago Business Journal to read the complete article.

Octavia E. Butler, Who Brought Diversity to the World of Science Fiction, Honored With Google Doodle

Octavia Butler

Octavia E. Butler, a groundbreaking African-American science fiction writer who would have turned 71 on Friday, was honored with a Google Doodle that celebrates her contributions to the literary world.

Butler was one of the first writers in science fiction — traditionally dominated by white male authors — to include diverse protagonists in her stories, and was widely admired for evocatively exploring hierarchies and human flaws in her work.

Butler died in 2006, but her family released a statement to coincide with Friday’s Google Doodle that paid tribute to her legacy.

“Her spirit of generosity and compassion compelled her to support the disenfranchised,” her family said in a statement. “She sought to speak truth to power, challenge prevailing notions and stereotypes, and empower people striving for better lives. Although we miss her, we celebrate the rich life she led and its magnitude in meaning.”

Throughout her life, Butler won various awards and became the first science-fiction author to get the MacArthur Fellowship. Here’s what you need to know about her prestigious career:

Nebula and Hugo awards

Butler won two Nebula awards and two Hugo awards in her career, two of the most prestigious prizes in science fiction. Two of those awards were for the same short story, Bloodchild, in which human refugees are imprisoned on an alien planet by insect-like creatures that protect them while using them as hosts to breed their young. Butler insisted the story was not an allegory for slavery while critics applauded it for reversing gender roles and examining the complex structures of oppression.

MacArthur Fellowship

In 1995, Butler became the first science-fiction author to be awarded the prestigious MacArthur Fellowship. The award came with a prize of $295,000. The foundation said Butler’s “imaginative stories are transcendent fables, which have as much to do with the future as with the present and the past.”

Television adaptation of Butler’s book

Last year, it was announced that Ava DuVernay, who recently directed A Wrinkle In Time, would be adapting Butler’s book, Dawn, into a television series. It is not clear what network will pick up the show just yet.

Read the complete article and more at TIME Magazine.

Latina Director Launches Production Company to Tell Stories About Queer Women of Color


Back in 2016, director Deborah S. Esquenazi’s documentary Southwest of Salem: The Story of the San Antonio Four documented the case of four Latina lesbians put on trial for assaulting two young girls.The four were convicted and served time before their case was investigated as an example of prosecutorial prejudice and the well-known homophobia that was present in their town. It remains one of the best Latino movies you should seek out, and audiences who were fortunate to see the film then were eager to find out what the Cuban Esquenazi would do next.

The director, who holds both an Emmy nomination and a Peabody award, has announced today she is starting her own production company, Myth of Monsters. The company will “focus on utilizing media and multilingual projects to upend myths about women of color and queer-identified individuals.” The first project set to debut under the Myth of Monsters banner is a scripted adaptation of Esquenazi’s own Southwest of Salem. The TV adaptation has brought on Mad Men writer Jason Grote to work on the script alongside Esquenazi.

The company is also moving forward on a bilingual coming-of-age LGBTQ drama called Queen of Wands. The film will be set in 1989 and is a semi-autobiographical look at Esquenazi’s life growing up as a lesbian in a Cuban-Sephardic household. It is said to draw from the Bible, family stories, and “gay phantasmagoria.”

Continue onto Remezcla to read the complete article.

Oprah Winfrey, Apple Sign Multi-Year Content Partnership


Apple and Oprah Winfrey have a signed a multi-year content partnership. Under the deal, Winfrey and Apple will create programs that will be released as part of Apple’s original content lineup.

The deal marks one of the first such agreements struck between Apple and a content creator. Previously, Apple set an overall deal with veteran showrunner Kerry Ehrin. Ehrin will also serve as the showrunner on Apple’s upcoming morning show drama series starring and executive produced by Reese Witherspoon and Jennifer Aniston.

This is also the latest addition to Winfrey’s media empire. The former hit talk show host formed her own cable network, OWN: The Oprah Winfrey Network, in 2011 in partnership with Discovery Communications. The channel has become one of the fastest-growing cable networks among women and has produced hit shows like “Queen Sugar,” which boasts Oscar nominee Ava DuVernay as showrunner.

Winfrey recently extended her contract with Discovery through 2025. Sources tell Variety that Apple’s deal with Winfrey does not conflict with the Discovery agreement. Winfrey remains exclusive in an on-screen capacity to OWN with limited carve-outs, such as her role as a correspondent for CBS’ “60 Minutes” and her recent acting work for HBO.

Via her Harpo Productions banner, Winfrey has also developed several long-running hit syndicated shows including “Dr. Phil,” “The Dr. Oz Show” and “Rachael Ray.” Through her Harpo Films, she has produced several Academy Award-winning features including “Selma,” which was directed by DuVernay. Winfrey also had a featured role in that film, and recently starred in other films like “Lee Daniels’ The Butler,” “A Wrinkle in Time,” and HBO’s “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks.”

Winfrey also runs O, The Oprah Magazine and published the New York Times best-selling cookbook “Food, Health and Happiness” last year. As a noted philanthropist, Winfrey has contributed more than $100 million to provide education to academically gifted girls from disadvantaged backgrounds. The Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls in South Africa celebrated its 10-year anniversary in 2017.

Continue onto Variety to read the complete article.

In reviving a franchise, ‘Ocean’s 8’ brings diversity in representation to the classic heist series


Women made up 24 percent of protagonists in the 100 top domestic grossing films of 2017, according to one study.

When director Steven Soderbergh rebooted the classic heist film “Ocean’s 11,” the ensemble cast sought to capture the spirit of the 1960s Sinatra-led Rat Pack while paying homage to the original film: same name (with “11” becoming “Eleven”), same setting (Las Vegas), same recognizable — and male — names to bring the story to life on screen.

The 2001 “Ocean’s Eleven” was a box office success, and now 11 years after the last film in the franchise, a new pack is picking up where the “Ocean’s” trilogy left off: “Ocean’s 8” will tell a similar heist-themed plot with a slew of recognizable names — but this time, it’s the women who are front and center of the story.

“We’re celebrating eight distinct women from eight distinct backgrounds, and this is what the world looks like, not just what Hollywood has made the world look like,” director Gary Ross told reporters in May at a press conference to promote the film in New York City.

“Ocean’s 8” follows Debbie Ocean (Sandra Bullock), who has been released from jail after 5 years and assembles a team of experts to rob the Met Gala in New York City. The concept, Ross said, came after he directed “The Hunger Games” and found himself wanting to explore more films starring powerful, female protagonists with complex upbringings.

According to a study by The Center of Women in Television and Film at San Diego State University, females comprised 24 percent of protagonists in the 100 top domestic grossing films of 2017, which represents a 5 percent decline (down from 29 percent) in 2016.

At the May press conference, “Ocean’s 8” co-star Mindy Kaling said she felt like the film “passes the Bechdel test with flying colors,” referring to the Wallace-Bechdel test, which originated from cartoonist Alison Bechdel and examines if a work of fiction features two female characters who are speaking about something other than a man.

“These women are orchestrating a crime as opposed to fighting over a man,” Kaling said.


The Bechdel test is often referenced in Hollywood when talking about female representation on screen, and it’s also inspired theaters in other countries as a grading tool in an effort to make audiences more mindful of what they’re watching. In 2013, four theaters in Sweden announced they would give a film an “A” rating on its movie poster if it passed the Bechdel test.

In 2013, according toIndieWire, only 30 percent of Swedish films passed the Bechdel test. The next year, it jumped to 60 percent; in 2015, 80 percent of films earned an “A.”

But using the Bechdel test as a measurement can also miss the point, according to Dr. Martha Lauzen, executive director of the Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film.

“A far better test would consider the centrality of female characters to the narrative, the agency of female characters and the dimensionality of female characters,” Lauzen said.

Continue onto NBC News to read the complete article.