Memoirs are narratives presenting the lives, emotions, and experiences of authors from their own perspective. Celebrity memoirs, while promising disclosure of the authentic self, are often carefully constructed stories mediated by ghost-writers and publicists (Lyons, 2014). Inevitably, they apply rhetorical strategies to produce exaggerated life stories, justify choices and re-frame controversies; thereby becoming a performance act (Yelin, 2015). For non-white female celebrities, this performance is even more deliberate given the stereotypical association of celebrityhood being ‘white male creative’ (Yelin, 2021). The memoir, in this case, can become a way to claim agency and cultural capital to rise above “the generalised mass of disparaged female celebrity” (Yelin, 2021, p. 128). For Priyanka Chopra Jonas; an Indian-born female model, actor, and entrepreneur working predominantly in America; writing a memoir is perhaps no less than ‘performing celebrity’. This study examines her memoir ‘Unfinished’ for themes that exhibit how she uses an ambiguous narrative style to establish her cultural identity and agency as a global Indian celebrity. The findings reveal that Chopra Jonas deliberately appropriates her Indian origin, as well as mentioning popular Western references, to define her stereotypical celebrityhood. The narrative is often seen promoting the worldview that if the right choices are made anything is achievable. This strategically evades elaborating on systemic issues of gender, class, and race to embody her celebrityhood as being uncomplicated and accessible (Adamson, 2017). While on the surface the memoir may appear agentic, it is in fact a self-conscious performance of ‘fitting-in’.
Deepti Bhargava, Auckland University of Technology, New Zealand