Earlier this year, we saw the flash in the pan that was the Big Celeb Summer of Love. In quick succession, three major and utterly unexpected pairs of celebrities had very short courtships that resulted in the most public of engagements. We had Ariana and Pete, Bieber and Hailey, and Priyanka and Nick. The first pair are already done and we’re getting awesome music from it. The second pair are married. But it was the third one that proved most satisfying to so many of us. Indeed, when I took an informal poll on which couple my Twitter followers expected to last the distance - or at least the next year - it was Chopra and Jonas that won. Yet I had an almost equal number of people tell me they didn’t buy this romance for a second. It just seemed too quick, too neat and hard to explain. Why would a major Bollywood star want to shack up with a Jonas brother a decade her junior? She had her pick of the crop so why him? Was it PR? Was it some sort of strange social experiment? Or are we all just cynical a-holes in the face of true romance?
Whatever your stance, Chopra and Jonas are here to put on a show, and what better way to share your love with the world than in a cover story with the American edition of Vogue? By the time this edition hits the shelves, the pair will already be married, as their nuptials are set to take place this weekend. It’s major worldwide news. The Indian Express are currently doing a live blog of updates. Stars of Indian cinema will be mingling with Kelly Ripa, Lupita Nyong’o and Armie Hammer (keep your Twitter at home, Armand), but no Meghan Markle. The venue is big - and allegedly costs $60k a night - the expectations are high and the celeb gossip possibilities are endless.
The Vogue profile only emphasizes the sheer bombast of this occasion. As with many Vogue profiles, the tone is blindingly glowing and as deep as a puddle. That’s not to say there isn’t plenty to dissect here. Chopra and her team are exceptionally good at playing the Hollywood game. A lot of emphasis is, of course, put on the former Miss World’s beauty. At one point, she is called ‘psychotically pretty’.
Seated primly on the couch in a mustard-and-black floral sheath by Christian Dior and black heels, Chopra is chatty, exuberant—and psychotically pretty. Sophia Loren-in-her-heyday pretty. Take-her-to-a-Dodgers-game-and-you-will-end-up-in-the-owner’s-box pretty. (That happened on their third date.)
Charming! But yeah, she’s ridiculously good looking and this is a fashion magazine, so par for the course.
Chopra is still not all that well-known in America, although she is probably the most recognizable Indian actor to Americans who have little to know familiarity with their entertainment industry. A lot of the work in selling her to the American public came from emphasizing how wildly famous and beloved she is in India. The Vogue piece continues to do that - She’s a former Miss India and Miss World, she’s been in more than 50 films, she won the Indian version of an Oscar. The piece even calls her ‘something closer to a head of state, albeit one with a remarkably diverse portfolio.’ This is Vogue and Chopra’s team focusing on her kind of fame. This is no mere actor: This is a megastar (even if her ABC show Quantico was never that big a deal - but the piece does remind us of how many countries it was broadcast in).
What is most striking about this piece is how is tries to balance being both a Priyanka profile and a Love Story. The spotlight is on her but everyone is aware that, to a hell of a lot of Americans, she’s not the famous one in the partnership. A lot of this piece is still about Nickyanka. Or Priyick? It needs work-shopping, but the point stands. This is a Power Couple and they’re here to sell themselves as such, not only to the world but specifically America. The story opens with the revelation that Jonas, the first time he ever met Chopra, got down on one knee for her.
Jonas uncorks a bottle of champagne and pours us mimosas. The bended-knee encounter took place at the Vanity Fair Oscars party last year, he explains. Jonas was hanging out at the bar, dressed in a velvet suit, a white rose tucked into his breast pocket. He noticed Chopra breezing through, in a long black sequined Michael Kors Collection dress. “And I put my drink down,” Jonas tells me, “get on one knee—this is in front of a bunch of people—and I say, ‘You’re real. Where have you been all my life?’ Like, loud.”
Not gonna lie, if any man did that to me, I’d run away. But this is super romantic in the context of this story. It’s Love At First Sight. They are a showy couple and that works for them both. And, as the piece reveals, this isn’t their first encounter, technically. For those who had wondered why their engagement was so quick, turns out it wasn’t. They’d been texting one another for a long time before getting together. They’d already been text-flirting for months before they were seen together at the Met Gala. So, not only do we still have that Love At First Sight angle, albeit with a twist, we have a modern romance. They’re big stars who can’t spend all their time together so they communicate through words.
It’s, in many ways, very traditional as well, a point driven home by the admittedly cute story that Priyanka invited Nick to meet her mother, who was in her nightgown and watching Law and Order (a woman after my own heart). As for their first kiss… Well, before that, there was a back pat:
“We hung out for a couple of hours,” Chopra says. “He patted my back before he left.”
“There was no kiss. There was nothing,” Jonas confirms.
“There was a back pat,” Chopra says, with a look of pure incredulity on her face.
“She’s still upset about that.”
Chopra demonstrates the platonic pat on Jonas’s back.
“Your mom was in the house!” Jonas says. “I thought it was a respectful first night.”
“It was too respectful if you ask me.”
Jonas is the big romantic hero here. And they do seem very cute together, at least on the page. He’s also smart enough to understand that he’s punching way above his weight here. There’s something to be said for a dude who knows he’s the less interesting one in the relationship. Think of George and Amal, although this pair don’t have quite their level of Power Couple prowess.
Ultimately, what is so fascinating about this very sweet but obviously calculated profile is how its writer and subjects are keenly aware of what they need to do to make this work on a public level. Because as much as true love shall prevail and all that, these are two celebrities who have mostly grown up in the public eye and are highly knowledgeable in what is required to remain in the public eye. Jonas went from the cute dorky sibling in a Disney created group that wore Purity rings to the beefcake solo star who sang about sex and expertly pandered to his growing gay fanbase. Chopra made the leap across the ocean to American fame in a way few of her contemporaries had ever managed, becoming a fashion favourite and making forward-thinking career decisions beyond acting (the piece talks about her investing in the dating app Bumble because it could prove empowering to Indian women). They both know how intriguing they are to the world - and to their respective sides of the planet and celebrity ecosystems - and they’re happy to put on a show.
Will it please everyone? Probably not. I’m not sure this piece will do much to convince those who still think they’re fake. For what it’s worth, I do think they’re real but I think of it like Hiddleswift: A real romance that was partly grounded in a mutually beneficial demographic expansion and willingness to play to the press. That’s no bad thing, and Chopra and Jonas have done it far better than Taylor and Tom did (no tank-tops, a crucial rule there). We typically don’t like it when we see the strings of PR and celebrity machinations. But they’re all on display here, with sparkles and bells and Tom Ford heels on. Who doesn’t love a show?
Header Image Source: Getty Images.