Get ready to see Priyadarshini G. Roy a lot more on your screens. The actress and singer can currently be seen on Zee TV’s reality show, “Made in America.” Over the course of ten episodes in the show, the six leading ladies will hone on their fashion, modeling, and beauty skills, go through rigorous physical and personal training, and get acting classes from the New York Film Academy. For us, this sounds like a dream come true just learning about it. For Roy, she lived through it and came out of the experience stronger than ever.
We asked her what it was like to be part of the very first reality show that focuses on South Asian-American millennials in a brand new light and all her hopes for the future.
Tell us how you felt when you found out you’ve been selected as a contestant for “Made in America?”
Roy: It’s always been a passion of mine to promote diversity, especially in the field of entertainment. South Asians have been making strides in the field. I wanted to contribute to that movement with my career. I saw an advertisement featuring Nina Davuluri, the host of the show, on ZeeTV and self-submitted without any expectations. I was asked to audition after sending my acting resume and YouTube links. It was honestly one of the longest interviews I’d ever been on but it also mattered the most because, in a few days, I got the call that I was cast. It was exhilarating.
What was your big personal goal when starting MIA? Were you able to achieve it by the end of the journey?
Roy: My biggest personal goal, besides aiming to win the competition, was to be more vulnerable and being at the right place at the right time. I have always been more logical than emotional. My true feelings are reserved only for close family and friends. On the show, because cameras are on you 24×7, it requires authenticity as well as an artistic performance, especially for the challenges we had to go through. So, when I had to perform my task or talent or even when it was necessary for me to stand up for myself, I had to do it. My values, morals, and beliefs were passed down to me from my parents and I stay true to myself and their upbringing, and that was my motto even during MIA.
How has your life changed since MIA?
Roy: Once ZeeTV launched the promos and my personal introduction video, everyone in my family and all my friends were so ecstatic. It felt unreal. I was giving interviews about the show on various platforms that focus on the progress of South Asian-Americans, much like this one, including American Bazaar, India West, and NRI Press.American Bazaar, India West, and NRI Press. These interviews have been garnering awareness on social media. It just reinstated my belief in creating various opportunities for South Asians through education and entertainment.
What is one takeaway you’ve learned from being a contestant on the show and from Nina Davuluri?
Roy: When Nina Davuluri won Miss America 2014, she had to stand up towards unfortunate and unnecessary negative criticisms. She held her own. Her resilience led to her being considered a role model for women not just in India, or South Asia, but for women of color as a whole. One of the most important lessons I learned from being a contestant as well as from her experience was to stand up for your rights and your dignity; respect will come automatically after that. It isn’t about winning or losing either in the competition or in life, it is more importantly about the journey of never giving up and always trying to make the best of your situations.
What is the one challenge you experienced during the show that made you a better contestant?
Roy: In episode 1, we had an interesting question and answer challenge. I was asked, “what was the worst job of your life?” My answer was that the worst job was also actually my best job, which was to take care of my mother when she was diagnosed with Stage 1A Breast Cancer in 2015. I have seen the most gruesome aspects of her health but also the best as she recovered and continues to be cancer free. I was blessed and happy to be her support system. For me, this was such a deeply emotional topic to discuss since I hadn’t shared this extremely personal phase of my life with even my friends and relatives. The topic of the week was strength versus weaknesses. I overcame my fears of vulnerability to articulate it in such a way which can resonate with audiences.
Share a special memory you will always cherish from the show?
Roy: My favorite part of MIA was meeting and performing in front of the CEO and Owner of LA Management, Anthony Topman, during the talent round of the competition. He was very impressed with my talent and ability to sing “Amazing Grace” acapella, he appreciated my readiness for the challenge, and my easiness in performance. To have such a dignified and successful individual, who has built his own empire from scratch, admire and acknowledge my talent despite not winning some of the challenges is very reassuring of my continuous path.
What is in store for the future? Will you continue to pursue modeling and/or acting?
Roy: I have commercially signed with Daniel Hoff Agency, theatrically signed with Mavrick Artist Agency, both in Los Angeles. It’s a big step for me. I’m also pursuing an acting career in Bollywood and Hollywood, and have films coming out with me as a leading lady. I will continue to act, sing, dance, model and write poetry. I’m excited to travel to Mumbai and other parts of India towards the end of the year to shoot for my Bollywood debut.
What is one difference you’d like to make for your community post-MIA?
Roy: It’s tough to name just one difference I would like to make. There are an array of philanthropic and societal changes I envision not just in the United States but in my motherland of India. In order to fulfill those dreams of mine, I must first establish myself as an individual role model and legend; not just a brand. I believe brands are temporary, legends are immortal. I want to show young men, women, children and the whole world that art makes us well-rounded. It allows us to travel and experience other cultures and bridge the gaps of our mentalities. I want to create more education about health care instead of just sick-care; advocating for early cancer screenings, removing societal stigma related to women’s’ reproductive health, mental health understanding, street animal sanctuaries, as well as a continuation of India’s Honorable Prime Minister, Shri Narendra Modi’s Beti Padhao Beti Bachao and Swachh Bharat Abhiyan. Being a pre-medical graduate, I can educate others through science but by being an artist I can encourage through empathy of the heart.
Why do you think MIA is an important television show today in the current landscape of limited representation or stereotypical representation of South Asian-Americans?
Roy: Indian, as well as South Asian representation in media, is of supreme relevance in today’s political turmoil that we face worldwide. A huge divide in the mind frame of individuals has forced us to acknowledge the underlying issue of not only racism but ignorance among the population pertaining to the history of how our great nation was formed: IMMIGRANTS. As human beings, we must keep hope alive that no matter what politician represents us, we must unite as a general population to bridge this mental divide. Because humanity comes before politics. That begins with education and empathy. I could name all of the Indian artists being represented in Hollywood with one hand. Luckily, that’s been changing. Recently, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences acknowledged and invited Indian talent from Hindi and regional cinemas to showcase a blend of our heritage. That’s amazing! With “Made in America” itself, this is the first time we get a look inside the mind frame and lives of Indian-Americans. I hope that I was able to reach outside of the fourth wall of television and touch the hearts of people who can relate to the struggles of our parents and the triumphs we continue to make as a whole.
You have some great experiences with “American Idol,” “The Voice,” “SaReGaMaPa.” How did going through all that impact your journey with MIA?
Roy: I have two degrees. I have won pageants, with my titles being Miss India USA Miss Talented ’13, Miss India Southern CA ’12, and of course having been on reality shows previously, I think it was a definitive advantage during MIA as well as a drawback in certain situations. Advantage because I have previous professional education as well as on-field experience in challenges presented on the show but a detriment because I wasn’t an empty canvas due to my prior cultivated skills. Many of the guest coaches, such as seen in the Boot Camp Challenge, wanted someone who didn’t have prior knowledge in the subject so we learn something new and excel from it. Even though I was appreciated and applauded for coming in first by Coach Scott, I wasn’t declared the winner of that particular challenge. Overall every challenge not just in the competition but in life creates an opportunity for growth from constructive criticism. You take what you can from the experience and move forward.
You moved here when you were just three years old and have been living in LA ever since. How do you handle straddling two cultures, especially in such an intense political climate?
Roy: Coming from New Delhi, my parents made sure to instill culture, language, and a worldly perspective in my Indian-American upbringing. They not only made sure that I had a 4.0 G.P.A. but always encouraged my artistic passions by taking me to countless Indian classical music lessons, Bharatnatyam dance rehearsals, theatre practices as well as extracurricular coaching classes. I am extremely blessed with a family that fought against society, relatives and the “log kya kahenge” thought process to ingrain me with cultural roots while building a modern future.
Despite growing up in a metropolitan city such as Los Angeles, I would get bullied in school for stereotypes. I was always being called nerdy and hairy or a terrorist, being misidentified as Native American or Middle Eastern. I still get asked this question, “Where are you really from?” And this is also the case when I travel to India, in big cities like New Delhi and Mumbai and Kolkata, I’m asked again, “where are you really from?” because I speak fluent English. It didn’t matter that I also speak fluent Bengali and Hindi. Like all other second-generation young adults, it was a constant mental turmoil to figure out where am I from, exactly. The answer that grew true for me over the years is simple: I shouldn’t have to choose. Our difference must be utilized as our strength; embracing both cultures; empowering others through entertainment and education instead of retaliation will help fill in any gaps.
Don’t forget to keep up with Roy’s power-packed journey and follow her on social media.
“Made in America” airs every Thursday night on Zee TV, 10 p.m. ET/7 p.m. PT.