EXCLUSIVE: Meet the newest Pantene Global Brand Ambassador: Priyanka Chopra, the perfect “hair” to the throne


I used to think that if we had 15 people on a cover shoot, we were a major creative squad. Then I spent the day on-set with Pantene and its newest global brand ambassador, Priyanka Chopra. The 85-plus crew, who had taken over Silvercup Studios in Queens, had built multiple sets to capture video elements for a new Pantene Pro-V shampoo campaign. Earlier this year—before Chopra was approached by the brand—Ruby Rose tweeted that the Quantico promo commercial looked like a Pantene ad. “I wasn’t even associated with them then,” laughs Chopra. “That said, my hair is always camera-ready and I have my family to thank for that. My grandma used to massage my head with coconut oil.” Between takes, I had a chance to sit down with Chopra to talk about her diva hair, impulsive haircuts and a hair unicorn named Tommy.

What role does your hair play in how you see yourself?
“My hair is my crowning glory. I’ve been told that since I was in the Miss World pageant. I was 18, and my hair was down to my waist. I had giant hair. It used to take the hairstylist two hours—and major muscles—to give me a blowout. When my hair feels good and looks good, I feel my best. I associate my level of confidence a lot with my hair.”

What if you lost it?
“It would be hard. My dad had cancer, and even after eight years of chemo, his hair thinned out but he never lost it. We always used to joke that I had great genes and I’d never lose my hair. He would tell me that we had invincible Chopra hair. After I cut it, I cried.”

Why did you cut it?
“A year ago, I went for a pedicure and it turned into a bob! It was the first time in 10 years I wasn’t in continuity with a character. I hadn’t started the second season of Quantico and I had just finished all my movies. I thought I could do something for me. I was making a free-will choice. Now I’m stuck in continuity with my character Alex again, and I can’t grow it out until the season is over. Today I have extensions for length, and I love it. It’s only 2.5 inches, but it makes quite a difference.”

Couldn’t Alex get extensions?
“No, she’s in the middle of saving New York City. What’s she going to say: ‘Hey, terrorists, give me one second. I need to get to the hair salon.’”

Do you have bad-hair days?
“I do have bad-hair days. My hair has a mind of its own. I have a mind of my own! I speak my mind, and so does my hair! There are days when my bangs will not sit the way I want them to. They just won’t, despite hairspray. They want to curl their own way; they want to stand. I’ve done retakes because of my hair. My hair needs its own agent; it’s such a diva. It’s crazy! To me, the state of your hair is the state of your mind. I believe it!”

What’s the biggest hair drama you’ve had?
“Oh, my God, I was doing this boxing movie two years ago, and my opponents were real boxers who didn’t know how to act. They were hitting me! I was wearing boxing headgear, and after a bunch of hits I developed a giant pimple on my hairline that burst; the abscess had to be surgically removed on-set. My mother was there, so she did it. It’s good to have a mother who is a surgeon! I lost a little bit of hair for a while—right here, in the front of my head. It grew out straight. I looked like a unicorn. I named it ‘Tommy’! Tommy was never sweet to me; it didn’t matter how much hairspray I used. As he was growing out, he had a mind of his own. Tommy was a rebellious teenager until he grew up.”

Why were you interested in working with Pantene?
“I’m skeptical about most things that I put on my body. I’ve been in the business for 15 years, and my hair takes a massive beating. I’m always in the chair; I get a blowout every single day. So I’m careful about the products I use. I don’t want to lose it. I’m like Samson: My power is in my hair.”

These products were 10 years in the making—and the company says it’s the biggest breakthrough in 30 years. Now that you’ve tried them, what do you think?
“The first thing I noticed about the shampoo was that I didn’t need that much to get lots of suds. My hair is so thick that I typically go through a bottle of shampoo in five washes. For me, the most important test is how quickly your hair gets detangled when it’s wet. My hands just slid through my hair—and this was after the shampoo—even before the conditioner. That blew my mind, because that doesn’t usually happen with shampoo. You need to use conditioner.”

For the Pantene commercial, they worked with a Bolt camera. It’s one of the first times this high-speed camera has been used to film a human—instead of milk being poured into a bowl of cereal. What was it like when it came flying at you 60+ miles per hour?
“I wasn’t prepared for how fast it was. It scared the shit out of me, and I don’t scare that easily. I was like, ‘Whoa!’ and then I got into my tae kwon do war pose when it came at me. It’s faster than a punch. You have to know where it stops and be close to it and not flinch. I have been in front of a camera more than half of my life, but this machine—this robot—scared me!”

The goal of the Pantene Pro-V shampoo is to fuel your hair with nutrients so your hair can fuel you. You’re always working! Besides having amazing hair—which boosts your confidence—what keeps you going?
“I’m working every weekend! I am perennially exhausted, but I love my job and I am extremely grateful for it. To me, refuelling is waking up in the morning and saying ‘I am one of the few people in the world who can do this.’ There are so many other people who have dreams and aspirations of being where I am. Every single day they leave their homes and travel to the biggest cities on the planet with stars in their eyes. I never asked for it, but I will never take it for granted. I wake up every morning and say ‘Oh, my God, I love my job.’ I am grateful for so many things. I am a traveller through life, and I see and pass so many amazing people. Everything is a notch on my badge.”