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Why The Cut’s Piece on Priyanka Chopra and Nick Jonas Is All Kinds of Wrong

Mariah Smith, the writer who penned a vicious attempted takedown of Priyanka Chopra in The Cut, is certainly not the first person to question the veracity of the whirlwind Chopra-Jonas romance, or their motivations for such boldfaced monetization of their nuptials, but she is the first one to do it on such a massive platform, and with such a clearly racist and sexist outlook.

There are many things wrong with the piece—which has since been deleted, and replaced with an apology—but lets start with the hyperbole. The piece (screenshots of which can be found in this Twitter thread) opens with Smith declaring that Chopra is “a modern-day scam artist,” going on to deem her relationship with Jonas as “fraudulent,” and speculating that from the moment they met, Chopra’s plan was to “make this Nick Jonas opportunity her forever bitch.”

As with all the other bizarre claims Smith makes in this piece, there is absolutely nothing cited to bolster her hypothesis. Take for example, this bit: “September 2016 is quite possibly the month when dating became a job for Priyanka.” Or this one: “While Priyanka shops around for the finer things in life her team seems to be shopping around for the finer men.” It’s pure speculation, masquerading as informed opinion.

Smith takes pains to paint Chopra’s lifestyle—no more or less extravagant than any other A-list celebrity—as being indicative of some sort of character flaw, writing that her “indulgences”—read: a home theatre that she allegedly never uses, or the fact that she once said in an interview that she “like[s] the high life”—are indicative of the lengths she’ll go to maintain that lifestyle. Lengths that apparently involve lasso-ing a less-famous, less-rich paramour.

Throughout the piece, Jonas is painted as some poor dope who was tricked into marrying a woman whose “commitment to monetizing” their wedding should have been a red flag. That Chopra—a global superstar with a net worth that far exceeds Jonas’, who has been named to lists like TIME’s 100 Most Influential People and Forbes’ 100 Most Powerful Women, who serves as a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador and has appeared in over 50 Bollywood films—would need to marry a former teen idol to achieve cultural relevancy, is laughable. But to Smith, it seems obvious. Apparently a brown woman needs a white man by her side to be truly successful. And Jonas just happens to be the innocent lamb captured by Chopra and her PR team. Why else would a white man marry a brown woman? He had to have been duped, of course.

Now, Smith is herself a woman of colour, but that doesn’t mean she’s above racism, as the piece proves. Aside from the xenophobic sentiment lacing the piece, there’s also a false sense of American exceptionalism. To Smith, an American member of a boyband that disbanded in 2013 has more cultural cache than an Indian actress who happens to be one of the most sought-after and highest paid entertainers in the world. Also, apparently Jonas is a polished sophisticate while Chopra is a crass Indian given to displays of extravagance?

“Nick doesn’t suffer from the same affliction as his wife (being and thriving on being Extra as All Fuck),” Smith writes. Again, her ignorance rears its ugly head. She decries the fact that, on the Sangeet, the bride and groom’s families “performed on a stage set up that’s typically reserved for events such as the Academy Awards or the Tonys,” completely unaware, of course, that most Sangeets of affluent families in India involve that level of production and performance. In fact, a stage—complete with snazzy lighting and even smoke machines—is commonplace at weddings of a certain socio-economic class. Smith also attempts to use the fact that the wedding celebrations were nearly a week long as being somehow emblematic of Chopra’s extra-ness, clearly failing to have done even a basic Google search that would have told her that ALL Indian weddings last about five days, considering the number of traditions and customs that the weddings involve. Smith also seems to find it “upsetting” that Chopra “arranged” for Jonas to arrive at the wedding on a horse, again failing to realize that arriving on a horse is customary for many Indian grooms. But why bother with facts when you’re fuelled by bitterness and racism? In writing this piece, Smith’s prejudices are on clear display but what is baffling is how a media outlet like The Cut deemed the slanderous piece fit for publication. When a writer’s entire article is based on unsubstantiated speculation—“all Nick wanted was a possible fling with Hollywood’s latest It Woman, but instead he wound up staring straight at a life sentence with a global scam artist,” claims Smith—one would hope that’s when seasoned editors would step in to exercise some judgement.

There’s much that can be written about the culture of celebrity monetization, about why certain couples are beloved by the public and others are deemed “fake,” and about capitalizing on one’s personal life for money or publicity, but there’s a way to do it with grace, a degree of respect and, you know, actual reporting. This wasn’t it. More conspiracy theory than cultural commentary, this is a piece that should never have seen the light of day.