Here’s Wishing Priyanka and Nick the Best, Mariah Smith

I don’t know much about Indian culture. In fact, the closest I’ve been to any is second-hand stories from my friend Deanna, a fabulous movie called “Lion” starring Dev Patel, and my nephew, who is currently in Calcutta or thereabouts on a tour of Asia.

I do know that actress Priyanka Chopra is Indian, and that she was a Bollywood star before making it big in the U.S. and most recently, being romantically attached to former boy bander Nick Jonas. And that, apparently is more than Mariah Smith knew before she wrote a now deleted article on The Cut denouncing Chopra as a scam artist and poor Nick as a hapless victim who was somehow forced to marry a gold-digging temptress.

I have two syllables for you, people – non sense.

I feel bad for people sometimes. And it’s not empathy or even sympathy it’s just, damn. How pitiful can you be? Following her now deleted article on The Cut, Smith found herself on the wrong side of an online lynch mob as people come to Chopra’s defense, and she deserves it. This type of news moves from silly and easily dismissed to holy *$@! when the stars are this big and everyone from Fast Company to The Washington Post to The Atlantic weigh in on her: racist, unfair, unresearched, unverifiable attack on an accomplished older woman marrying a handsome younger man.

I was able to find a few quotes and screen grabs here and there, but The Cut took the article down before I had a chance to read it. From what I’ve seen, however, it shouldn’t have gone up in the first place. If the response is any gauge, critical judgement seems markedly absent from this poorly executed editorial decision.

I’m not excusing it, but mistakes like this do happen. Media outlets are fighting for clicks and attention, and everyone wants to be the first to offer something fresh and original on the heels of a famous couple wedding. Smith was already a known quantity since she writes for The Cut regularly. The need to hustle and be relevant will occasionally eclipse editorial discernment, even to this rather wretched level. But I’m more concerned with Smith than with The Cut. With New York Magazine behind them, they can recover far more quickly than she can.

Chopra has been a working actress since 2001 according to imdb.com, and one of the many positive descriptors I ran across discussing her Bollywood influence portrayed her as royalty. Then she came to the States and did it way big here. To come for her in such a sloppy, flimsy way. Well, I wasn’t surprised when I looked Smith up and some of her bylines include: “Channing Tatum’s New Relationship More Serious Than We Thought?”and “Khloé Kardashian’s Daughter’s First Word Was a Threat.”

I read one of her articles, and she used too many exclamation points and italics for me to take her seriously. I just hope she’s getting paid enough to throw her reputation and professional integrity into the wind like this. Then again with those kinds of bylines under her belt, maybe those things were never a concern?

Don’t get me wrong. I enjoy pop culture and celebrity gossip. I think they have their place in the cultural zeitgeist, especially when well done – and it is possible to do pop culture coverage well. Further, I’ve been known to poke the proverbial beehive with my writing. I’ve even been called racist a time or two. *shrugs* This is different.

Smith is ostensibly the modern-day equivalent of a gossip columnist. But it’s one thing to “spill the celebrity tea” and something else entirely to be labeled a racist. Even worse, her diatribe on the heels of Chopra and Jonas’ nuptials make her sound like a jealous – I can’t believe I’m about to use this lame ass, completely perfect word – hater.

And it’s a pitiful hate, the kind you usually hear from red-faced, fat bellied men who wear dirty suspenders – no offense to suspenders – and sit on porches spitting at cracked ceramic pots kvetching about how the world has gone to hell since women got the vote and started wearing pants to work.

It’s no wonder the world came for her throat. She’s a woman of color hating on another woman of color ostensibly for marrying a successful, handsome, younger man. Smith. Girl. Don’t hate the player. Hate the game.

I know of Chopra. I knew nothing of Smith before this epic faux paux. One article described her this way: “Mariah Smith is a young, black comedian and writer who usually writes Kardashian recaps.” Um, ouch, and now her name will forever be attached to a globally despised rant on a beautiful Indian actress who did nothing to deserve it.

Being a professional gossip writer is one thing, being a purposeless, petty, racist, ageist gossip writer is something else. All Smith did was light a fire beneath Chopra’s Holly – and Bolly – wood star via a ton of free publicity as the general public on two continents rushed with teeth bared to her defense.

Chopra certainly doesn’t care. The Independent said this about her reaction to the hullabaloo: “I don’t even want to react or comment. It’s not even in my stratosphere. I’m in a happy place at this moment. These kind of random things can’t disturb it.”

Random indeed.

If you live life in the public eye – even if it’s only your bylines that catch people’s eye – you have to consider how those words will impact your brand and potentially limit your opportunities. Thanks to the Internet words have just as much power as images. Kevin Hart knows what I mean. He was going to host this year’s Oscars, but public sentiment around some of his old homophobic jokes and tweets vanquished that gig.

Maybe Smith wants to write two-bit gossip bylines forever, I dunno. But I wouldn’t be surprised if her position at The Cut is shaky following this debacle.

There’s one upside. We can thank Smith for confirming that black women can be racist too. Thus adding another layer to our typically one or two-dimensional portrayal in the global media landscape. So, thank you, Mariah.

Not.

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