She plays a badass FBI agent on Quantico, rocks daytime red lips like it’s no big deal, and fearlessly goes foundation-free. (Killer confidence aside, she still cries when she gets a haircut.) We sat down with the actress and face of Pantene to talk eating what you want, and her favorite hair product.
Growing up in both India and Queens, N.Y., you were teased about your looks?
Yeah. I became Miss India at 17, and I had very, very low self-esteem. I used to be called Brownie. I was always made to feel conscious of my skin color: in America because I was Indian and in India because I was dusky—darker. Everybody here wants a tan, and everybody there wants a whitening cream. Grass is greener on the other side, much?
So what can American women learn about beauty from Indian women?
Listen to your elders. My grandmother used to massage my scalp with coconut oil then braid my hair really tight because she said that made it stronger. It clearly worked.
What’s your current favorite hair product?
I love Pantene Smooth & Sleek shampoo because I can wash my hair daily without stripping it. My hair is my superstrength. I become less strong when I cut it.
I did last year! I went in for a pedicure and came out with a bob. My hair was waist-length and luscious. I don’t know what came over me. I just chopped it. Then I cried—a lot. My dad used to hate me cutting my hair, so I think I cried more because I thought he would be really upset with me. I lost him three years ago to cancer. The last time I cut my hair, he didn’t speak to me for two weeks.
It did look incredible, though.
It was longer on one side. I wouldn’t let the stylist cut the second side because I got scared. I was like, “Leave one side long!” She was like, “Huh?” I just owned it. Then finally she said, “It’s been a month. Let’s make it even.”
What’s your eyebrow secret?
I prefer threading because it gives you a more precise shape. I also lift my brows to fill them in so the hair covers the pencil lines. It’s an amazing trick. And now I’ve told the whole world about it.
I read that you eat what you want and don’t exercise. True?
It’s not a good thing. I have two active careers on two continents. I’m always on flights, always dehydrated. So I compensate. I drink lots of water and get enough sleep. I should exercise. My metabolism is not as amazing as it was in my 20s. I can’t be doing KFC every day, as much as I would love that to be my life.