Vera Mindy Chokalingam, known professionally as Mindy Kaling, is a bona fide Hollywood icon. Kaling is best known for her breakout role as overly dramatic ‘Kelly Kapoor’ on the critically acclaimed sitcom The Office. Kaling’s portrayal of endearingly overdramatic ‘motor-mouth Kapoor’ marked her foray into the entertainment industry. An industry she has subsequently dominated, receiving numerous accolades for her acting, writing and directing.
Born to immigrant parents who moved to the US in 1979, Kaling attributes her success to a strong work ethic, one which she attributes to her mother. Kaling’s mother, a trained OB/GYN, avidly encouraged her daughter’s passion for playwriting. It was afterschool that Kaling would sit in phlebotomy rooms writing and rewriting plays under her mother’s watchful eye.
Kaling’s passion for storytelling, along with comedy, remained a fixture throughout her life. Comedy, served as a source of refuge during high school, a period Kaling has described as “a little bit painful”. Kaling attended the prestigious Buckingham Browne & Nichols in Cambridge, Massachusetts. A self-professed nerd and chubby child, Kaling’s introverted nature led her to be continuously underestimated. Despite taking an active role in her school’s theater department, Kaling recounts the dejection she felt as she was routinely overlooked in favor of more popular peers. Kaling has also commented on her school’s pejorative view of funny girls. Humor, she noted, was reserved for the boys.
It wasn’t until she arrived at Dartmouth in 1998 that Kaling was able to find her niche. On-campus Kaling was involved in the improvisational comedy troupe “The Dog Day Players”, sang in the acapella group “The Rockapellas”, created her own comic strip for The Dartmouth and wrote for her college’s humor magazine the Dartmouth Jack-O-Lantern.
Kaling found continued success after graduating. One of her earliest comedic endeavors, Matt & Ben, received positive feedback at the New York International Fringe Festival. Her work, praised for being refreshing and original, eventually caught the attention of The Office writer and producer Greg Daniels. Initially hired as both actress and writer, Kaling’s involvement with The Office grew. It was in later seasons that Kaling was given greater creative power in the show.
Apart from numerous collaborations and original stand-up, Kaling has written two memoirs; ‘Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?’ and ‘Why Not Me?’. She is also credited with having earned a Screen Actors Guild, an Asian Excellence Award, a Critics Choice Award, a Gracie Award, a Satellite Award, and a Reader’s Choice Award.
Arguably one of her greatest accomplishments to date, however, is The Mindy Project. Serving as title character ‘Mindy Lahiri’, The Mindy Project is Kaling’s brainchild. She is credited with acting, writing, directing and producing the Emmy nominated show. Kaling also receives the distinguished title of being the first Indian-American woman to ever have her own prime-time TV show. While the show was ultimately cancelled by Fox it was picked up by Hulu. There, The Mindy Project continued on for a prosperous 6 seasons.
To this day Kaling still says the biggest challenge she faces is being underestimated. As a woman and Indian-American in comedy, Kaling has fought for her work to be recognized on the same field as her white male counterparts. Kaling has stated that she seeks for her legacy to not be qualified by her ethnicity nor gender, but credited to her originality and wit.
Dray, Kayleigh. “Mindy Kaling on Her Feminist Father, Being in Love and Why She’s Never Had Therapy.” Stylist, 26 Oct. 2017, www.stylist.co.uk/people/mindy-kaling-feminist- actress-inspiration-career-work-film-tv-inside-out/24643.
Farnsworth, Claire, and Zéandri Rautenbach. “The Lovely Legacy of Mindy Kaling.” Germ Magazine, 29 Mar. 2015, www.germmagazine.com/the-lovely-legacy-of-mindy-kaling/.
Hickam, Jessica. “Mindy Kaling’s Blog about High School Will Help ‘Nerds’ Realize They’re Not Alone.” SheKnows, 11 Aug. 2015, www.sheknows.com/entertainment/articles/1092295/mindy-kaling-talks-high-school-nerd-experiences-in-seventeen-magazine.
Iqbal, Nosheen. “Mindy Kaling: ‘My Biggest Challenge Is Being Frequently Underestimated’.” The Guardian, Guardian News and Media, 22 Mar. 2013, www.theguardian.com/tv-and-radio/2013/mar/22/mindy-kaling-office-mindy-project