“It’s hard when you’re a narcissistic, vain person who wants to be a role model,” the 34-year-old actress told Jimmy Kimmel last month.
Whether she meant to or not, Mindy Kaling has become the strongest voice of a female-focused generation. “The guys on my staff identify as feminist,” Kaling told a packed room at SXSW. “I think, as women, we want other women to do so well, but we think formidable means no fun.”
The actress is tirelessly disinterested in people telling women how they should and shouldn’t behave.
“If you like lipstick or watch Keeping Up With the Kardashians while you do the elliptical machine, and you’re willing to admit to any of that, there are people who think you’re letting down women or something, which is just a bunch of bulls***, and can make me kind of angry,” she scoffs. “I do think there’s a reaction to me because of the character I play on the show or the fact that I sound like an 11-year-old girl, that people think I’m an 11-year-old girl, or that I’m somehow not a feminist, or I’m selling out women. I’m really impatient with that; I think it’s crap.”
Kaling’s greatest act of promoting a positive body image hasn’t been speaking out against crippling beauty standards; it has been the opposite.
Rewriting the rules
“I live in this world where, because I’m not skinny, but I’m an actor, which virtually never happens in the world of actresses, I’m the recipient of a lot of backhanded compliments about it,” she explains.
Famous women who aren’t unrealistically thin or beautiful by conventional Vanity Fair standards are given a hard time by the press and relentlessly questioned about how they manage to remain confident.
“People are like, ‘It’s so nice that Mindy Kaling doesn’t feel she needs to subscribe to the ideals of beauty that other people do.’ And I‘m like, ‘I do subscribe!’ They’re like ‘It’s so refreshing that Mindy feels so comfortable to, like, let herself go and be a fat sea monster.”
In an interview for the September issue of Parade magazine, Kaling got candid about the ceaseless attention she gets for her appearance.
A modern role model
“I always get asked, ‘Where do you get your confidence?’ I think people are well meaning, but it’s pretty insulting. Because what it means to me is, ‘You, Mindy Kaling, have all the trappings of a very marginalized person. You’re not skinny, you’re not white, you’re a woman. Why on earth would you feel like you’re worth anything?'”
She continued, “There are little Indian girls out there who look up to me, and I never want to belittle the honor of being an inspiration to them. But while I’m talking about why I’m so different, white male show runners get to talk about their art.”
There are as many differing ideas about what feminism means as there are feminists. In a world where modern feminists have raised the bar so high that women are condemned to underachieve, it is truly refreshing to see a strong woman unapologetically proud of her own identity.
“Don’t let people put you in a pageant you never wanted to be in.”