How Mindy Kaling Responds To The Critique That Her Early Work Lacked Diversity

Early on in Mindy Kaling’s career she faced a bit of criticism citing problematic writing and casting in the television shows she worked on and created. An ironic occurrence for the first woman of color to create, write, and star in a primetime sitcom.

Mindy Kaling | Lars Niki/Getty Images for The Academy Of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences
Mindy Kaling | Lars Niki/Getty Images for The Academy Of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences

On The Mindy Project, particularly, Kaling was criticized for her character’s tendency to almost always date white men. She was criticized for her character’s line: “Okay, I know that my ID says I’m 5’10” with blond hair, 110 pounds with crystal-blue eyes. My philosophy is that an ID should be aspirational.”

Why Mindy Kaling says she was criticized more than her white, male coworkers

Kaling feels, as a woman of color, she was scrutinized more than her white, male counterparts, and that she was especially scrutinized by women. She didn’t ask to break race or sex barriers when she joined this industry–she just wanted to write.

In a recent interview with Elle, Kaling said the criticism used to get to her.

“It used to frustrate me a lot that I felt way more scrutinized by women and women of color than white showrunners were on shows with all-white casts,” she said. “I just wanted to be a writer. I didn’t necessarily look at it as being like, ‘Well, you also have to be a spokesperson.’ That’s not what I signed up for.”

Even so, Kaling has taken on the role of someone who does break entertainment barriers, especially in recent years.

Almost all of her recent projects are about or include thoughtful conversations concerning race and sex: Late Night, which she wrote, starred in, and coproduced, is about a young woman of color breaking into the world of TV writing, Four Weddings and a Funeral, which Kaling cocreated, cowrote, and co-executive produced, stars a black woman and a British Pakistani man, and Never Have I Ever, which she cocreated, wrote, and co-executive produced, tells the story of a first-generation Indian American high schooler who’s hell-bent on losing her virginity.

How Mindy Kaling fell into being a role model

So what changed? Kaling told Elle that she realized just how big of a role model she was for people, how much she was helping.

She says young women of color often come up to her “incredibly shyly and politely, often trembling, telling me how much it means to them and to their family to see someone like me making it.”

“When I see that real physical reaction they have to seeing me, and how special it is to them that I’m making it, it becomes more important to me,” she said.