Tonight’s the season finale of The Mindy Project on FOX, and since the show’s got her name in the title and she stars in it and created it, it’s the perfect day to talk about Mindy Kaling. Mindy says a lot of funny and inspiring things on and off the screen, about everything from dating to diversity. But one of the topics she always tends to talk about especially well is body image.
It’s a topic that seems to come up often in interviews with Mindy, because A.) she’s a woman, and men simply don’t get asked about weight and appearance as much, and B.) she’s not standard Hollywood size. But even though there are often double standards at play in terms of the questions she’s asked, the upside is she usually gives pretty great answers to them. And it’s never a bad thing for young women to read or hear a quote from a successful female celebrity about feeling positive about your body, especially when that celebrity doesn’t fit perfectly into Hollywood’s size ideals. So with that in mind, here are a few of Mindy’s best quotes about body image.
Mindy posed for a gorgeous Vogue spread back in March, and since it was the magazine’s “Shape” issue, she obviously commented on weight:
“There’s a whole list of things I would probably change about myself. For example, I’m always trying to lose fifteen pounds. But I never need to be skinny. I don’t want to be skinny. I’m constantly in a state of self-improvement but I don’t beat myself up over it.”
What I love about this is that we can get so caught up in wanting everybody to accept their bodies as they are and not daring to change them. But sometimes people do want to change, in a healthy way, and that’s okay. Mindy shows that it’s possible to like your body but also want to lose a few pounds.
As a result of that Vogue interview and others like it, Mindy recently told Jimmy Kimmel that she gets a lot of annoying comments from people who condescendingly praise her for accepting herself the way she is:
“I’m also the recipient of a lot of backhanded compliments about it, where 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 comfortable to let herself go and be a fat sea monster!’ By the way, I run and work out. It takes a lot of effort to look like a normal/chubby woman.”
But really, why can’t we just compliment people without having to add on that their size is so brave or refreshing?
In an interview with Parade, Mindy talked about how the things that make her different are so often used to qualify her success.
“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. 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?’”
This is really great, because on the one hand she’s not afraid to call out the double standard, but on the other hand she knows that there are people out there who relate to her because of her differences, and she doesn’t want to disappoint them.
In a 2012 interview, Mindy admitted that she’d like to lose weight and work out every day in an ideal world, but she just doesn’t have the time. Still, she takes her health seriously and keeps it up in her own way:
“When I’m not in production, I go for jogs five to six days a week,” she adds. “There’s a history of heart attacks on my father’s side of the family, so I do think about cardiovascular health. I’m an avid slow jogger. I always hesitate to go on runs with my friends because my pace is so slow. I’m talking about an 11-minute mile over an hour and a half.”
I think it’s great that Mindy pays attention to her health for reasons other than just wanting to lose weight, and also that she takes it at her own pace.
Mindy had this to say in her book about being an in-between size, and the effect it has on her as a woman in Hollywood:
“Since I am not model-skinny, but also not super-fat and fabulously owning my hugeness, I fall into that nebulous, “Normal American Woman Size” that legions of fashion stylists detest. For the record, I’m a size 8 (this week, anyway). Many stylists hate that size because, I think, to them, I lack the self-discipline to be an aesthetic, or the sassy, confidence to be a total fatty hedonist. They’re like ‘Pick a lane.’”
It’s so true, especially in Hollywood, that people seek to label women as clearly one body type or another, and anything that’s not “thin and disciplined” or “curvy and confident” ends up being unnecessarily confusing.
Mindy Kaling shared her body image advice to young girls in a Teen Vogue profile:
“I get so worried about girls with body image stuff… And I feel like I have been able to have a fun career and be an on-camera talent and be someone who has boyfriends and love interests and wears nice clothes and those kinds of things without having to be an emaciated stick. And it is possible to do it. In life, you don’t have to be that way and you can have a great life, a fun life, and a fulfilling love life.”
Here’s another great quote from Mindy’s book about not getting too worked up about her image:
“If someone called me chubby, it would no longer be something that kept me up late at night. Being called fat is not like being called stupid or unfunny, which is the worst thing you could ever say to me. Do I envy Jennifer Hudson for being able to lose all that weight and look smokin’ hot? Of course, yes. Do I sometimes look at Gisele Bundchen and wonder how awesome life would be if I never had to wear Spanx? Duh, of course. That’s kind of the point of Gisele Bundchen. And maybe I will, once or twice, for a very short period of time. But on the list of things I want to do in my lifetime, that’s not near the top. I mean, it’s not near the bottom either. I’d say it’s right above “Learn to drive a vespa,” but several notches below “film a chase scene for a movie.”
I love the honesty in this. She doesn’t pretend to never envy other women, but she also realizes that she’s not other women, and that there are more important things to worry about or aspire to. It’s body-positive without ignoring the existence of insecurities, and it’s just really relatable.