Mindy Kaling, known to her family as Vera Mindy Chokalingam, was born in Cambridge, Massachusetts on June 24, 1979. Kaling’s parents met when working at a hospital in Nigeria where her father assisted with a wing of the hospital that was being built. Her mother however worked as an OB/GYN at the hospital which Kaling would later draw inspiration from for her television show The Mindy Project where she portrays an OB/GYN.
Before I get ahead of myself, let us back track to her years as a student at Dartmouth College where she would earn a degree in play-writing. During her time at Dartmouth, Kaling was very involved on campus and spent her time attending an on-campus comedy group called “The Dog Day Players” and was a member of “The Rockapellas”, an a cappella group. As a college student, Kaling was also an intern on Late Night with Conan O’Brien.
Within a few years, Kaling would move to Brooklyn where she would do stand-up comedy in the city. In 2002, Kaling and friend Brenda Withers wrote a play called Matt & Ben where they portray Matt Damon and Ben Affleck. Later that year, Matt & Ben was named one of the “Top Ten Theatrical Events of The Year” by New York International Fringe Festival (NYIFF).
It is important to note that as a 23 year old in Brooklyn, arguably one of the most artistically competitive cities in the world, Kaling had received recognition from (NYIFF). However what may provide her with even more bragging rights would be that she had achieved success as an Indian woman in show business. As a woman and as a minority it is extremely easy to feel discouraged in an industry that millions are fighting to be recognized in and that places a constant focus on female sexualization. “The advice I give to women is to support each other, not distract each other.” However Kaling, through her passion, dedication and love for her comedy, proved to be successful and reach her goal of sharing her comedy and making people laugh all over the world.
Greg Daniels, producer of The Office US, hired Kaling in 2004 to be on the show and described her by saying “She’s very original… If anything feels phone or lazy or passé, she’ll pounce on it.” Kaling also spoke highly of Daniels, saying that “the best advice about comedy I was ever given was from Greg Daniels. He said to just ‘be kind.’” At the age of 24, Kaling was co-nominated for an Emmy award next to Daniels for an episode of The Office US titled “Niagara.” Kaling was extremely beneficial on the staff of The Office US as she wrote twenty-five episodes. Kaling was also the sole woman on an eight-person staff and, again, did not allow the added obstacle of being a woman get in the way of her reaching her goals. “Think of your art and the thing you want to do, not the politics of your situation.”
Fast forward to 2012, Kaling’s mother passes away due to pancreatic cancer. However Kaling channels this devastating news into her work. The same year, Kaling premiered The Mindy Project, a comedy in which she plays the role of producer and writer. “I’m a fucking Indian woman who has her own fucking network show.” On camera, Kaling portrayed the role of Mindy Lahiri, an eccentric OB/GYN, whose career choice Kaling had based off of her mother. “I would say that my mother is the single biggest role model in my life, but that term doesn’t seem to encompass enough when I use it about her. She was the love of my life.”
The Mindy Project, which aired on Fox, faced rocky waters when it was cancelled in 2015 however soon after it was picked up by Hulu as they recognized the show to be extremely well written and a fan favourite online. Kaling also went on to write two books titled Why Not Me and Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?
Mindy Kaling is a talented individual who has refused to allow obstacles get in the way of her reaching her goals. She has flipped what may be considered the ‘disadvantages’ of being a woman and a minority in her industry into inspiration. Kaling instead believed in herself and showed everyone exactly what an Indian woman was capable of achieving on her own.
Author: Sarah Pouramn
Sarah Pouramn lives in Toronto and resides in Waterloo when she is attending university. She works with Habitat for Humanity as a builder and as an Executive Events Coordinator and believes that everyone deserves a fair shot at their goals. Sarah also works with The Community Edition, a Waterloo Region newspaper, as the Social Media Editor. Follow Sarah on Twitter @itsmesarahpea and on Instagram @sarahpouramn.
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