The untold truth of Mindy Kaling

Mindy Kaling is basically the best friend everyone wishes they had. Whether you are familiar with her from her hilarious role as Kelly Kapoor on The Office or the hot mess/style icon and OB-GYN Mindy Lahiri on The Mindy Project, there are some things you might not know about the real Mindy Kaling.

Oh, and don't worry. You will only end up loving Kaling more after learning some new things about her. She is goals, after all.

Her name isn't Mindy?

Despite having a titular television show, Kaling's name isn't actually Mindy. That is, her first name isn't Mindy. According to Biography, Kaling was born Vera Mindy Chokalingam. Still, it seems she always went by Mindy.

Kaling took to Twitter to explain the significance of her middle name, "I am named after a character from a Robin Williams TV show when my parents still lived in Africa. He meant so much, to so many, so far away." Kaling was referring to the hilarious sitcom of the '70s and '80s, Mork and Mindy, in which Williams played a friendly alien named Mork, alongside his human companion, Mindy. 

Why did Kaling remove the "Cho-" and the "-am" of her last name to form "Kaling?" According to a profile of Kaling for Sylist, it was because comedy MCs, back when Kaling performed improv, couldn't correctly pronounce her given surname. 

Those MCs may regret not trying harder now but, Kaling it is!

She shares some similarities with Kelly from The Office

Your introduction to Kaling was likely on the US version of the "mockumentary" The Office. In 2005, the then 24-year-old Kaling signed on to write for the show. According to a New York Times interview with Kaling, she was the only female writer for the comedy at that time. Before long, Kaling proved her ability to not only write but also act. Kaling played Kelly Kapoor, a pop-culture obsessed, materialistic customer service representative in an on-again off-again relationship with Ryan played by BJ Novak.

Is Kaling similar to the character she portrays? In some ways, yes and, in many ways, no. In Kaling's book, Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns), Kaling explained her frustration, sharing that "no one wonders what I'm like in real life, because they assume I am Kelly Kapoor."

Kaling went on to share two lists to set the record straight. Under the list "Things Kelly and I would Both Do," Kaling admitted she and her character would "star in a music video" and "hold a royal wedding viewing party." In the category "Things Kelly Would Do That I Would Not," Kaling wrote that she wouldn't "text while showering" or "cry about a celebrity breakup."

That said, Kaling really does love pop culture according to her interview with The New York Times. In fact, during the interview, five of her friends texted her to share the news of Beyonce's pregnancy.

She has a "great love" of her life

A similarity between Kelly and Kaling that was left out of her book was the relationship with BJ Novak. It turns out that Kelly dating Ryan actually had its roots in reality.

On The Howard Stern Show, Stern asked Kaling, "Have you had a great love in your life where it just hurts that it didn't work out?" Kaling answered in the affirmative. Later, Stern remarked, "I think the guy that you were in love with was the guy you co-starred with on The Office." Kaling laughed and confirmed, "What, BJ? … Yes, you're correct." Kaling joked, "You're not Sherlock Holmes or anything, Howard."

Although Kaling did admit she would've married Novak back when they were dating, she did clarify their post-breakup status as friends. So how does Novak feel? On The Queen Latifah Show, he was asked for his response about Kaling's interview with Stern. After spending a moment getting tongue-tied, he laughed and defined their relationship, "She is, in many ways, the great love of my life and she's much closer to me than a friend and yet, we're not in a relationship."

Ugh! Why not? As fans of The Office can confirm, Kaling and Novak have great chemistry. However, it takes much more than just that spark to make a relationship work. "People are so different and you can overlap in certain ways that are important but not the ones that are the most important," Kaling told Stern. 

Her "soulmate" isn't who you'd think

If Novak is Kaling's "great love," he must be her soulmate, right? Not according to Kaling. In an interview with Good Housekeeping, she made it clear, "My mom was my soul mate."

In the spring of 2011, Kaling's mom, Swati Chokalingam, was diagnosed with stage five pancreatic cancer. "I love talking about my mom," Kaling said, "but I may cry." The article detailed Kaling's leave of absence from The Office, caring for her mother during chemotherapy treatments, picking out wigs, and watching shows like Modern Family beside her. Shortly before Chokalingam passed away, Kaling wrote down her mother's words of wisdom. One of which was to "always be your own best friend." 

On January 30, 2012, the very same day that The Mindy Project was given the green light from Fox, Chokalingam succumbed to her illness. "We all thought we would have a couple of years with her. Eight months later, she was gone. So fast," Kaling said. She added, "I'm not superstitious but I think my mom had some part in it."

Chokalingam was an OB-GYN, who, as Kaling explained, "was very busy, and she did not suffer fools." It makes sense that Kaling's character, Mindy Lahiri, was loosely based on Chokalingam. Despite the challenging timing, Kaling was thankful for her work. "I didn't have to sit in my grief," she explained.

Her relationship with her brother isn't great

Even with Kaling's late mother filling the role of "soulmate" in her life, there was, and is, room for Kaling's father. "[M]y dad is my buddy," Kaling explained to Good Housekeeping, "And he kills it in the good-dad department."

Nevertheless, family isn't family unless it has a little dysfunction mixed in, right? Kaling and her only sibling, Vijay Chokalingam, are no longer in contact. In an interview with Inside Edition, Chokalingam explained, "She [Mindy] said that by publishing this book I would bring shame on the family." What book?

Apparently, Chokalingam wrote about how he got into medical school. Specifically, how he shaved his head to alter his appearance, claiming he was a black man on his application, and using his middle name "Jojo." If you're wondering what would drive a person to do that, Chokalingam claims, "An African-American student with my grades and test scores was very likely to get admission to medical school, whereas an Indian-American applicant was unlikely to get in." His family, including his sister, were none too pleased, according to Chokalingam. "I love my sister to death, but we don't see eye to eye."

A rep for Kaling confirmed to Us Weekly, "Mindy has been estranged from her brother for years. She was not aware of his decision to apply to medical school under a different name and race." Yikes!

She has a "second love" of her life...or maybe third?

With Kaling claiming Novak as the "great love" of her life, her mother as her "soulmate," and her dad as her "buddy," is there room left in Kaling's heart for anyone — or anything — else? Oh, yes! "My television show, which is kind of the love of my life," Kaling began to say in an interview with Novak at BookCon. Novak interrupted, "Thanks a lot." The audience and Kaling laughed as she put a hand on Novak's knee, and clarified, "the second love of my life."

Kaling continued, "[The Mindy Project] has been through a lot of changes … it started as a show that was produced for NBC, NBC passed on it. It got picked up by Fox and we lived there for three years and then we were cancelled by Fox." She proceeded, "And then Hulu picked us up for 26 episodes … more episodes than we've ever done in a single year!"

Kaling's work on The Mindy Project is quite an accomplishment. She compared all of the ups and downs of her show to "being in a really rocky relationship." Still, The Mindy Project, much like Kaling's relationship with Novak, ended amicably.

Will Kaling go on to find a third (or fourth) love? Perhaps she already has — with Hollywood movies. Two major motion picturesA Wrinkle in Time and Ocean's 8, the all-female reboot of Ocean's 11, have Kaling on their rosters. Yay, Mindy!

She made history in Hollywood

Speaking of Hollywood, did you know Kaling has already made history there? Deadline confirmed that Kaling is the first — and only — woman of color to both run and star in her own network show. That's an amazing feat, but alas, it's still not enough to keep others from criticizing a perceived lack of diversity on The Mindy Project.

According to Flavorwire, one of The Mindy Project panel discussions became a bit tense when a woman questioned Kaling's choice to portray the only female doctor and the only doctor of color on the show. Kaling said in response,"[T]his is going to just seem defensive, but I'm just gonna say it: I'm a f****** Indian woman who has her own f****** network television show, OK?"

Her frustration is understandable. Kaling clarified, "I have four series regulars that are women on my show, and no one asks any of the shows I adore … why no leads on their shows are women of color, and I'm the one that gets lobbied about these things … it's not like I'm running a country, I'm not a political figure, I'm someone who's writing a show and I want to use funny people." She continued, "And it feels like it diminishes the incredibly funny women who do come on my show."

Mindy isn't really "Mindy"

Kaling is not only assumed to have the personality of Kelly from The Office, but now also the character Mindy from her eponymous show. However, Mindy Lahiri and Kaling are not the same. "My character being named Mindy is something I think about all the time … It really does make you feel like you're right up close and there's no artifice to what you're watching," Kaling said in an interview with Women in the World. She continued, "The downside is that, I've noticed, that people just assume that you are your character." 

Kaling explained that the public, as well as the media, often don't feel that way about male actors who share a name with their characters. "I think it's a little sexist, actually," Kaling added. "They would look at a man who's playing that character [and say] … 'What an artiste that can adopt that persona' and I get kind of jealous, actually, that that's afforded to them." 

Kaling's character on The Mindy Project is a Trump-supporting Republican, shopaholic, fast-food addict, and basically "outrageous" as Kaling called her in the interview. They may share a name, a few similar traits and interests, and a fantastic sense of humor, but the similarities don't go very much beyond than that.

She wrote a character with the "confidence of a white man"

One trait Mindy Lahiri and Kaling do have in common? A whole lot of confidence. Alicia Melendez, when speaking with Kaling in an interview for Women in the World paraphrased Kaling's idea of what the first Indian-American female lead of a television series would be, "not a naive, plucky Mary Tyler Moore character, but that she would be selfish and have the confidence of a white man." However, that didn't exactly go down without a hitch.

"There's so much excitement to get it right and have a character be a shining example of a minority that it was very problematic for people that I wanted to be a really flawed, delusional, funny character because, as an actress, that's way more fun. You know, most television shows you watch, and the predominant characteristic of a lead female is that she's nice." Nevertheless, "nice" wasn't going to cut it.

Kaling further explained, "All the best parts are people with spiky sides and nuances and contradictions in their lives. So, the way I've come to terms with it, is that I hope that young women look to me, Mindy Kaling, as a role model and let me play the characters I want to play."

It seems Hollywood agrees with her terms.

She does really love fast food though

In addition to confidence, Mindy Lahiri and Kaling also share a common love of fast food, specifically McDonald's. While it's not uncommon for shows on Hulu to use product placementsThe Mindy Project featuring Mickey D's was perhaps more kismet than anything else. In an interview of Kaling, BJ Novak outs her as a "lifelong McDonald's fan." Novak adds, "You love McDonald's, I know."

On Conan, Conan O'Brien asked Kaling, "You tweet a lot about McDonald's to the point where I think you're on their payroll … Are you in McDonald's pocket?" Kaling answered, "What I love about McDonald's is that they have really long hours and I'm incredibly impatient." She further justified her fast food addiction, "When I was little, I wasn't really allowed to eat it so now I'm just like, 'F*** you, childhood!'" Kaling laughed and kept on, "I don't need to live to be 80!" O'Brien joked, "If you were on their payroll, you're not now. 'I love McDonald's and I accept I won't live long!'" 

McDonald's must have decided to overlook her longevity wisecrack because, in 2017, she appeared in one of their campaigns. What better way to pay for your Big Mac habit than a sponsorship deal though, right? 

She doesn't want/need to tell you about her baby's father

In October of 2017, Kaling confirmed on The Ellen Show that she was expecting her first child. "I'm carrying a child … I'm very, very pregnant," she said. She also announced that she would be having a girl.

While Kaling did have plans to keep her pregnancy hush-hush, Oprah — of all people! — accidentally spilled the beans on a press tour for A Wrinkle in Time. Kaling, being a good sport, told Ellen, "If anyone is going to announce big news about your private life, Oprah Winfrey is the person."

According to People, Kaling had her baby girl, Kathrine Kaling, on December 15, 2017. While many are itching to figure out who little Kaling's father could be, the truth of the matter is: no one outside of Kaling's circle needs to know. Even despite The Blast digging up and publishing Kaling's baby's birth certificate, information about the father is unknown as his name was left off the certificate. One thing gleaned, though, is that Baby Katherine's middle name is Swati, after Kaling's late mother and "soulmate." How sweet!