The Complete Evolution Of Mindy Kaling

Mindy Kaling is the very definition of an HBIC. As IMDb details, Kaling worked her way up from a staff writer on the hit show "The Office" to a starring role before creating her own material with the beloved TV rom-com "The Mindy Project." Along the way, the Indian-American multihyphenate has appeared in movies including "Inside Out" and shows such as "The Morning Show." Elsewhere, Kaling also created "Champions" and "Never Have I Ever" based on her own experiences growing up. 

She's a published author too, with several memoir-style books to her name including "Why Not Me?" and "Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?" (via GoodReads). Although Kaling is hugely successful, she's open about how tough it was to make her mark in an industry that typically favors white, slim women. Although "The Office" breakout has more than proven herself at this stage, she still has plenty to say. Despite the many hardships along the way, Kaling isn't shutting up. 

Mindy Kaling is a born comedian

In an interview with The New York Times MagazineMindy Kaling fought back at long-established cultural stereotypes about Indian parents, making it clear that any journalist looking for stories about how she'd been locked in her bedroom and forced to study as a kid was going to be sorely disappointed. Of her decision to go into comedy, the "Mindy Project" creator explained, "My parents' personality type is not to stop anyone from doing anything, and going into comedy wasn't something that I decided to try when I was 26 after having gone to law school." 

In fact, "At 6 years old, I was writing comic plays at home. My parents saw me absorb Comedy Central. I was watching 'Dr. Katz,' you know? Not just 'Saturday Night Live'." As a teenager, Kaling honed her opinions on the differences between "Frasier" and "Cheers," which share a character in the titular snobbish shrink played by Kelsey Grammer. Therefore, the budding comedian's parents were well aware of where her ambitions lay. Although the Kalings were apprehensive, they knew that this was what their daughter wanted and, moreover, it was going to happen no matter what anybody said. 

Sharing her unique perspective made her an icon

Netflix's "Never Have I Ever" follows newcomer Maitreyi Ramakrishnan as Devi, an Indian-American high-schooler who's trying to find her place in an unforgiving world. As Refinery 29 notes, Mindy Kaling has made it clear the show, which she co-created with Lang Fisher, isn't autobiographical. However, Kaling did take it as an opportunity to put a teenager like herself front and center, explaining, "Nerds are not always the wallflowers, the quiet ones — we're ambitious with obnoxious personalities and want to have sex and dreams like all the other kids."

Although the actress, writer, producer, and director acknowledged that there has been a resurgence of nerds thanks to the likes of "Superbad" and "Booksmart," she notes that "we haven't seen an 'ethnic' nerd," which is where Kaling's expertise came in handy. The "Mindy Project" creator considered herself incredibly lucky to get to tell Devi's story, as she is "deeply familiar" with her struggles, particularly since Devi is also a first-generation American with Indian immigrant parents, just like Kaling. The comedic starlet felt she was in the perfect position to write this story as she was far enough removed but the memories were still fresh, too. 

Mindy Kaling is completely confident in her career ascension

Mindy Kaling has worked her butt off to get the position she's in, and she knows it. As she explained in an interview with The Guardian, "A journalist asked me if I have impostor syndrome and I said: 'I actually don't, because I've really put in the time.' And I could tell he thought I was kind of cocky." This was around the release of "Late Night," a 2019 dramatic comedy in which Kaling starred alongside the legendary Emma Thompson, and for which she also penned the screenplay. The story follows a "diversity hire," played by Kaling, and is based at least partly on her experience on "The Office." 

The comedic breakout admitted that "for a long time I was really embarrassed about that. No one [on 'The Office'] said anything to me about it, but they all knew and I was acutely aware of that. It took me a while to realize that I was just getting the access other people had because of who they knew." These days, Kaling knows she's earned her spot, regardless of who initially gave her an opportunity to shine. 

Hollywood keeps her humble

Although Mindy Kaling has ascended to the higher echelons of Hollywood, she remains a victim of racist and sexist attitudes. In fact, as she told Elle, during the filming of "The Mindy Project" a security guard mistook her for an interloper even as Kaling was passing a massive billboard with her face on it. "It really doesn't matter how much money I have. I'm treated badly with enough regularity that it keeps me humble," the successful star quipped. However, she also acknowledged that outsider status helps keep her writing sharp. 

Kaling didn't sign up to be any kind of role model. However, once she realized how much of an impact her career was having on young women of color, her perspective changed irrevocably. The "Never Have I Ever" creator is often approached by shy, unfailingly polite young women when she's out and about who tell her, "how much it means to them and to their family to see someone like me making it," or how their parents feel more comfortable supporting their dreams now they can point to Kaling's impressive rise. It's gradually become more important to the "Office" breakout to be a voice for those women, as a result.  

Becoming a mother transformed Mindy Kaling

She's conquered the entertainment world, but Mindy Kaling admits motherhood didn't come as easily to her. According to USA Today, "The Office" breakout always knew she wanted to be a mom someday but admittedly wasn't ready when the time came. "I don't think anyone is ever ready. I definitely knew I wanted kids, but the decision, it was not something that I had, like, planned," Kaling advised. She's never revealed the father of children, Katherine and Spencer, and frequently refers to herself as a single mother. She's fiercely committed to them, however, taking her kids everywhere even when it means traveling for work (via People). 

Although Kaling didn't consider herself maternal, bonding with Katherine came very naturally to her, with the actress revealing, "I have been really surprised by how much I crave time with her. Just that there was a side of me that could really enjoy being around the baby." It helps, of course, that the two are very alike. Katherine is even a budding comedian, with her mom notably describing her as "really funny." In a few years' time, Katherine might be the one flipping the script on Hollywood just like her mother did.

President Joe Biden awarded her a National Medal of the Arts

In a 2023 ceremony, President Joe Biden presented Mindy Kaling with a National Medal of the Arts for her work in television, film, and books. The honorees included other pop culture heavy hitters such as Bruce Springsteen, Julie Louis-Dreyfus, and Vera Wang. However, Kaling was honored specifically for her work in celebrating the immigrant experience in the U.S. and uplifting women of color.

In a video shared on Kaling's Instagram, fans can see the United States Marine Band greeting the writer and producer with the theme song to her breakout show, "The Office," as she entered the White House. Kaling captioned the post with a teary-eyed emoji, proving that the multihyphenate still holds the sitcom gig close to her heart. Kaling's post also gave fans a rare look at her two children, Katherine and Spencer, who were dressed to the nines for their trip to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. In the photo, Katherine can be seen wearing a beautiful, white ruffled dress with Spencer looking adorable in his toddler-sized suit.

The ceremony turned out to be even more of a family affair when Kaling took the opportunity to pay tribute to her mother, Swati Chokalingam, who passed away in 2012 from pancreatic cancer. The comedy icon also shared on Instagram that "it was almost too much to take in" to hear President Biden "speak about my parents, their journey to the United States, my late mother's dreams for me, and the power of comedy to make people understand each other."

She's undergone a remarkable physical transformation

In her 2011 memoir, "Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?" Mindy Kaling shared that she expected to be "chubby for life," sharing that she has "no hobbies except dieting," and possesses "no discipline." However, the 43-year-old has since wowed fans after appearing on multiple red carpets with a noticeably slimmed-down figure. Kaling lost at least 40 pounds after making life-changing adjustments to her eating and exercise habits. 

One of Kaling's most stunning looks of the 2023 Award Season was a bright white corseted gown that she wore on Hollywood's biggest night of the year — the 95th Academy Awards ceremony. The bone corseting of the gown included peekaboo-style windows along Kaling's midriff, with the blinding white of the fabric contrasting beautifully with the star's dark complexion. Kaling paired her Vera Wang dress with a smoky eye, a mauve-colored lip, and a sleek half-up, half-down hairstyle. 

She surprised fans once again when she changed into an all-black version of the same gown when it came time to present an award on the Dolby Theater stage. Now with a bright red lip, Kaling presented the award for Best Original Score alongside fellow actor John Cho. Kaling has been open about her health journey in the past, telling Entertainment Tonight in 2022, "I eat what I like to eat. If I do any kind of restrictive diet, it never really works for me. I just eat less of it." 

Mindy Kaling's producing career is skyrocketing

Life has changed drastically for Mindy Kaling since her days as the scene-stealing Kelly Kapoor on "The Office." Now, Kaling is spending more of her time behind the camera than in front of it. The writer-actress-producer has now created a verifiable television empire with her work on "The Sex Lives of College Girls," "Never Have I Ever," and the recent animated "Velma" adaptation.

Kaling's 2023 "Scooby-Doo" spinoff takes place in a universe where the Mystery Gang characters have not yet become the expert detectives we know and love, but are just bumbling teenagers trying to solve a local murder. This time around, the leader of the pack is a nerdy go-getter Velma, voiced by Kaling herself. Her influence is clear, with "Velma" including an East Asian Daphne and South Asian Velma — representation that was nowhere to be seen in the original incarnation of "Scooby Doo."

According to the Daily Mirror, "Velma" has raked in more viewers than any other animated series available on HBO Max. Though the show hasn't come without its fair share of criticism, Kaling approached the project with the same innovative mindset she's brought to her other work. In an interview with Variety, she said that sparking conversation was one of her main goals with "Velma." Kaling's fearlessness is also clear in her other female-fronted projects, such as "The Sex Lives of College Girls" and "Never Have I Ever," which depict young women coming-of-age, tackling issues of family, sexuality, and friendship. 

Wedding bells may still be on the horizon for Mindy Kaling

When Kaling took to Instagram to share her stunning Oscars look with her fans, the snap came along with an eyebrow-raising caption. "Last night was a fashion dream for me," she writes, singing the praises of her designer and friend, Vera Wang, who is most famous for her wedding gown designs. At the end of her caption, Kaling adds a cheeky nod to her mysterious dating past, writing, "Also, who knows if I am ever getting married, I am wearing as many Vera Wang gowns as I can!"

In addition to flooding the comments with millions of flame emojis, Kaling's followers couldn't help but also pick up on the sly suggestion of future nuptials for the television star. Though Kaling has been publicly single for a number of years and has never confirmed the identity of her children's father, that hasn't stopped fans from imagining a future romance for their idol. Kaling's complicated relationship with "The Office" costar BJ Novak in particular remains a fascinating topic among her fans. 

After dating during their years on "The Office," the two have since decided to remain just friends and have appeared on multiple red carpets together. While Kaling's caption didn't reference Novak by name, her post has piqued fans' interest in the current status of their relationship. One Twitter user wrote, "can bj novak and mindy kaling pls get married already please guys ur not fooling anyone at this point."

Mindy Kaling will never forget where she came from

From Scranton, Pennsylvania to the rolling hills of Hollywood, Mindy Kaling has remained in touch with her South Asian roots throughout her whirlwind career. The future comedy star was born in Cambridge, Massachusetts in 1979, the same year her parents immigrated to the United States from India. Her multicultural upbringing is evident even in her name: Vera Mindy Chokalingam. In a 2011 interview, Kaling stated that her parents chose her two first names on account of the fact that Vera is an "incarnation of a Hindu goddess," but chose to refer to their daughter as Mindy because they thought it was a "cute American name." 

Since making it big on "The Office" and now "Velma," Kaling has made it a point to include South Asian representation in all of her work and to speak openly about how important it is for young South Asian girls to see people who look like them in popular media. In 2023, Kaling even co-hosted a special celebration of South Asian Oscar nominees alongside fellow South Asian actress, Priyanka Chopra Jonas

Kaling showed up at the event dripping in jewels and dressed in a silver-toned saree designed by Falguni Shane Peacock India, who she shouted out on her Instagram page. Photos from the night present the South Asian entertainment community as a united front, with Kaling getting cozy with "Queer Eye" star Tan France, "Bridgerton" actress Simone Ashley, Malala Yousafzai, and more.