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Mindy Kaling: A Multicultural, First-Generation American in Hollywood

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Vera Mindy Chokalingam, known to the public as Mindy Kaling, is an American-Indian actress, comedian, writer, producer and director. She is known for starring as Kelly Kapoor in the NBC show “The Office.” Kaling also wrote for, produced and directed for the show. Kaling has received six nominations for a Primetime Emmy Award for her work on “The Office.

When she joined the cast of “The Office” at age 24, she was the only woman and person of color. According to Kaling, she faced a lot of stereotypical attitudes because of her ethnicity and gender. In the same article, Kaling stated “it was a lot of unfair responsibility when everything one says is a representation of all women and all minorities because you are the only minority and the only woman in the room.” 

After her work on “The Office,” Kaling went on to create, produce and star in her own comedy series “The Mindy Project.” Kaling also created and acted on the NBC sitcom “Champions,” and a new Netflix series called “Never Have I Ever.” 

Mindy Kaling (via Instagram)

Kaling’s cultural background

Kaling was born in Cambridge, Mass. Her father is an architect and her mother an obstetrician/gynecologist. Her parents are both from India and met while working in a hospital in Nigeria. Kaling’s father is Tamil born and raised in Chennai, the capital of the Indian state of Tamil Nadu. Her mother, who passed away in 2012, was Bengali from Mumbai. 

Kaling’s parents are both Third-Culture Adults who lived in India and Nigeria and eventually immigrated to the U.S. Kaling was born a U.S. citizen, but was still fully immersed in Indian culture through her parents. 

Kaling is very open about being a multicultural woman and implements many of her personal experiences into her shows. For example, her new Netflix series “Never Have I Ever” is based on Kaling’s experience growing up with multiple cultures.

In an interview with PTI from The Indian Express, Kaling said, “My coming to terms with my Indian-ness is a big part of the show. I was born in the U.S., raised in a pretty white area, without speaking any Indian languages, so culturally I always felt I straddled the lines of two cultures.”

Mindy Kaling (via Instagram)

Kaling’s struggle with culture and faith

Kaling has been very transparent regarding her feelings of faith and culture. In the same interview with The Indian Express, Kaling says, “I consider myself Hindu, but I also feel insecure about my understanding of my own religion.” She discusses how once her daughter was born, she began to look at her faith and culture “in a new way.” 

Despite all of the representation Kaling has given Indian women and multicultural women in her television shows, she has still faced criticism for diversifying her casts enough. When this criticism was brought up in an interview with Elle Magazine, Kaling responds, “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 … I just wanted to be a writer.”

Mindy Kaling (via Instagram)
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