Whether you know her as boy-crazy Dunder Mifflin employee Kelly Kapoor or sassy gynocologist Mindy Lahiri or the voice of Disgust in Inside Out, it’s hard to deny the show-stopping force that is Mindy Kaling.
She began her career as the only female writer on The Office, then moved on to write, produce and star in her own series, The Mindy Project, currently on Hulu for its fourth season.
A huge Kaling fan myself, I was excited to hear she was writing a new book to pick up where her 2011 memoir, Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns), left off.
Hugely anticipated Why Not Me? is a collection of comedic essays; most of them explore Kaling’s life developing her show, navigating Hollywood and dating a charming aide to President Obama. Along the way, she covers body image and career disappointments with her signature sense of humor.
Until you get around to picking up a copy (and I highly suggest you do), here are six Mindy-isms on love, life and laughter:
1. You can’t be confident if you don’t work hard.
Kaling confesses that she was really nervous during her first few months as a staff writer on The Office, mostly because she “didn’t deserve to be confident yet.” She says her sense of self-assuredness developed over a career of 19-hour workdays and writing sessions that lasted until she got the “certain type of greasy hair that you get only when you are writing with no breaks.”
She debunks the notion that confidence is something you’re born with, arguing instead that it stems from hard work and dedication. She worries about the way workaholics are often antagonized — pegged as people who have unbalanced priorities and unhealthy obsessions — because she has “never, ever, ever met a highly confident and successful person who is not a ‘workaholic.’” Preach.
2. Don’t be afraid to forge your own path.
Mindy may not seem like your typical sorority girl, but she actually did have a brief stint in Greek Life at her alma mater, Dartmouth. She writes about the initial rush of excitement that came with joining something “old and exclusive,” and the pride she felt being deemed the funny “sorority jester.” But she ultimately chose to leave the comfort of the group behind to make room for her other writing pursuits — a decision that proved to be the right move for her in the end.
3. Everyone has secrets, no matter how put together they seem on the surface.
Mindy’s book pulls back the curtain on Hollywood and debunks many assumptions people make about celebrities. Their hair is awesome because “everyone uses hair extensions.” That flawless skin is because they have makeup artists and blemish-removal wands (she calls hers Wall-E), and their clothes fit perfectly because their tailors work magic on them. (Mindy unabashedly talks about a tailored Old Navy dress she recently wore to a wedding.)
And beauty rituals aren’t the only thing celebrities keep secret. Despite exuding confidence and positivity on screen, Kaling is refreshingly honest about the fact that she, like everyone else, is anxious under the surface. She spends an entire chapter listing what she calls her “4 a.m. worries:” those recurring fears that keep her up some nights. Thoughts like, “What if no one loves me except my blood relatives?” “What if I have nothing to say?” and “Do I have too much to say and not enough time?”
4. You’re not going to love your body all the time, and that’s totally OK.
During an especially raw and sincere moment, Kaling, a self-identified size 10, says, “My deep dark secret is that I absolutely do try to conform to normal standards of beauty. I am just not remotely successful at it.”
She’s often referred to as a body-positive celeb, but she admits she doesn’t fully identify with this label. She too has a “complicated relationship” with her body, though she doesn’t see the point in depriving herself to lose weight. She’d rather spend time thinking about the things that are important to her than obsessing over calories and gym routines. She isn’t interested in a life spent without Girl Scout cookies and In-N-Out burgers — and to that I say: you go girl.
5. The key to success is surrounding yourself with people you love.
Whether it’s spending an entire chapter describing her showbiz bestie BJ Novak’s effortlessly brilliant persona, or voicing her appreciation for her writing mentor, Greg Daniels, Kaling clearly adores her friends and credits them for many of her successes.
6. During hard times, remember your accomplishments.
Kaling was an announcer for the Emmy nominations last year, so she got the news that The Mindy Project wasn't up for an award while on live TV. Instead of following her first instinct and running off stage in disappointment, she reminded herself how far she'd come since the start of her career.
"I thought about how ... the only reason I was even asked to present that morning was because I was the star of a show that was considered relevant and how that anxious twenty-two-year-old in Brooklyn would have slept so much better knowing I would be standing here one day ... I stood looking positively serene on camera. The greatest crime is that I wasn't nominated for that acting performance."