Mindy Kaling Reveals Hollywood Horror: She Wasn't "Attractive Enough" to Play Herself
The writer and actor recalled a "humiliating" audition from her early career.
Mindy Kaling is a respected Hollywood creator, especially in the realm of comedy TV. She wrote for and acted on The Office. She created and starred in The Mindy Project. Most recently, she co-created the buzzy series Never Have I Ever and The Sex Lives of College Girls. And all of this is in addition to other projects, like taking on film roles and writing books. But, back when Kaling was getting her start, she faced an offensive—and ridiculous—critique, when she was told after one audition that she wasn't "attractive enough" to play herself.
Read on to see what the 44-year-old star said about the "terrible" experience and about being a woman in the public eye.
She had to audition to play herself.
During a 2014 interview with The Guardian, Kaling revealed that she was offered a sketch show by a TV network early in her career but was rejected after auditioning, even though she would have been playing herself.
Referring to herself—and seemingly to other unnamed other participants—she said, "We were not considered attractive or funny enough to play ourselves." She called the situation "humiliating."
Kaling continued, "That network is no longer on the air, and The Office went on to be one of NBC's most hit shows in years. I feel like karmically, I was vindicated, but at the time it felt terrible."
She learned to ignore comments about her appearance.
The Guardian notes that Kaling repeatedly called herself "chubby" in the interivew. The reporter asked the writer/actor if she did this as a "pre-emptive defense mechanism."
"Maybe not," Kaling responded. "When I was younger, I already went through that. I know it's much harder to do the things I've done than it is to lose weight and be thin. Also, when you've seen Instagram comments like, 'You're so ugly, you should kill yourself," it's like, I went to college. How could I be offended by someone who talks about what you look like? I wouldn't even deem you a person I'd speak to." She added, "I don't know if I'd have felt this way when I was 22. But I feel this way at 34."
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She's also been the target of more passive-aggressive insults.
In 2022, Kaling spoke to Marie Claire about doing more work behind the camera for The Sex Lives of College Girls and Never Have I Ever, which meant facing less criticism about her appearance.
"The amount of articles that were like, 'It's so good for a culture that this unattractive woman is finally on camera.' I didn't know I was so unattractive until I was the star of my own show," she said. "So not having to see those things, that's wonderful."
Similarly, she told Parade in 2013, "I always get asked, 'Where do you get your confidence?' I think people are well meaning, but it's pretty insulting. Because what it means to me is, 'You, Mindy Kaling, have all the trappings of a very marginalized person. You're not skinny, you're not white, you're a woman. Why on earth would you feel like you're worth anything?'"
She's trying to ignore renewed scrutiny about her body.
"I know people are really interested in the changes in my body, and I think it's flattering but sometimes it's just a little much, so I try not to tune into it," the mother of two told People in May. "The truth is that I spend so much time and energy trying to be healthy. I run or hike 20 miles a week and I lift weights. It's a big commitment for me."
"I'm feeling really confident in my body these days, which is not something that I've been able to say for my whole life, unfortunately," she added.