Mindy Kaling: artist and activist
Ahead of the Oscars, the New York Times has just published a piece called What It’s Really Like To Work In Hollywood (if you’re not a straight white man) featuring commentary from 27 industry players sharing their experiences in their own words. Queen Latifah is there. Julia Roberts is there. Eva Longoria too. And Mindy Kaling. I’ve been reading this in pieces, name-searching specific people, so I’m not quite done yet but the first person I went to was Mindy Kaling.
Mindy’s been pretty upfront about being asked the diversity question…and not wanting to be asked the diversity question. And what I love most about what she’s saying here is that, well, she doesn’t have the answers because she’s always rethinking and rethinking about how she feels, and checking on if what she feels is OK:
“My role is not just artist. It’s also activist because of the way I look. On so many shows and movies, race was a gesture, and in mine it’s the premise. I can’t ignore that what a lot of people see is an Indian woman who doesn’t look like a Bollywood star. It piques their interest, and they’re not bad for wanting me to tell stories about it, and I’m not wrong for not wanting to. I want to fill my desire to write vibrant, flawed characters, but then also be a role model to young people. It’s stuff that I think about all the time. Some people don’t have to think about this at all.”
I love the honesty in this answer. God I love it so much. And I also love how she brings it around at the end. “Some people don’t have to think about this at all.” This is what’s simmering underneath, that frustration. Because not only do artists like Mindy have to contend with fighting for representation but during that fight, they have to wear the pressure of that leadership, and be the symbol for change – a responsibility carried in response to a system that was unfairly designed and unjustly upheld. It’s a double punch, a double burden, for lack of a better word. And she’s described it perfectly.
Click here for the full piece from the NYT. Here’s Mindy at the Costume Designer Guild Awards and a shot she posted on Instagram getting ready for the event.
Alberto E. Rodriguez/ Stefanie Keenan/ Kevin Winter/ Getty Images