Inside the June InStyle, now available on newsstands and for digital download, 35-year-old Mindy Kaling sat down with our editorial director, Ariel Foxman, to kibitz about her new book, personal style, and how she takes on the role of #girlboss. And guess what? She's just as smart (and funny) as you imagined. What follows is an excerpt. To read the full feature, pick up the June InStyle, available on newsstands and for digital download today.
“Excited to see you! And have you see my messy office. Which I did clean for you, but it’s still messy.”
Mindy is texting me. I am on a plane, heading from N.Y.C. to L.A. Thirty thousand feet up in the air, somewhere over the Midwest, I am rereading Mindy’s first book, Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns), literally laughing out loud and messaging with the author. Surreal. We text some more. We review topics we’ll definitely want to address in the interview: fashion, TV, magazines.
“You’re the first Indian-American woman on our cover.”
“And I insist on being the last.” I laugh out loud again. “That’s really cool!”
The following morning, I am getting ready in my room at the Sunset Tower Hotel. Soon, I will head out to Mindy’s corner office at Universal Studios. We are texting again.
“How’s Katsuya for lunch?” Mindy’s going to order in.
“Perfect,” I reply while shaving.
“Have any favorites, or should I boyfriend this?”
When I do finally arrive at Mindy’s bright and inviting top-floor office, I am struck not by its cleanliness but by the large garment rack filled with poppy designer clothing smack-dab in the center of the room. A totem to maximalism. Mindy, in a prim raspberry Alexander McQueen jumper and striped Chloé blouse, greets me, then offers me a Perrier from her mini-fridge. “We stocked up on fancy New York things because you were coming.”
Fancy quickly fades to fun, friendly, and informal. Enough sushi for a family of 10 arrives. Mindy kicks off her Valentino pumps and sits on the ground. We get started.
ARIEL FOXMAN: I’m always struck by how populist you are in your overall approach. Yet some of the humor on The Mindy Project is blink or you’ll miss it, very sophisticated. Are there ever moments in the writers’ room when you think, We can’t put that in?
MINDY KALING: There was one joke that I’m surprised was not flagged. The character Danny doesn’t want Mindy to go back to San Francisco to start a fertility clinic; he wants her to stay in New York, stop working, and take care of their family, and she’s like, “No, Danny, it’s the 20th century.” She’s both defiantly modern and wrong about basic facts. She’s like, “It’s the 20th century, Danny. A woman can work and have a baby with no problem. I mean, rich women can.” It was such a risky joke, but I find it utterly true. The only people writing those articles [about having it all] are women who are doing very well or come from money. But we make it sound like it’s a totally universal thing.
So what happened?
Fox let us keep it! Fortunately, I think that the show moves so quickly that sometimes our most [potentially] offensive jokes ... people don’t even know that they happened.
Writing for television must be so different than sitting down to write a book. Your first one was a New York Times best seller. How does it feel to be a bestselling author?
This is going to make me sound like more of a joyless person than I am—because I am very cheerful and full of joy—but when something like this happens, I get a little superstitious. Sitting and celebrating good feelings of success is just not part of my personality. I tend to acknowledge it and move on quickly, in a way that I wouldn’t if I experienced a setback. So it’s great when I’m reminded of it. My dad sends me an email every week when he sees that it’s back on the list; he checks all the time.
That’s so sweet. And now you have a second book coming out. I wonder, did you consciously hold back the first time? We all have our best stories. You go on a few dates and you think, Well, now I’ve told my best stories. So, in the 2012 book, were you saving some of your stories for a Part 2?
That’s such a good question, and the answer is a little complicated. It almost feels like more has happened in the last three years than in my entire life preceding that. Fox picked up my show. My mother, who was, like, my best friend, passed away. Those friends who were single and making $18,000 a year at a nonprofit in that first book are now millionaires who have their own apps in a completely different career path and children that I’m the godmother of. A lot has transpired.
To find out what else transpired between Kaling and Foxman, including her thoughts on the pitfalls of being a role model and why she'll always pay retail, pick up the June issue of InStyle, available now on newsstands and for digital download.