• Tue, Nov 1 2011

Mindy Kaling Is An Amazing Hero For Body Positivity

This morning, listeners to NPR’s Morning Edition heard a familiar voice, talking about a familiar topic. Guest Mindy Kaling, who is best known for playing Kelly on The Office (for which she also writes, produces and directs) was featured in a short segment–during which, she spoke frankly about body image, diets, and the Hollywood body dichotomy, confirming once again that she is truly an asset to women and the body positivity movement.

Kaling was on the show to discuss her new book of essays, Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns), which, if you haven’t read, you should. Because some of Kaling‘s most insightful, refreshing moments aren’t talking about dating or friends (though those are all excellent, too), but rather, about being a size 8 in Hollywood. And it wasn’t long before this morning’s conversation turned away from awkward childhood moments and toward the female body.

Kaling, who admits to having tried “extreme diets”, albeit briefly, is no stranger to body shaming–but it’s not because she’s overweight. It’s because she’s normal, and isn’t desperately trying to get skinny to fit in.

In one of her essays, Kaling addresses something that has long haunted women in Hollywood–the trouble with a being “averege” size. From the book:

“Since I am not model-skinny, but also not super-fat and fabulously owning my hugeness, I fall into that nebulous, “Normal American Woman Size” that legions of fashion stylists detest. For the record, I’m a size 8 (this week, anyway). Many stylists hate that size because, I think, to them, I lack the self-discipline to be an aesthetic, or the sassy, confidence to be a total fatty hedonist. They’re like ‘Pick a lane.’”

Some may take offense at Kaling’s use of “fat”,but it’s that sort of straight-forwardness that makes her essays (and this interview, and her existence in Hollywood) so excellent. It’s a word that has clearly been applied to her, however unjustly, at some point–and now, she’s using it, as it would be applied to “the other body type.” Because, still, women on screen can still only be skinny or fat. There is no normal.

I was recently asked as part of an interview (insert back-pat here) about whether or not the curvy Kim Kardashians of the world were changing body positivity messages for the better, to which my only response was that no, as long as the “fabulously huge” (sadly, Kardashian falls into this category) were still “others”, media portrayals of women are still too narrow. After listening to Kaling on Morning Edition, I am kicking myself for not bringing her up as a real example of what women look like and, more importantly, what they can do. We need more Mindy Kalings in the world.

Image: Mindy Kaling’s book cover

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  • Nancy

    Great answer! Very eloquent.

  • Dori

    This was great. I just bought the book because of your write up.

    • Hanna Brooks Olsen

      WORTH IT!

      Hope you love it as much as I did.

  • marion

    It’s “ascetic” not “Aesthetic”. Jesus Tap Dancing Christ, you guys…

  • Kirstin

    Marion, I think she [Mindy] meant “aesthete”: http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/aesthete But I agree that it’s not clear.