Mindy Kaling of “The Mindy Project” is not fat. That should be evident to anyone who knows what an average-sized woman looks like. In her 2012 autobiography, Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns), she says she’s a size 8. The average size in America is size 12. That’s my unscientific estimation because every time I try to find size 12 pants, stores are usually out of that size. So, Kaling is smaller than the average American female. But even if she wasn’t, she does not need any comment on her weight whatsoever.
It’s no use pretending Mindy Kaling’s weight did not play a factor in her cover on the February issue of Elle magazine. I’d hazard a guess and say her weight was more of an issue than her ethnicity, or it could be a combination of both. In Hollywood, being average sized and Indian American is a double whammy.
Now, Kaling herself says she’s happy with her Elle cover, tweeting that she loves it: “I love my @ELLEmagazine cover. It made me feel glamorous & cool. And if anyone wants to see more of my body, go on thirteen dates with me.” She likely did not anticipate the backlash about how her cover differs from the three other actresses on their Elle covers (Allison Williams, Amy Poehler and Zooey Deschanel), and maybe she felt robbed of her excitement about being on the cover.
Mindy Kaling’s attitude about the Elle cover kerfuffle was self-deprecating, and I will not take that away from her. I’m glad she’s happy with it, but let’s face it, it does look odd that her cover stands out from the other actresses because it’s not even a half body shot. Plus, hers is in black and white while the others are in color. The dramatic black and white is striking and Kaling looks gorgeous, but comparing her cover with the others, it seems hers was meant to stand out for a reason. Could this be a case of “othering” (i.e., saying she’s not “one of us”) ? While Mindy Kaling is definitely not fat, she is Indian American, and the other three actresses are white. It seems pretty obvious. The question is, was it intentional or not? And does it matter?
Yes, it matters. Whether intentional or not does not matter, but the fact the “othering” happened darn well matters. Kaling may not see it this way (or she’s keeping mum about it), however. You catch more flies with honey than vinegar, right? Should she be grateful she’s on the cover of Elle? Hardly. Why shouldn’t she be on the cover regardless? She’s funny, gorgeous and she gets to work with Chris Messina. Plus, she’s funny.
Now, I don’t read Elle and I don’t ever plan to, although you can catch me reading the odd article or two in Vanity Fair. But I think it’s important to point out that this isn’t the first time Elle has made an “othering” move. Last year, comedienne and actress Melissa McCarthy appeared on the cover for the “2013 Women of Hollywood” issue, along with actresses Reese Witherspoon, Shailene Woodley and Penelope Cruz. McCarthy was covered up in a coat while the others showed some skin; Woodley wore a bathing suit on her cover. McCarthy fully covered up, wearing a coat, while Woodley is in a swimsuit. Think about that.
Just as Mindy Kaling did, McCarthy laughed off the public reaction, saying, “”What I found so bizarre is I picked the coat. I grabbed the coat. I covered up. I had a great black dress on but I thought, ‘It comes out in November,'” she said. “I was so sick of summer. I live in Southern California.” Fair play to her. She does look gorgeous on the cover but it doesn’t negate the fact she stands out from the others (although I was happy to see Naomie Harris included in this issue) because of the clothes she chose to wear.
Hollywood and the beauty industry will always have skinny, white people but change is slow in coming. We are definitely seeing more people of color and performers of different sizes and even disabilities in television and films, but will this ever become the norm? Probably not. Mindy Kaling is not fat but she will likely be a part of the minority in Hollywood for a long time.
By Juana Poareo