Posted on February 20, 2023 at 5:15 pm

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The Mindy Project, Literally…

Growing up as a Brown woman, it wasn’t easy to picture what Brown representation would look like. From seeing the rise of Miley Cyrus, who played the role of Hannah Montana, living a dual life and found satisfaction only when she put on her wig and embodied Hannah, many Brown women struggle with the same issue: having to put on a facade for the rest of the world to be seen. Many Brown women felt they weren’t represented amongst the many Jennifer Aniston’s or Nicole Kidman’s of the industry until Mindy Kaling entered the world of Hollywood. 

From playing Kelly Kapoor on The Office as a comedic, overworking woman who only felt satisfied and successful whenever she was in a relationship to the unthinkable show The Mindy Project which she embodied the character of Mindy Lahiri, Mindy Kaling has made her mark in Hollywood that she is here to stay. Though she has paved the way for other Brown women to enter the television and film industry, Kaling has turned her direction toward directing and creating in recent years with the show Never Have I Ever.

The show depicts the life of Devi Vishwakumar, a high school student who navigates the whirlwind of high school romance, friendships, and academic validation. Although many Brown women have to work ten times harder than their White counterparts to feel seen in the classroom and workspace, Devi Vishwakumar’s relationship with mental health was a win for Brown women. The stigma behind mental health in Brown families has been a long-standing debate. Countless women in dysfunctional Brown families have had to pick apart their mentality and identities to make space for their parent’s ideologies. It’s a never-ending challenge of learning and unlearning behaviors that have been conditioned since birth; perhaps Mindy Kaling’s objective for Brown women is to advocate for ourselves and fight against all odds for our voices and choices to be just as valid as our White counterparts. 

Mindy Kaling Serving
Courtesy of Mindy Kaling’s Instagram

In contrast to Devi Vishwakumar’s character, Mindy Kaling introduced us to Bela Malhotra in The Sex Lives of College Girls. This hormonal and touch-starved teenager enters college with only two things in mind: comedy and sex. Bela navigates the fictional college known as Essex alongside her roommates as they navigate hook-up culture, sex positivity, and sexuality. Through the lens of a Brown woman, Bela’s character may seem highly shocking, as conversations about sex and sexuality have been seen as quite taboo in Brown households. Bela’s character may help more Brown women feel safer in exploring their likes and dislikes in the bedroom, tackling sex before marriage, and just being normal hormonal teenagers.

One of the most relatable layers to Bela’s character development was the development of her relationship with her parents, who disapproved at first of Bela’s interest in making comedy her career choice was a surprising story to see play out on the big screen. In one episode, Bela’s family went from disapproving of their daughter’s choice to pursue comedy and condemned her lying about being a Pre-Med major, which mirrors the hot and cold dynamic in Brown families worldwide. Perhaps the creation of the Bela comedy arch was a jab toward Mindy Kaling’s journey pursuing acting and comedy with her Brown parents and how Brown women shouldn’t feel like their worth is decreased if they want to stray from the traditional career route. 

Mindy in Pink
Courtesy of Mindy Kaling’s Instagram

Finally, as a Brown Desi Queer Kid who grew up watching countless hours of Scooby Doo, the introduction of Mindy Kaling playing a Queer Brown version of Velma Dinkley made my mind go “Jinkies” thinking about the fact that a woman who hasn’t proclaimed that she is part of the LGBTQ+ community would play a Queer Desi woman. Although I wasn’t surprised by the depiction of Velma, it wasn’t surprising to hear that they wouldn’t cast a Brown actress who has openly joined the LGBTQ+ community like Youtuber turned TV personality Lilly Singh.

For the Brown LGBTQ+ family, representation means the world for us since many people on social media like Instagram and TikTok have proclaimed that “they’ve never seen a Queer Desi,” which erases so many of our experiences. It’s time that Hollywood starts to use actors who are part of the community instead of going with famous actors who will bring up ratings due to their reputation in the industry. It’s time that Hollywood moves away from Mindy Kaling and shifts their mentality towards bringing in new voices from the newer generation who can better understand the Brown woman experience in modern times rather than breaking into the Hollywood effect where Mindy Kaling is being molded into being Hollywood’s Brown representation.

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