Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Mindy Kaling and the Elle cover and how I feel about that

I am a huge fan of Mindy Kaling. I enjoyed her on The Office but I love the hell out of her on The Mindy Project. And not just because she's hilarious, but because she's hilarious about real-life stuff but also because she's got some body image hang-ups that she handles with that aforementioned humour, but also honesty, which is just awesome.

One of my favourite lines: "I' am not overweight. I fluctuate between chubby and curvy."

(More here. LOVE.)

So Mindy Kaling is awesome. And she's one of four covers of the February issue of Elle, celebrating women in television. The other cover stars are Zoeey Deschanel (also love), Amy Poehler (much love) and Allison Williams (from Girls, which I've never seen, so not sure about love).

And cue controversy.

See, Mindy is the only non-white woman to get a cover (she's Indian-American). She is also the only cover in black and white. Oh, and the only cover that is a close-up on her face and not a full body shot.

Several media outlets that have weighed in on this: Jezebel; the Globe and Mail; the Huffington Post; the Washington Post; and others that you can Google at your leisure, should you choose. There's the charge of going black and white because Mindy is Indian but most focus on her not being shown full-body, like the others, because she's a self-admitted size 8 (the horrors!) and not teensy-weensy like the other cover models.

I've been thinking a lot about this. A LOT. Probably more than I should, because I don't read Elle and I have no plans of picking up a copy. I feel like I should be angry, like I should be decrying Mindy's unfair and unequal cover treatment.

The thing is, I'm not that angry and I don't feel like being up in arms about it.

See, Elle is a fashion magazine and the fashion industry is always going to put the size 0s first, no matter what. There have been baby steps (and I mean itty-bitty wee steps) towards putting women of various sizes in fashion spreads and on the cover, but that always feels more like an industry pat-on-the-back, "we've done our part for awhile now" move. Having Mindy Kaling as a cover star is another baby step for sure, but all steps in the direction of female diversity in magazines are good.

But really, I just love the fact that Mindy Kaling is on a magazine cover because she's awesome and should be celebrated. Really, I'd have preferred if she didn't have to share with three other women, but she really is in good company so I can't complain too much about that.

And by focusing on how much of her body is shown and how the cover is in black and white takes away from what she has accomplished and what she represents as a woman in Hollywood. She's a fabulous comedienne, she's a writer, she's created her own show, she's a published author and she consistently presents a body-proud image.

In fact, I may just have to buy her cover issue so I can read about her because, let's face it, I kind of want to be her.

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