Mindy Kaling Opens Up About Facing Sexism In Early Days Of 'The Office'

The comedian recalled having to fight to get the same recognition as her white male colleagues during awards season.

Mindy Kaling didn’t get to where she is now (Emmy-nominated writer, best-selling memoirist, actress, comedian and pop culture icon, for the uninitiated) without overcoming some hardships at the start of her career. 

And, yeah, we have some questions. Number one: How dare you make “The Office” alum feel like she doesn’t belong in Hollywood?

Speaking with Elle magazine for the Women in Hollywood November issue, Kaling revealed that while she was working on the beloved NBC sitcom as a writer, executive producer and director ― not to mention starring in the show for years as Kelly Kapoor ― she had to fight to receive the same recognition as her colleagues. 

When the show was nominated for an Emmy for Outstanding Comedy Series, Kaling, who was the only woman of color on the writing staff at the time, recounted how the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences dropped her from the list of producers credited on the show because there were too many. 

Mindy Kaling on the cover of the November issue of Elle magazine.
Mindy Kaling on the cover of the November issue of Elle magazine.

“They made me, not any of the other producers, fill out a whole form and write an essay about all my contributions as a writer and a producer,” she told the outlet. “I had to get letters from all the other male, white producers saying that I had contributed, when my actual record stood for itself.” 

Her efforts paid off, as she was ultimately included that year, though the show unfortunately didn’t take home any trophies. She was later nominated for Outstanding Writing for a Comedy Series for her work on the “Niagra” episode, which features the wedding of fan-favorite characters Jim and Pam. 

Kaling as Kelly Kapoor in "The Office."
Kaling as Kelly Kapoor in "The Office."

In response to Kaling’s claim that she was initially stripped of a producer credit for her work on the series, the Television Academy explained in a statement Wednesday that “no one was singled out” in this case. 

“There was an increasing concern years ago regarding the number of performers and writers seeking producer credits,” an academy spokesman said in a statement to The Los Angeles Times. “At the time the Producers Guild worked with the Television Academy to correctly vet producer eligibility. Every performer producer and writer producer was asked to justify their producer credits.”

Kaling later hit back on Twitter that the academy’s response “doesn’t make any sense,” reiterating that she was singled out, as there were other members of the staff who didn’t need to defend their work.

“I’ve never wanted to bring up that incident because The Office was one of the greatest creative experiences of my life,” she wrote, adding that it’s not exactly advantageous to have an “adversarial relationship” with the academy.

Kaling went onto describe the ordeal as “so hard” and “humiliating,” given her responsibilities working in front of and behind the camera. 

“I had written so many episodes, put in so much time in the editing room, just to have the Academy discard it because they couldn’t fathom I was capable of doing it all,” she continued. “Thankfully I was rescued by my friends, the other producers.”

“The point is, we shouldn’t have be bailed out because of the kindness our more powerful white male colleagues,” Kaling concluded. “Not mentioning it seemed like glossing over my story. This was like ten years ago. Maybe it wouldn’t happen now. But it happened to me.”

Despite her success since then, including creating the series “The Mindy Project” and both writing and starring in the recent comedy “Late Night,” Kaling said she’s continually treated unfairly in the industry. 

“It really doesn’t matter how much money I have,” she told Elle. “I’m treated badly with enough regularity that it keeps me humble.”

Kaling added: “I am grateful, because I do think it keeps me feeling like an outsider, which is helpful as a writer.”

And if Kaling’s most recent Instagram is any indication, she remains unbothered by her outsider status and feels more comfortable than ever in her own skin.

This article has been updated with a statement from the Television Academy and responses from Kaling.