As the first woman of color to create, executive produce, and star in her own sitcom, Mindy Kaling knows how to tackle some Herculean tasks, and that means sometimes playing by the sexist rules that still govern the inner operations of Hollywood.
Kaling opened up about the creation of her character Mindy Lahiri in The Mindy Project and her working style at the 7th annual Women in the World summit, and as it turns out, creating a female character with the “confidence of a white man” required some hard-to-strike balance.
“I’m very decisive but I also care what people think of me. So I battle those two inclinations all the time,” Kaling told moderator Alicia Menendez. While her TV persona manages to dive into the realm of being a “really flawed, delusional, funny character,” the actress/author herself has found it essential to balance her assertive personality as a woman in Hollywood, to the point of sending gifts in order to make up for her demands.
“I'm very assertive, even to the point of being brusque, and then I just send cupcakes with a note that says, 'I'm sorry that I was so assertive. Love, Mindy,’” she said. “In LA there’s this whole cottage industry of apology gifts you can send for being too assertive as a woman—flower arrangements, artisanal ice cream...you can send a puppy party for demanding respect.”
The conversation of how women gain power in Hollywood is one that’s fraught with the understanding of outdated gender politics that still, to this day, affect negotiations, salaries, and employment. So while it may be frustrating to hear about Kaling’s balancing technique of apology gifts, it’s a harsh reality that many women in the film industry face. Although cupcakes and puppy parties may be wonderful gifts, women shouldn’t have to indulge their coworkers or employees just for making decisions. Hopefully, with the help of powerful, accomplished, and inspiring women like Kaling, Hollywood will eventually shift away towards its biased attitude against women.
Watch Kaling’s full interview below.