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Mindy Kaling On Diets, High School And Other American Pastimes

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Mindy Kaling On Diets, High School And Other American Pastimes

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Mindy Kaling On Diets, High School And Other American Pastimes

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RENEE MONTAGNE, BYLINE: The television hit "The Office" is populated with types - albeit exaggerated ones - types you'd find in the workplace. There's been the inappropriate boss, Michael Scott; the power-hungry misfit, Dwight Shrute; and the perpetual teenager, Kelly Kapoor. She's a boy-crazy shopaholic, frivolous and celebrity-obsessed. She also happens to be Indian-American.


RAINN WILSON: (as Dwight Shrute) I bet you get pulled over by the cops a lot just because of your race.

MINDY KALING: (as Kelly Kapoor) Well, they say it's because of texting, but maybe you're right.

WILSON: (as Dwight Shrute) I think you should consider applying for the executive minority training program.

KALING: (as Kelly Kapoor) Never thought of myself as an executive before.

WILSON: (as Dwight Shrute) I know, 'cause you have no role models. How many Indian CEOs can you think of?

KALING: (as Kelly Kapoor) I can't think of any CEOs, any race.

WILSON: (as Dwight Shrute) You could be the Indian Bill Gates.

KALING: (as Kelly Kapoor) I could be the Indian Julia Roberts.

WILSON: (as Dwight Shrute) That's not - she's - OK.

MONTAGNE: Mindy Kaling is the actress who brings Kelly to life on "The Office," where she's also a writer and executive producer. And now, add the title author - of a book of essays about her life, called "Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?"

Now, she may be a fashion-conscious Hollywood type these days, but the back cover of her book shows the child Mindy: thick glasses, ill-fitting sweater, and hair cropped into a bowl cut.

KALING: I can't believe how little effort my parents put into making me seem like an appealing little girl. I mean, I feel like you - sometimes your celebrities, they'll show photos of themselves, and they're like, I can't believe how unattractive I was. And when you really were not a very attractive kid, you really want to be like, oh no, no, no. I was the real deal; see this photo.

MONTAGNE: You do write about high school and not being very popular in high school. But the way you write about it is not to worry. The last thing - what? - anyone needs is to have high school as the high point of your life.

KALING: You know, that's one of those things where I wrote that, and even if I had heard that as a 15-year-old - that, don't worry about being popular in high school - even I know that that might just be completely futile advice. I mean, I was obsessed with being popular when I was in high school and never achieved it.

There's photos from our high school musicals and things, and I'm comically in the deep background, wearing a beggar's costume. There are musicals I didn't even know there were beggars, and I managed to play them. I played a street urchin in "Evita." In "City of Angels," I played a Los Angeles hobo. Whatever they could find - the sort of desperate-looking urchin in a musical, our drama teacher managed to find a part for me, playing it.

MONTAGNE: Well, you discovered you were funny. And you discovered you had a lot of appeal when you hit college. You know, it seems like you blossomed.

KALING: I felt incredibly special in college. I was really lucky. I mean, I went to Dartmouth College so simply by being an Indian-American woman, I was already so statistically interesting. And then the fact that I didn't want to do anything science-related, and I wanted to write comedy plays and act little bit - I mean, I became deeply interesting in college because of how rare that was.

MONTAGNE: Another rarity Mindy Kaling writes about: being average-sized in stick-skinny Hollywood. Here, she reads an excerpt from the book.

KALING: (Reading) Since I am not model skinny but also not super fat and fabulously owning my hugeness, I fall into that nebulous, quote-unquote, normal American woman size that legions of fashion stylists detest. For the record, I'm a size 8 - this week, anyway. Many stylists hate that size because I think to them, it shows that I lack the discipline to be an ascetic; or the confident, sassy abandon to be a total fatty hedonist.

(Reading) They're like, pick a lane. Just be so enormous that you need to be buried in a piano - and dress accordingly.

MONTAGNE: This is the sort of reality that Kaling minds, as when Kelly Kapoor experiments with crazy fad diets.

KALING: We always think of, I'm always on a diet, with a big groan. But I think it's - I don't think - I think diets are fun. I think it is an American pastime for a lot of women. I don't know. I think that Kelly thinks of dieting as a fun hobby to have.

MONTAGNE: Well, there is one moment in one of the episodes where Kelly is concocting - it's this terrible diet. It's hot sauce and grapefruit juice...

KALING: This is real. This is the...

MONTAGNE: It's a real diet.

KALING: Yeah, it's a real diet, which Beyonce Knowles famously went on, to lose weight for "Dream Girls." Kelly heard it and she tried the diet; did it for, you know, four days and then fainted - I think at work.


UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: You're shaking. Are you all right?

KALING: (as Kelly Kapoor) Just leave me alone!

KALING: I am on the third day of my cleanse diet. All I have to do is drink maple syrup, lemon juice, cayenne pepper and water, for all three meals. Um - I just bought some bikinis online, size 2. So I'm going to look amazing.

MONTAGNE: And you, Kelly, look like a zombie. It's like...


KALING: Yes, I do look like someone from "The Walking Dead." That's pretty well-observed. If you've ever done a diet like that, an incredibly restrictive diet - which, I'm embarrassed to say, I have tried for very short periods of time - you do become, your personality does change into that kind of "Walking Dead" personality.

MONTAGNE: You know, you're known, obviously, as a character on "The Office" - which has a cult following, practically. But you have a lot of followers on Twitter. We're talking - what, a couple of million?

KALING: I think right now, I have 1.5 million.

MONTAGNE: Oh, only a million and a half, eh?


KALING: Well...



KALING: Whenever you brag about how many Twitter followers you have have - I think Kim Kardashian has close to 10 million.


KALING: And Lady Gaga has more than some huge nation. So I sort of pale in comparison to that.


KALING: (as Kelly Kapoor) Can you stop micro managing?

B.J. NOVAK: (As Ryan Howard) OK, I...

KALING: (as Kelly Kapoor) I know how to do this.

NOVAK: (as Ryan Howard) OK.

KALING: (as Kelly Kapoor) You're yelling...

WILSON: (as Dwight Shrute) What are you guys doing?

KALING: (as Kelly Kapoor) This girl was really rude to me at the mall, so I created a fake IM account from a hot guy at her high school, and now I'm trying to make her anorexic.

NOVAK: (as Ryan Howard) Tell her everyone in home room thinks she's fat.

KALING: (as Kelly Kapoor) Oh, that is so good.

MONTAGNE: Mindy Kaling as Kelly Kapoor; she's also a writer and producer for "The Office." And her collection of essays is called "Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?"


MONTAGNE: All I can say is, we're hanging out here on MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Renee Montagne.


And I'm Steve Inskeep.


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