Mindy Kaling wasn't just a light in 2014; she was a sparkler. The Mindy Project director, writer, and star was a no-brainer for our list of stars who lit up our year in honor of Hanukkah. Not only did she make us laugh with her show, but Kaling was also hilarious (Wreath Witherspoon, anyone?) and sometimes even wise off-screen and on social media. In short, she made the world brighter.
We Celebrate Her Chutzpah: Kaling isn't one of those celebrities who frets about saying the wrong thing during interviews. The eloquent Dartmouth College grad is fearlessly candid, especially when answering questions she finds insulting. At South by Southwest last March, for instance, when she was asked why there aren't more women of color on her show, she gave anything but a canned response.
"I'm a f---ing Indian woman who has her own f---ing network show," she said in front of 2,000 people. "No one asks any of these other shows that I adore — and I won't name them because they're my friends — why no leads on their show are women or women of color, but I'm the one who gets all of these things. It is a little insulting. I don't run the country, I'm not a political figure, I'm someone writing a show and I want to use funny people," Kaling retorted. "What should I be doing? It's a little frustrating to me."
Six months later, Kaling was just as open with Howard Stern when he asked her about her ex love and The Office co-star B.J. Novak. She revealed not only that Novak was the one who chose to end the relationship but also that she would have agreed to marry him if he would have asked. She went into detail about the brutal breakup in a way that reminded everyone of their worst heartaches.
"That was the hottest I've ever looked because I stopped eating," Kaling said. "When I get depressed I stop eating. So I was so miserable and I was so beautiful. I remember waking up, barely getting out bed, and we worked together but I didn't care. I had no makeup on, all of my clothes fit so well, but I was real miserable."
We Celebrate Her Mitzvoth: Kaling is relatable, yes, but by nature of her job, she's also a role model. And she gets that.
"I embrace it," Kaling said of the label during an NPR interview in October. "I think I've always wanted to be a role model, and I think ... everyone should try to live their life like they'd like to be a role model. I think it's like the thing keeping me out of jail. ... It's good for me mentally, selfishly, and it's also nice to try to do that for, especially, younger women. I mean, it's scary as hell. ... I worry about it, but I think it's a good thing to try to do."
Kaling is the first to admit she's not perfect — haven't you read her book, Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns)? — but she does try to set a good example for other women with her strength.
One of the many times this year she demonstrated that strength was back in January, when she responded to what could have been a big controversy with humor. When fans complained about her Elle magazine cover featuring only her face, rather than her entire body, Kaling had a quick, simple response to diffuse the situation, and you didn't feel she was holding anything back.
I love my @ELLEmagazine cover. It made me feel glamorous & cool. And if anyone wants to see more of my body, go on thirteen dates with me.— Mindy Kaling (@mindykaling) January 7, 2014
Spoken like someone who's willing to put themselves out there, no matter the criticisms, for the greater good.
We Celebrate the Miracle of Mindy: The best thing about Kaling is that she doesn't take anything too seriously. She can turn almost anything — usually something about herself — into a punchline. Take a couple of her recent Twitter musings: "Should I introduce each episode like Alfred Hitchcock? My silhouette would be fierce as s--t" and "Someone make a gif of me eating steak with my hands" kind of say it all.
Next year, the author is expected to continue delighting fans everywhere as her show continues and she releases a second book, a collection of personal essays titled Why Not Me?. That's right, there's lots more of Kaling to come. Miraculous, isn't it?
See more of our Hanukkah celebrations: