I entered a suite at the W Hollywood to find Mindy Kaling curled up on a couch, barefoot. She had taken her shoes off moments before I arrived. They were uncomfortable. It was the first of many moments that reaffirmed what I had already suspected—Kaling really is as warm, approachable, and relatable as she seems, whether that's on TV, in movies, or across social media (her cool 4.3 million Instagram followers know what I'm talking about). You see, I have been following her career for years, ever since I was first introduced to her as Kelly Kapoor on The Office, so I was pleasantly surprised to find myself in a situation where Kaling was asking me if I was hungry. "Do you want a lemon tart?"
I was there to speak to Kaling about her new partnership with a new and affordable shaving brand, Joy. "Because I'm such an avid Instagrammer and I'm so into social media, I would really resent if someone that I followed was partnered with someone that they didn't actually use," Kaling tells me. "I'm sort of at a place now in my career where I feel like doing something inauthentic would not make any sense for me."
The word authentic seems to be the underlying theme of Kaling's entire career, which is refreshing and maybe even a little ironic, considering she lives and works in Hollywood, a place that's known for a distinct lack of authenticity. Keep scrolling to read our full interview, in which we talk about shaving, her favorite skincare products, and her most iconic roles.
"When I was younger, I would buy whatever razor was the cheapest. I would just get those 20-packs of orange razors and keep them with me at school, in college. It wasn't until I had a little bit of disposable income that I decided, when I'd go to CVS or Walmart or wherever, to say, 'Oh, I'll spend a little bit more.' The difference between a good razor and a bad razor is massive, and it makes shaving, which a lot of American women do, so much easier and more enjoyable, frankly."
"The products, which I have since had the chance to use, are legit. The razor itself is weighty in your hand, and as such, feels more luxurious than other disposable options. The combination of five blades and a moisture strip made my legs feel smooth and soft, especially when paired with the brand's Shave Gel, which lathers up into a creamy, whipped texture. In short, it gets the job done and looks good while doing it.
"This is the razor I'll use for the rest of my life," Kaling says, before adding that before this partnership she would "usually use a men's razor or this very hyper-feminized pale pink thing with a lotus flower." Joy's products don't fall into either of those categories. They're colorful and cute and functional. "I just like it; it makes me feel like a millennial, like I’m young and cool. I'm really into it. It's not trying to be a philosophy or anything, it's just a simple, good razor. That's all it is."
Similarly to her shaving routine, Kaling's skincare routine has also evolved over time. "Over the past five or six years, I've really gotten so into my skincare routine because I still break out," she says. "I break out less than I did when I was a teenager, but it's never gone away, and I don't think it ever will, so I do a whole routine."
She starts out by using a warm, wet washcloth to remove most of her makeup, before using a cleansing brush and "very simple cleanser, like Cetaphil ($10)," to remove anything that might be left behind. Then it's on to toner, serum, moisturizer, and eye cream. "I do the whole thing now," she reveals.
She names one of celebrity esthetician Joanna Vargas's serums as one of her favorite skincare products: "It is so hydrating. I always thought Oh, well, I don’t want to put something super hydrating on my skin; it's going to make me break out, and actually, if I don't use it, if I let myself get dry, that's when I break out for whatever reason. That took me a really long time to learn."
"That whole line is great for oily skin and also anti-aging because sometimes you feel like you have to do one or the other," she says. "I need moisture, but it has to be the right kind of moisture."
When I ask if she's ever gone to see Joanna Vargas personally, she's quick to answer. "Oh yeah, I've been seeing her for years. I love her. She's so good. Actually, I'm going to see her today, I think."
Aside from Vargas's skincare products, Kaling is also a fan of those from the iconic skincare brand La Mer, which is famous for its fermented kelp formula, otherwise known as Miracle Broth.
"I love makeup; I love the ritual of putting makeup on; I love my relationship with my makeup artist, but I don't wear makeup every day," Kaling tells me. "In fact, I find that if I wear makeup for more than three or four days straight—I mean, I'll obviously wash my face at night and start over—I need a break. I need to just have really, really clean skin that's hyper-moisturized. I need to do that for a couple of days."
"I take off every last tiny particle of makeup from my face. When I was in my 20's, I'd be lazy and just be like Eh, I didn't quite take off my eye makeup, because I'm not going to go buy eye makeup remover. Now, it's part of my whole routine. Actually, I find it very meditative to take it all off. It feels like self-care."
Her off-duty hairstyling routine is just as low-maintenance as her off-duty makeup routine (or, rather, the lack thereof). She calls hair "a huge mystery" and swears by a '90s standby—the beloved scrunchie. "I barely put any product in it, blow-dry it badly, and throw it up in a scrunchie," she laughs. "I'm glad scrunchies are back. I'm going to start doing a top knot because I think styling my hair is too hard."
Along with learning every last detail about her beauty routine, I was interested to know more about Kaling's latest movie, Late Night. In it, she plays Molly Patel, the only woman and minority staff writer on a popular comedy show (the talk show host is played by Emma Thompson). It's a story that's close to Kaling's own experience as a writer on The Office. "The characters in the movie are a lot less nice than the guys at The Office were to me, but it was true that I was the only woman and the only minority on staff at The Office when I started back then in 2004. So that’s the same."
Kaling wrote 25 episodes of The Office, while also acting and executive producing the show. Her favorite episode that she wrote is called "The Injury." In it, Michael Scott, who is played by Steve Carell, famously injures his foot on a George Foreman grill. If you haven't seen it, go watch it. You won't be disappointed. "I really like that episode," Kaling says. "It's a really weird one, but—yeah. That one was really funny to me."
I can't mention The Office without mentioning The Mindy Project, which is another one of Kaling's beloved creations. "I really loved playing Mindy Lahiri on The Mindy Project, because she was so glamorous, but she was so funny," Kaling tells me. "You don't usually get to do both of those things. In comedy, it's usually supposed to be completely devoid of any kind of glamour. That's what I loved about her. She took her clothes very seriously, and she, herself, was such an out-there, flawed, funny character."
Her characters break the traditional Hollywood mold, as does Kaling, herself. Knowing this, it's no surprise that she names Reese Witherspoon as one of her biggest inspirations, in regards to all things beauty, fashion, and career. Witherspoon is, after all, vocal about creating multi-faceted and representative roles for women in Hollywood. She's even founded her own media brand, which is called Hello Sunshine, to further the cause.
"Reese Witherspoon is pretty much a one-woman stop for all of those things, right? She's such an incredible producer. I like Big Little Lies. I think the projects that she takes, particularly the ones that are adapted from books, are just so strong, and she's also just so fashionable. I think her fashion label, Draper James, is great. I know it's expanded the sizes, so that's really cool for girls who love her but who aren't—you know—a size two or four. She's killing it right now in all categories."
So, yeah, even Mindy Kaling, who is a professional icon for so many, has a professional icon of her own. Like I said before, she's relatable through and through.
We had reached the end of our interview, and I had one last question to ask. What brings her joy? "To me, it's spending time with my kid. She's a year and half now, so she's really fun. I just love swimming with her and having a nice L.A, life with her. I grew up on the East Coast, so the fact that she eats avocado and goes swimming every single day… I'm like 'Who are you?' I love re-living childhood with her."