Photo: Jim Smeal/BEImages
You know Mindy Kaling as one of the smartest ladies in the biz and probably the funniest woman on the planet, but this brilliant writer-director-actress is also a serious style-phile who’s always rocking an enviable outfit. From her love of brightly-hued cocktail dresses to the perils of online shopping, Mindy is like the super-cool bestie we all wish we had. She isn’t afraid to dish on her top beauty products, her playful sartorial obsessions, and the red-carpet outfit she wish she had skipped. In between launching her new site (be sure to check out The Concerns of Mindy Kaling) and promoting her new book, "Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?"—oh, and starring in and writing for a little show called The Office—Mindy took some time to answer a handful of our most pressing questions. Get a glimpse into her beyond fab (and funny) life—from the makeup she worships, to her ultimate Chanel bag, to her top tips for ladies who want a career just like hers (that's you, right?).
Refinery29: You’re always wearing really bright colors and cool dresses…what are your favorite designers?
Mindy Kaling: "I am the kind of person that is drawn to colors against my will. When I lived in New York, I loved all the chic girls who wore 80% gray and black. I find that dedication to palette very intimidating, like dieting. So even though a big part of me wants to wear exclusively Helmut Lang sweaters and leggings, and I do that sometimes, but then I can't help NOT buying the canary yellow tunic or whatever and a purple waist belt. It's the kindergarten teacher in me, I guess."
R29: Our readers are always trying to balance their busy lives and their love of shopping, fashion, etc. How do you do it all?
MK: "I stupidly memorize my credit card and use it about thrice weekly for online shopping. The only reason I don't bankrupt myself is that I return about 75% of what I buy. I have a whole system down for returning online shopping: a tape gun, a printer for return labels. That has replaced traditional window shopping in my life, as I've gotten busier. My office at work has seen more fashion shows than Lincoln Center."
R29: What are your top secrets for easy, gorgeous makeup? What are the beauty items you never leave home without?
MK: "I once met an almost 80-year old woman at my friends engagement party who had perfectly lineless skin and taut, liver-spot-free arms. I of course grabbed her arm like a weirdo and made intense eye contact and asked: "How did you do this, you sorceress?" She was a one of those great old dames who spills everything (which every woman should be after 70). She told me: SPF. She had been using SPF 50 lotion on her face, neck, and arms every day since she was 40. "Even if it's raining out, Mindy. Even if it's raining." she said to me. I take that kind of wisdom very seriously. I use Kate Somerville tinted moisturizer in SPF 55 daily. I also swear by skinceuticals and use their Phloretin and A.G.E. eye cream and face cream twice a day. No wrinkles yet, and no pimples for a year.
"I worship makeup. The basics are always: Stila shadows, LeClerc powder for my crazy shiny skin, Bobbie brown liner pot, Chanel mascara, and Koh Gen Do for foundation, Nars for colors and sparkles."
R29: You’re known for being funny, smart, and stylish: How does what you do impact the way you dress?
MK: "I have a goofy side that impacts my clothing a lot. To that end, I love witty, colorful, prints. A Marc by Marc Jacobs dress with deer on it? Sure! A Sonia Rykiel scarf with safety pins on it? Why not? When Comme des Garcons "Play" was big, I owned like three of those heart sweaters."
R29: What’s your biggest shopping/style pet peeve? Do you have an embarrassing fashion moment you wish you could erase?
MK: "I'm not into red carpet looks where it's clear the woman wanted to look like a pretty, pretty princess. In fact, in general, I hate gowns. It's a rare gown indeed that is cool. Most are elegant or whatever, a quality I don't put a big premium on. I'm not crazy about my look from the Emmys in 2010. I wore a edgy black cocktail dress with a lot of detail and ruffle, but with the hair, it was just too much."
R29: What's your most-treasured item in your closet?
MK: "I have a patent leader and cloth mixed material black Chanel bag I bought myself for my 31st birthday. It's my only "timeless" item. I also have a stunning peacock blue and orange sari that my mother gave me but I have never had a place to wear it."
R29: What inspires your style these days? Any onscreen icons or movies you’re feeling?
MK: "Gwen Stefani and Rihanna slay me. I have a very ethnic/New Money aesthetic, and I think they are gorgeous forward-thinking trendsetters. And they smile!"
R29: What do you love most about living in L.A.?
MK: "I love Little Ethiopia, I love no humidity for my hair, I love Cedars Sinai—what a freaking great hospital, I love that every restaurant is on top of their game to make a great hamburger, because in L.A. the bar is set so high for burgers."
Photo: Courtesy of NBC
R29: What are the key pieces you find yourself wearing constantly?
MK: “I live in my Helmut Lang jeans for casual or polished looks, my Tory Burch Simone cardigan gets massive use at work in our writers room, House of Harlow earrings I wear day or night, they're incredibly useful. I have a BCBG leopard print skirt that I wear constantly, oddly. It's a new basic. I love that. And of course, like any good L.A. girl, my low-top black canvas Converse All-Stars get worn several times a week.”
R29: What's your best cheap score of late?
MK: “I was in a trance and bought three Rag & Bone wool crew neck sweaters on a big discount from Loehmanns last month when I just walked in to buy an umbrella. I also found that J.Crew wool pencil skirts wear like a dream and are 120 dollars. My character Kelly on The Office wears them, and that's one of the rare times our clothes overlap. They also come in amazing colors. BCBGeneration is absolutely the best brand for chic, inexpensive clothing. I live in Joyce's sweaters and little silk tops.”
R29: What are you excited to wear this fall?
MK: “I am all about statement necklaces over gray tshirts this fall. I'll so be the woman at the ArcLight wearing the 30lb ethnic African necklace and people don't know if English is my first language. I also can't wait to rock some winter shorts."
R29: Who's your older-woman style icon?
MK: “Nora Ephron still keeps her shizz really tight. She'd steal any boyfriend from anyone. Watch out.”
R29: If you had a style theme song what would it be?
MK: “Without hesitation, Hella Good by No Doubt.”
R29: You have a new site and a book coming out. Tell us a little about each please.
MK: “My book is a collection of comedy essays, opinion pieces and memoir. I think it's pretty funny, but again, I wrote it, and I am totally in love with the sound of my own voice. You can definitely feel safe giving your little sister or niece. I don't talk about weird sex stuff or drugs I've done or whatever. My website, theconcernsofmindykaling.com is the new home to an old shopping and comedy blog I had, called Things I Bought That I Love. I also post my favorite entertainment links, essays I've had published, and photos I've taken.”
R29: What’s your advice for young women who want a career in your field?
MK: “Don't fall into the trap of thinking about politics in your workplace too much. Just work hard, be cheerful, ignore distractions.”
R29: What are some of your other favorite websites you find yourself checking constantly?
MK: “I don't have very much time to surf the net, because it's as though my boss has a tracking device on me. The instant I'm looking at a Chloe sweater on Shopbop, I'll get a call in my office with a PA asking: "Paul wants to know where you are and why you're not in the writers room, and if maybe you're online shopping." When I do, I love WhoWhatWear, Refinery29, Jezebel, and Huffington Post. And my friends Zooey and Sophia started a great site called Hellogiggles.com. I always check the incredible Pancreatic Cancer Action Network for news at pancan.org, and Donors Choose, a really fun charitable giving site (I know, but it's true) where you can choose projects in public schools across the country you want to help out.”
Photo by Jim Smeal/BEImages