Mindy Kaling's Elle Cover

Mindy Kaling's Elle Cover

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On January 7th, 2014, Elle released four cover photos for its upcoming Women in TV issue, featuring Allison Williams (Girls_), Amy Poehler (Parks and Recreation_), Zooey Deschanel (New Girl) and Mindy Kaling (The Mindy Project). That same day, women’s interest blog Jezebel highlighted the magazine’s cover photos in an article titled “Mindy Kaling’s Elle Cover Looks Different Than the Others,” which observed that Kaling is the only cover model whose photograph was shot in close-up and black-and-white, while the rest were framed in the magazine’s typical 3/4 fashion.

Four of television’s brightest female stars -- Mindy Kaling, Amy Poehler, Allison Williams and Zooey Deschanel -- were chosen to individually cover Elle’s February issue, but only one got the up-close, cropped treatment. Can you guess which one?
If your answer was “probably the woman who’s on the record saying she’s a size 8, not a size zero, and also happens to be the lone woman of color,” then congratulations! You get a cookie…which is unfortunately flavored with bitterness and institutionalized inequality.


This controversy echos a similar situation with actress Melissa McCarthy’s November 2013 issue of Elle. The actress, who is also heavier than the traditional Hollywood actress was dressed in a large coat for her cover, in stark contrast to the tight outfits actresses on the cover normally wear. Many called the cover fatphobic, but McCarthy defended it, saying she liked her cover.[4]

Notable Developments

News Media Coverage

Kaling is the only actress of color in this group and the only women with a heavier body type, leading to speculation that the decision to make Kaling’s cover different then the others could have been based on racial or body type reasons. [1]

Elle’s Response

On the next day, Elle’s editorial staff addressed the controversy in a follow-up post titled “About That Mindy Kaling Cover.”

“Mindy looks sexy, beautiful and chic. We think it is a striking and sophisticated cover and are thrilled to celebrate her in our Women in TV Issue.”[2]

Kaling’s Response

Also on January 7th, Kaling defended the cover with a statement via Twitter:
bq. “Wishing for more skin on my @ELLEmagazine cover? Chris Messina & I are naked on a brand new #themindyproject tonight, ya pervs! 930/830 FOX,”
bq. “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.”[3]

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