Here Are the 10 Most Inspirational L.A. Women of 2015


Mindy Kaling

She turned the notion of being an “outsider” inside out

Photograph by Emily Shur

When Mindy Kaling celebrated her 36th birthday this summer, she had more than an extra candle to show for it. Her former Fox series, The Mindy Project, was rescued by streaming giant Hulu, the Pixar movie Inside Out (she voices “Disgust”) was a blockbuster, and a second book, Why Not Me? (out September 15), was on the way. The well-dressed star could have treated herself to a closetful of couture. Instead she splurged on worthy causes. She asked her 4 million Twitter followers to suggest charities and followed up with donations and publicity-generating retweets. The move was classic Mindy. Since the East Coaster relocated to L.A. more than a decade ago, she’s become an A-lister who uses her creative power to inspire others, particularly her legions of female fans. Her next good deed: sharing the steps to her success.

Drop the Act
“When I was writing my first book, I was on The Office. I didn’t have my own show yet. It was so important to me that people like me. With Why Not Me? it’s more important for people to know me.”

Trust Your Worth
“I come from New En-gland, where education is what everybody’s snobby about. When I moved out here, there was nothing glamorous about me. ‘College, education, higher learning—if that isn’t a premium in L.A.,’ I thought, ‘what will be my value?’ I had a very tough first year and a half. Now I love Los Angeles. I don’t understand having contempt for where you live. I do understand worrying that you don’t have a value here and taking that stance as a means of survival—I’ve done that very well.”

Take Your Licks
“I remember sitting in Canter’s, trying to get hired somewhere in February 2004. I sat there, thinking that my life was never going to change while nursing my Brooklyn Avenue sandwich as long as I could. I had no plan, nothing guiding me anywhere. That was my defining ‘hopeless in L.A.’ moment.”

Play Nice
“When I started my show, I asked [The Office executive producer] Greg Daniels for advice. It was simple: Be kind. I expected something much more complicated and showbizzy. Another lesson I learned from Greg is, Listen to the notes. At a certain point The Office was doing so well that Greg really didn’t have to listen to notes from the network if he didn’t want to, but he’s insanely patient. He wrote an essay for my book on being a mentor because, looking back, I was like, ‘Oh, I guess you were my mentor!’ ”

Find Your Posse
“I’ve noticed there’s this small group of women who have their own shows and tend to be busy like me. Ellie Kemper and Lena Dunham—they’re my friends, but I never get to see them because we have the same job. Tina Fey and Amy Poehler are amazing. Shonda Rhimes and Kerry Washington. I’d love to fight crime with the people I listed. I don’t know when we’ll find the time, but who knows?”

My hope is that young people read my book, and if they want to do what I do, they don’t have people asking them the same question: ‘Why do you think you can do this?’ ”

Photograph by Emily Shur

Forget Convention
“I’ve gotten so many questions about how I’m different from the average person on TV. With my education [at Dartmouth] and my training on The Office, my success would be completely boring if I were a white man. I lived in New York, wrote a successful play [Matt & Ben], and got my own show after working for eight years on another show as a writer and a performer. If you were writing a book about how to be a successful writer and get your own show, it might include those things. My career is interesting to people because of the way I look. My hope is that young people read my book, and if they want to do what I do, they don’t have people asking them the same question: ‘Why do you think you can do this?’ ”

Look to the Future
“My mother passed away in 2012, and to this day our relationship is one of the strongest I’ve ever had. I think that’s why having kids is so important to me. It’s my next big thing, the thing that excites me. I want to do it. I must do it.”
–As told to Nancy Miller


Mindy’s All-Time Favorite L.A. Ladies
Five real-life and fictional femmes

Kate and Laura MulleavyKate and Laura Mulleavy
Fashion designers
“Geniuses. All I want to do is give a tearful acceptance speech in one of their Rodarte gowns and afterward have some handsome actor take it off me.”

Honor FraserHonor Fraser
“The Honor Fraser Gallery is inspiring and fun to visit. Honor has the coolest bio-graphy. She’s like a character in a movie I’d like to watch.”

Niki NakayamaNiki Nakayama
“Only Niki Nakayama can teach me about kaiseki, a Japanese culinary art form I won’t try to explain. n/naka is her restaurant, and there are 13 delicious courses to her meals.”

Sarah ConnorSarah Connor
Renegade heroine from Terminator 2
“She maintains the body of an elite athlete while bound to the confines of a small cell in a mental institution. Also, she is the mother of the time-traveling savior of the world.”

Minnie MouseMinnie Mouse
Animated icon
“Our names are similar, I sound exactly like her, she’s flirtatious, and she was originally dressed like a flapper. She has a great attitude and a cool boyfriend, too.”