• Mon, Jan 6 - 1:25 pm ET

Elle Hides Mindy Kaling’s Body For Cover Just Like They Did With Melissa McCarthy’s

mindy kalingHappily, Mindy Kaling landed her first major magazine cover on February’s issue of Elle. The cover is one of four for the “Women in Television” issue, also featuring Amy Poehler, Zooey Deschanel, and Allison Williams. News outlets like The Huffington Post were quick to laud Elle for their placement of Kaling on a cover, but seemed to miss the fact that Kaling received a very different treatment than the other cover girls.

mindy kaling elle cover

Kaling has talked eloquently about how her weight is perceived in Hollywood, telling NPR back in 2011:

Since I am not model-skinny, but also not super-fat and fabulously owning my hugeness, I fall into that nebulous, “Normal American Woman Size” that legions of fashion stylists detest. For the record, I’m a size 8 (this week, anyway). Many stylists hate that size because, I think, to them, I lack the self-discipline to be an aesthetic, or the sassy, confidence to be a total fatty hedonist. They’re like “Pick a lane.”

Here she is on a cover with three women who do fit into the “model-skinny” category, and Elle cropped her body out almost completely. While Poehler, Williams, and Deschanel all displayed about 75% of their whole bodies, Kaling didn’t even get a whole torso.

amy poehler elle cover

Look, there’s a lot of reasons for this to happen. Maybe they all were supposed to be close ups, but the other women (who were shot in basically identical styles) couldn’t carry a close up in the way Kaling could. For all we know, Kaling picked the final picture, or requested that she be cropped out. Maybe. But that really doesn’t seem all that likely, especially when you consider, as Fashionista pointed out, ”that Kaling, the only woman of color to get her own cover, is also the only cover image rendered in black and white.” I don’t entirely understand the intention behind releasing four covers that act as a set, but painting one subject specifically as the odd-man-out.

zooey deschanel elle cover

We’ve seen this before–first, in 2010, Gabourey Sidibe’s body didn’t make the cover but her disembodied head and bit of torso did, and her skin was lightened for the shoot. Last year, Elle put Melissa McCarthy in a giant coat while shooting Penelope Cruz, Shailene Woodley, and Reese Witherspoon in form-fitting, clingy outfits. Elle claimed that the decision was purely artistic, and then McCarthy publicly defended them, saying she was on board. Who knows if that was a PR move or if McCarthy actually was in control? And really, for all we know, Kaling directed the whole shoot. Does it matter? The message is still the same: we treat a certain type of woman differently than the other celebrities in her cohort. Kaling is different based on an arbitrary set of rules, so we’ll treat her as such.

The Huffington Post, for their part, practically wet their pants with excitement over the Kaling cover, proclaiming “FINALLY!”, “It’s here! It’s here!”, and encouraging Vogue to book Kaling for a cover.Screen Shot 2014-01-06 at 12.13.55 PM

This seems like an awful amount of back patting for something that’s long overdue: a woman of color and some size who’s known as much for her talent, intelligence, and humor as she’s knows for her looks land a major cover. This shouldn’t be a thing. This shouldn’t be news. We shouldn’t be this excited to see Kaling, or any woman of color who’s not “model-thin” on a major magazine cover. But we are excited, and worse, applauding Elle for doing so, as if it’s some brave stand to feature a person on the cover of their magazine, instead of the fact that major magazines are woefully behind the times.

allison william elle cover

Kaling looks stunning–that’s not the issue. In my opinion, she has the best cover of any of the other smart, beautiful, funny, and talented women who got covers for February. But the fact that Kaling is a woman of color and a woman whose size defies the conventions for actresses are two traits that should never be stripped from her when slender, white women are allowed to keep their whiteness and bodies. We shouldn’t have to talk about Kaling’s weight and race like they’re something up for debate when we could be talking about her talent, but then Elle pulls shit like this, and it perpetuates the idea that Kaling is different in the sense that different is less than. Why did Poehler, Deschanel, and Williams have full color covers showing their figures while Kaling literally was stripped of her body and color? Because somebody thought that diluting Kaling’s image would make it more palatable, and that’s as a clear a message as we’ll get.

Photos: Elle, Getty Images

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  • Lindsey Conklin

    This is written really well. Kaling’s cover is absolutely my favorite, although I wish it was in color because her skin tone is gorgeous. And I think it’s really pathetic that her body was hidden, come on, Elle, what kind of a message is that?!

  • Enta

    Amy’s cover is my favorite, and I’d be inclined to disagree with saying that she “fits into the ‘model-skinny’ category.” But I agree with you for the most part. We don’t know what kind of input Mindy had, but god, that would’ve been a gorgeous picture in color and it’s certainly suspect that it’s so different in style to the other three.

    • Katy Hearne

      I have to agree, Amy Poheler doesn’t fit the model skinny ideal here. However, I love that about her!

  • Samantha_Escobar

    I just noticed HuffPo’s headline “So THIS is what happens when you wear tie.” Grammar FTW.

    Also, this made me sad :(

  • Joanna Rafael

    The jewels they have Kaling in are really pretty, but I’d like to see the whole blazer please.

  • Kaitlin Reilly

    I love Mindy’s cover regardless, but it’s strange that every other image is a full body shot and hers is a closeup.

  • eliza

    Can we discuss what happened to Zooey’s knees? Where ARE they??

    • Julia Sonenshein

      Wait holy shit WHAT HAPPENED TO THEM?

    • Max_Freedom

      They made her look 7 feet tall in that picture

  • Charmless

    That is a beautiful photo of her though and it looks a lot more natural than the others, who are being eaten alive by their hair.

    I would sell my firstborn for Zooey’s dress.

    • Samantha_Escobar

      WHY ARE THEY ALL BEING EATEN BY HAIR? Windswept hair is one thing, but this looks like their hairdressers all simultaneously gave up on combs and common sense for 2014.

  • Katy Hearne

    Out of all the women in television, I have to wonder why Allison Williams was chosen. I mean, yes. I do wonder why Mindy’s shot differs so much (tho have you seen her instagram? She can pose. I think this may actually have been artistic pride here), but am I wrong? With these other women does Williams really fit the bill or does she just fit a mold?

  • Eileen

    I could see the pose itself being her choice more than the fact that she’s the only one in black and white. And I agree with those who point out that Amy Poehler is not “model skinny.” (not that there’s anything wrong with that and her cover is my favorite)

  • Not important

    I don’t read Elle, but I don’t read into this either. A quick google search yields many covers, both in color and bw, of non full-body “skinny white girls”

    1) http://2.bp.blogspot.com/_L71xaQH5EKQ/TTcumLQVTtI/AAAAAAAAAw0/P-kkY6tJ8Rc/s1600/ELLE_CherylSubs.jpg
    2) http://fashnberry.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/11/rosie-elle-ua-cover.jpg
    3)http://2.bp.blogspot.com/_L71xaQH5EKQ/TTcssTMycxI/AAAAAAAAAws/pw3LmFTExPQ/s1600/ELLE_CareySubs.jpg
    4) http://www.fashionmodeldirectory.com/images/magazines/covers/110/elle-uk-2003-march-00.jpg
    5) http://oliviasobsession.com/Doutzen-Kroes-Covers-Elle-France-September-2010.jpg
    6) http://i.perezhilton.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/12/chloe-sevigny-covers-elle-korea-january-2011__oPt.jpg

    Oh yah, and while we’re here… how about plus size full body (okay, I admit, Nicky Minaj is a stretch)
    1) http://i.dailymail.co.uk/i/pix/2012/02/13/article-2100453-11B76989000005DC-255_468x591.jpg
    2) http://i.dailymail.co.uk/i/pix/2013/04/30/article-0-1990276A000005DC-541_634x866.jpg
    3) http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-kPWUw1tOJTE/UUNvl0ZaBdI/AAAAAAAAOwk/PLhWEfSG8xY/s1600/nicki+minaj+covers+elle.jpg
    4) http://images.nymag.com/images/2/daily/2010/03/20100326_ellefrance_250x339.jpg
    5) http://www.etonline.com/media/photo/2013/10/24047188/640_melissa_mccarthy_elle.jpg

    With that said, it does seem that Elle France is more inclined to loosen their belt. And the bigger finger should really be pointed at the fashion industry in general, and then really, back at the consumer, who drives it. My 2 cents…

  • Steve

    This is such a non-issue and people like the person that wrote this article is just giving ELLE magazine more clout, free publicity and increased sales. Mindy’s shot is soo much more beautiful and classy compared to Zooey’s. Zooey’s looks all wrong to me. People, stop creating issues that aren’t there.

  • Sencho

    I assume you’ll be printing a retraction before the end of the day, Ms. Sonenshein. First, you’ll need to acknowledge that Melissa McCarthy herself stated that she chose to wear the raincoat she wore for her Elle cover. And then you’re going to need to eat crow again now that Kaling has publicly acknowledged that she loves her cover photo and had a direct role in choosing the photo that was used.
    Pathetic pseudo-feminists like you need to stop with the knee-jerk reactions. You’re embarrasing yourselves far too often these days. Get some perspective or get off the internet.

    • Vonni B.

      Pathetic pseudo-feminists! Knee-jerk reactions! Interesting responses, which beg the questions? Are you a woman? Or in this case, a woman of color? Or not what today’s society deems the “ideal” physical image? I’d rather doubt it, given your obvious “knee-jerk” reaction. Truth be told, Ms. Sonenshein is not embarrasing herself. The embarrassment is you. Another more rational option and/or approach, for you, from your perspective, is to get more “real life” perspective about what other human beings, in this case women, encounter in today’s society or as you’ve so eloquently stated “get off the internet”.

    • ConcernedCitizen2321

      She’s not printing any retraction. These pieces are designed to get you to click, visit, and comment. Next week it’ll be “Did Kim K Get Her Lips Done?” I came here to see the bandwagon-mentality of these journalists and Sonenshein and this rag are no exception.

    • SKB

      Sencho, don’t forget that the-absolute-most-important thing for Ms. Sonenshein is finding a way to get her own name/authorship reprinted, regardless of whether or not her article makes any sense – regardless of if her own grasp of feminist and racial theory is confused (at best).

      It’s a black and white picture of a famous woman’s face. Annie Leibovitz spent decades pioneering and perfecting how to compose these. I’m guessing Sonenshein is about 25 and knows way more about how to write to maximize search engine optimization than she does about feminism or photography.

      But, more to the point, maybe Kaling makes a distinction between what would be done for comedy/drama (because she has shown a lot of ’skin’ in her show, actually) as part of actors executing story…versus how she thinks women should present themselves to a generation of young women reading Elle. The chief liberal/feminist complaints is that women are predominantly presented/celebrated in hyper-sexualized roles which results in foisting expectations on women to leverage sexuality as a ‘value’ they bring in any situation. So, how did this now become racist and ’fat-ist’…or, is it actually ‘post-feminist’…or, is it actually just Kaling’s own preference for her own reasons.

  • Sencho

    Wow… you don’t even have the integrity to let my comment stand. Shame on you.

  • Zep

    That is an AWESOME pic of Minday! The best of the lot.

  • SKB

    Lest everyone forget…the-absolute-most-important thing for Ms. Sonenshein is finding a way to get her own name/authorship reprinted, regardless of whether or not her article makes any sense – regardless of if her own grasp of feminist and racial theory is confused (at best).

    It’s a black and white picture of a famous woman’s face. Annie Leibovitz spent decades pioneering and perfecting how to compose these. I’m guessing Sonenshein is about 25 years old and knows way more about how to write to maximize articles for search engine optimization and increasing page-views than she does about feminism or photography.

    But, more to the point, maybe Kaling makes a distinction between what would be done for comedy/drama (because she has shown a lot of ’skin’ in her show, actually) as part of actors executing story…versus how she thinks women should present themselves to a generation of young women reading Elle. The chief liberal/feminist complaints is that women are predominantly presented, or celebrated, in hyper-sexualized roles which results in foisting expectations on women to leverage sexuality as a core ‘value’ they bring in any situation – personal or business. So, how did this black and white Hollywood portrait now become racist and ’fat-ist’…or, is it actually ‘post-feminist’…or, is it actually just Kaling’s own preference for her own reasons.