Teagan Monaco

Last month, star of The Mindy Project and author of multiple bestselling books Mindy Kaling spoke to the class of 2018 at her alma mater, Dartmouth College.  In Kaling’s trademark style, the speech was full of self-deprecating humor and one-liners, but also contained poignant and contemporary advice for the recent grads.


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Kaling’s incredible career started on the sitcom The Office and continued with The Mindy Project, which she wrote and starred in.  The Mindy Project is an unprecedented success for Kaling; at the time of its pilot, it was the first and only show that was produced by and starred a woman of color.  Kaling attributes her unparalleled success to a unique trait: delusion.  'You have to have insane confidence in yourself, even if it's not real,’ Kaling states.  She goes on to discuss the importance of believing in yourself post-graduation: "You need to be your own cheerleader now, because there isn't a room full of people waiting with pom poms to tell you 'you did it, we've been waiting all this time for you to succeed.'"

Kaling took a section of her speech to address the female graduates specifically.  She spoke of the difficulty of working in male-dominated fields, urging the grads to lift each other up instead of competing.  'Hey girls, we need to do a better job of supporting each other,' she says.  'I know that I am guilty of it too.  We live in a world where it seems like there’s only room for one of us at the table.  So when another woman shows up, we think, ‘Oh my god, she’s going to take the one woman spot!  That was supposed to be mine!’  Kaling is no stranger to such environments and even examined the harsh realities of white male privilege on an episode of The Mindy Project.  Kaling continues, discussing the importance of 'dismantl[ing] a system that makes us feel like there’s limited room for us,' which Kaling has undoubtedly helped to accomplish during her career.

Blended seamlessly among the humorous advice Kaling offers, such as "remove ‘Proficient at Word’ from your resume...You’re really scraping the bottom of the barrel of competency there," is a serious call to the male graduates in the audience.  ‘Act as if every woman you’re talking to is a reporter for an online publication that you're scared of' Kaling urges.  ‘One shouldn’t need the threat of public exposure and scorn to treat women well; but if that’s what it’s gonna take, fine.’  In the wake of the ‘#MeToo’ movement that brought sexual violence to the forefront of public discourse, Kaling’s advice is current and important.

You have to have insane confidence in yourself, even if it's not real.

Although Kaling and The Mindy Project have experienced a fair amount of criticism for not going far enough in examining the intersections of race, gender, and privilege, the speech has been well-received by the public for its candid content, ranging from her advice to the audience to her sincere assessment of her life thus far.  She encourages the audience to ‘let go’ of inflexible life goals in exchange for self-confidence and to ask themselves, ‘why not me?’  She concludes by saying, ‘Don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t do something, but especially not yourself. Go conquer the world. Just remember this: Why not you? You made it this far.’

You can read the full transcript of the speech here.


Teagan Monaco is an English major, Communications Studies minor at Davidson College.  She is an editorial intern at bSmart this summer.   Her interests include reading, writing, yoga, and photography.

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