Mindy Kaling / Design by Tiana Crispino

Mindy Kaling on Finding Joy and Power Through Fitness

By her own admission, Mindy Kaling is not the most obvious choice of spokesperson for a fitness brand. To hear her discuss her new partnership with Propel Water, though, is to realize that's the point. By casting Kaling as a spokesperson for their Joy Of Working Out campaign, Propel is making the statement that fitness is for everyone. 

Kaling is, in fact, a fitness fanatic. From Pilates to PlateFit, she's never met a workout class she didn't wholeheartedly throw herself into—and that's not to mention her fondness for yoga, running, and stretching classes. When asked about her affinity for exercise, Kaling cites her kids as a motivating factor ("I need to live a long time because I'm a single mom"). But, she also speaks rapturously of how movement helps her tap into herself.

Self-care has become something of a guiding tenet for Kaling these days. It doesn't always look as wholesome as a solid workout (binge-watching Selling Sunset is another favorite pastime of hers). But if anything, that serves to illustrate her true triumph of late: achieving something that looks an awful lot like balance. After all, she's found fulfillment in her family life, career, workout schedule, and skincare routine. What more could a person ask for? Ahead, Kaling dished on beach hangs with her kids, her love of group fitness, and the vitamin C product she can't live without.

It's great to meet you. Sorry, I'm a little unkempt. I just came from a workout.

Keely! That's literally what we're here to talk about. I'm so happy; this is great.

What inspired you to get involved with this campaign? How has your relationship with working out changed as an adult?

I was so thrilled and surprised when Propel wanted to work with me. I love working out, but I think that is a surprise to people because I look like the average American woman. Many people like me are largely left out of the narrative of people who work out because I don't look like a personal trainer. But I work out four or five times a week, and it's like my replacement for therapy. I find it completely joyous.

Mindy Kaling / Design by Tiana Crispino

Mindy Kaling / Design by Tiana Crispino

I think that's a big part of the issue. If you don't look super fit or care about "toning up," then you might feel like working out isn't for you, even though it can be incredibly mentally grounding and rewarding in other ways. What was your path to overcoming that false narrative?

I used to look at fitness as, like, It's not successful unless you look a certain way at the end of it, and I'm never going to look a certain way. I used to think there was no point if I wasn't running for 45 minutes five times a week and then doing an hour of lifting. But, the point is that I feel so much better mentally if I'm in better cardiovascular health. I think a lot of it was helped by the fact that I had kids. 

Working out means I can avoid things like diabetes, hypertension, and other things I am at high risk for. Now that I have kids, it isn't just about looking hot because I'm an actress. I need to live a long time because I'm a single mom. Now I'm like, Okay, there's different levels of fitness, It's not something profound, but it was something that I needed to learn. I honestly used to be embarrassed to say, "Yeah, I work out four or five times a week," because I didn't look the way some people thought I should. But working out makes me feel joyous, centered, and focused.

What kind of movement and activity do you like? How did you find out what worked for you?

I'm that person who loves trendy things. I had a friend who was like, "Let's do Pilates on a reformer machine." I did it, and it was so hard, but I loved it. I did a class where I was on a plate that shook, and you would do strength exercises on the plate. I'm just into trends.

I love going to new fitness studios and seeing how they set up their lockers. I love seeing people in their workout gear. I love the culture of working out. I think group fitness is really fun, but I've only really felt comfortable doing it for the past couple of months. I usually do good old-fashioned running on the treadmill because I can fit that into my day. I'm really into stretching now. It feels decadent to say, "I'm going to take half an hour and stretch and hold each stretch for a minute." In L.A., you can go to a place where they'll stretch you for 45 minutes, and it's amazing.

Mindy Kaling / Design by Tiana Crispino

Mindy Kaling / Design by Tiana Crispino

What else do you do to take care of yourself?

I watch Selling Sunset. A show about the inner workings of a real estate company is such a sweet spot for me when it comes to things I want to watch. Also, when you have little kids—I'm cringing saying this—but hanging out with them is energizing. When we go to the beach, my son sees ocean waves roll toward him, and he's so amazed. That's the kind of thing that warms my dark, cynical heart. 

Mindy Kaling / Design by Tiana Crispino

Mindy Kaling / Design by Tiana Crispino

What does your morning routine look like? 

The first thing I do is drink an enormous amount of water with lemon against my will. I never feel like doing it, but I don't drink coffee, so the water wakes me up. Then I put sunscreen on my face and hang out with my daughter before taking her to school. When I come back, I work out. I feel like you have to earn your shower, so I have to bring my kid to school, come home, and work out. Then, I'm like, Oh, I earned my shower.

So mid-morning, I take my shower and do my skincare routine. My friend Lara Devgan is a doctor in New York, and she makes her own Vitamin C E Ferulic ($145). I'm obsessed with it, and it's been game-changing for my skin. I'm super oily, and I break out all the time, so I use the Joanna Vargas Daily Hydrating Cream ($75) and Daily Serum ($85). I'm obsessed with the Supergoop Unseen Sunscreen. Live Tinted's Huegaurd SPF Moisturize + Primer ($32) is also great. Basically, 30% of my day is talking about different sunscreens. 

Before you go, I'd love to talk about your career. Between Never Have I Ever and The Sex Lives of College Girls, you've been focusing a lot on teen comedy series in recent years. What drew you to that space?

I feel so lucky that I get to write shows about young women. Every day, I am struck by how brave and authentic the young women I'm working with are. I was kind of repressed and not comfortable in my skin when I was their age. They are courageous activists and not ashamed of being that way. They love their bodies, and they're still quirky.

Writing for young women keeps me young. People underestimate young people a lot, and I've learned so much by doing research for all these shows. It's a blessing. The only thing about a TV show about young people is that you have a finite amount of time to make these shows because the actors get older. For good and bad, shows about young people are ephemeral. So, I'm enjoying my time with the actors and writers on these shows as long as they're on the air. It was never my plan to have two shows on the air about teenage girls, and here we are. 

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