Elle released four covers for its February “Women in Television” issue on Tuesday, featuring Amy Poehler (Parks and Recreation), Zooey Deschanel (New Girl), Allison Williams (Girls) and Mindy Kaling (The Mindy Project). Though the first three women all have full-body shots, Kaling’s cover only features her face. Twitter erupted after the covers were revealed with many accusing the fashion magazine of purposefully hiding Kaling’s fuller figure. Kaling’s body and weight have been both a source of controversy and a source of pride for curvy women everywhere before. (See all four covers below.)
Some compared Kaling’s pic to Melissa McCarthy’s coat cover for Elle’s “Women in Hollywood” issue in October. Covers for that issue featured Reese Witherspoon in a cut-out dress and Shailene Woodley in a bathing suit but relegated McCarthy to a large, figure-concealing coat. “This year, Elle’s token plus-size cover girl is McCarthy, who was photographed in a Marina Rinaldi coat so huge that she could hide her Mike and Molly co-star Billy Gardel underneath,” June Thomas of Slate wrote at the time. McCarthy, it turns out, had chosen the coat herself. But Elle also shot Gabourey Sidibe in a tight closeup in 2010 (and, some said, lightened her skin in the picture). So is it three strikes and Elle is out?
And if being accused of fat-ism wasn’t enough, critics are also suggesting Elle might be racist because Kaling’s cover is the only one shot in black and white. As Julia Sonenshein over at the Gloss puts it, “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.”
Defending its choice, Elle told E! News, “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.”
Kaling, for her part, attempted to diffuse some tension on Twitter (while plugging her TV show).
Kaling’s never been shy about talking about body image. The actress wrote in her own hilarious memoir Is Everybody Hanging Out Without Me?, “I fall into that nebulous, quote-unquote, 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, it shows that I lack the discipline to be an ascetic; or the confident, sassy abandon to be a total fatty hedonist.”
For all we know, Kaling and her publicist may have had the last say on this picture. Or no say at all. In this writer’s opinion though, Kaling looks gorgeous, and her cover is the best of the four — for whatever that’s worth.