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Mindy Kaling got mistaken for Malala Yousafzai at the New Yorker festival

Mindy Kaling, left; Malala Yousafzai, right; you may notice they are different people.
Mindy Kaling, left; Malala Yousafzai, right; you may notice they are different people.
Angela Weiss/Getty; Andrew Burton/Getty

Mindy Kaling is a 35-year-old American writer and comedian of Indian heritage, famous for TV shows The Office and the Mindy Project. Malala Yousafzai is a 17-year-old Pakistani activist who won the Nobel Peace Prize for her work on behalf of girls' education and who survived an assassination attempt by the Pakistani Taliban.

They are not the same person.

That last fact would apparently come as a surprise to some people, including an octogenarian attendee at an after-party for this year's New Yorker Festival. That's according to this very awkward and very funny anecdote from a brief New York Times story on Kaling's appearance at the festival this week:

As she stood by the banquettes, a tipsy man in his 80s cornered her and showered her with compliments, apparently mistaking her for Malala Yousafzai. "Congratulations on your Nobel Prize," he said, before expressing wonder at how well she had recovered from Taliban gunshots.

Ms. Kaling was speechless. "Did he really think I'm Malala?" she said when he was safely out of sight. "And that if I were, I'd be at the Boom Boom Room?"

Still, she thought it was pretty funny: "That's the best thing that's happened all night."

This story came to my attention when it was shared on Facebook by every South Asian and South Asian-American woman I have ever met; Kaling's experience, it seems, is not a totally alien one.

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