Mindy Kaling Honored With National Medal of Arts at the White House: "It Didn't Feel Real"

Mindy Kaling was among the guests of honor at the White House on March 21. During a special ceremony, President Joe Biden presented Kaling with the National Medal of Arts, an accolade bestowed upon individuals or groups who have demonstrated "outstanding contributions to the excellence, growth, support and availability of the arts in the United States," according to the National Endowment For the Arts. The actor and television producer was in great company, with Gladys Knight, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, and Bruce Springsteen also in attendance.

"Nothing is perfect, but yesterday was pretty close."

"A little while ago, I got a call from Dr. Maria Rosario Jackson that the National Endowment of the Arts and the office of the President wanted to give me the National Medal of Arts for my work in television and as an author," Kaling recalled in an Instagram post following the event. "I'm still processing how to receive the news. Yesterday, I went with my family to receive the medal at the White House." For the ceremony, Kaling was joined by her 5-year-old daughter, Katherine, and longtime friend B.J. Novak, who recently presented her with the prestigious Norman Lear Award at the Producers Guild of America Awards in February.

The ceremony, also attended by First Lady Jill Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris, was originally slated to take place two years earlier but was delayed as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition to Kaling, Knight, Louis-Dreyfus, and Springsteen, other recipients of the 2021 National Medal of Arts and the 2021 National Humanities Medal included Vera Wang, philanthropist Fred Eychaner, artist-activist Judith Francisca Baca, film producer Joan Shigekawa, painter Antonio Martorell-Cardona, and musician José Feliciano.

Following President Biden's speech, Kaling needed time to process the magnitude of the once-in-a-lifetime moment. "To hear the President speak about my parents, their journey to the United States, my late mother's dreams for me, and the power of comedy to make people understand each other was almost too much to take in," she continued in her post. "It didn't feel real! I mean, I was sitting next to GLADYS KNIGHT."

For Kaling, receiving the award was a bittersweet victory, as she wished her mother, Swati Roysircar — who died of pancreatic cancer in 2012 — could have been there to join her. "I promise to spend the rest of my life earning this medal because I don't feel like I've earned it yet," Kaling said. "I wish my mom could have been there, but what are you gonna do. Nothing is perfect, but yesterday was pretty close. I love everyone."

In the comments section, Kaling's celebrity friends took the time to congratulate her on the incredible honor. "YOU ARE AMAZING! Congrats," Reese Witherspoon wrote alongside a gold-medal emoji. "Never Have I Ever" star Maitreyi Ramakrishnan added, "COOL KID ALERT!!! CONGRATULATIONS!!"

Photos From the 2021 National Medals of Arts and Humanities Awards Ceremony