The Emmy-nominated sitcom star and writer picked the Oscar winner's brain—and vice versa—at the Brentwood School's 2014 Young Women's Conference over the weekend. And as you might imagine, the conversation was both complimentary and comprehensive.
Saying that she wouldn't bother asking Witherspoon how she managed to juggle work and family so efficiently, Kaling did ask her about what "you do just for you and for fun? My answer would be nail art. Like a 14-year-old girl."
"Few people know this about me, but I like to take hip-hop dance classes. I'm not saying I'm good at hip-hop dance classes, I just enjoy taking them," Witherspoon revealed, per the Huffington Post. Asked what level she's at, she guessed, "I'd say a one or a two. That's the bottom. I liked taking dance classes when I was in high school and I was never any good at it. But they would bring three girls to the front and they'd say, 'Okay, watch Sarah for her arms. And watch Lily for her legs. And watch Reese for her personality.'"
Speaking of personality, Kaling told Witherspoon, "Something about you reminds me of Emma Thompson. She always plays intelligent characters."
To which the flattered Witherspoon replied, "She's really much smarter than I am."
Kaling, who probably can't help but be the smartest gal in a lot of rooms, said that, back when she was a teenager, "I think everyone thought I was smart, but my one best friend Emma used to say that I was funny. We'd do impressions of people who were mean to us."
"I've been asked what advice I would tell the 15-year-old version of myself so I wanted to ask that of you," Kaling told Witherspoon. "And also what is the aspect of your life now would the 15-year-old version of yourself would be the most surprised at?"
"Gosh, probably all of it," Witherspoon admitted. "Growing up in the South is much more of a conservative place. Even growing up in the ‘90s. I remember I got into Stanford and all of my girlfriends were going to Georgia or Ole Miss and the sensibility was people go to college, but you really just want to get married and have kids. But I was always ambitious."
In turn, she asked Kaling how the Mindy Project star handles being in the public eye, particularly when it comes to criticism.
"When you're an A-student, I was and still am addicted to feedback," Kaling said "I think that can be good sometimes, but something I had to learn when I got the new show was to only get that feedback from smart sources. People will say incredibly painful things and you can't understand how they can muster up the energy to feel such hatred towards you."
She continued, "One really nice thing is that girls come up to me a lot and say things like, 'You're a role model' or 'I wish I was your friend.' And for me that is what makes it all worth it. Having girls tell me that they wish they were my friend instead of saying my butt is too fat of my skin is bad. It feels good when someone says I wish you were my friend."
In response to Witherspoon's insistence that Kaling is indeed a great friend, Kaling replied, "I'm an OK friend. I'm a little bit of a freeloader, to be honest. You have the most beautiful Christmas party every year and this year I took sweets with me on the way out. There was a stack of little brownie bites and I took them."