Mindy Kaling
Credit: Jason LaVeris/FilmMagic

Mindy Kaling, Minka Kelly, and Solange Knowles are famous for vastly different reasons — but when you think about it, they’ve actually got a lot in common. All three have enviably perfect dark locks; all three have vastly more Twitter followers than you; all three have been toiling in the fame mines for at least 10 years, slowly climbing the ladder from Fringe Festival plays/uncredited appearances in 2 Fast 2 Furious prologues/Disney Channel music videos to mainstream success.

Each member of the trio also happens to have been born on this day — 34, 33, and 27 years ago, respectively. Mindy is celebrating her birthday by donating to some of her fans’ favorite charities. Solange feted the occasion last night with her pal Erykah Badu. Minka’s present to herself, evidently, is a day largely free of Twitter. We’ll take a slightly different approach by looking back at each lady’s career — specifically, the early moments that indicated big things were coming for all three.

Mindy Kaling: Matt & Ben

Two years after graduating from Dartmouth, Kaling struck gold by writing and starring in a play with her BFF Brenda Withers: Matt & Ben, a goofy Off-Broadway comedy that spoofed two other actors-slash-scribes. (Withers played Damon, the brains of the operation; Kaling played slacker Affleck.) The production won over critics, audiences, and writer-producer Greg Daniels, who hired 24-year-old Mindy to write for his new NBC sitcom, The Office. The rest is funny lady history.

Unfortunately, Matt & Ben isn’t online in its entirety. Still, you can get a taste of it with this clip, which features Mindy-as-Ben-as-Minnie-Driver, complete with an accent somewhere between Crocodile Dundee and the Artful Dodger.

Minka Kelly: Turbo-Charged Prelude

The girl who would be Lyla Garrity got her start in this moody, dialogue-free short from 2004, which reveals how Paul Walker’s Brian O’Conner spent his time between The Fast and the Furious and its first sequel, 2 Fast 2 Furious. Short gigs on TV shows like Drake & Josh and What I Like About You would follow for Kelly, paving the way for her breakthrough role on Friday Night Lights.

But none of that — let alone one of 2011’s best bad movies, The Roommate — may have happened if Kelly hadn’t had the chance to make eyes at Walker in a roadside diner. Sure, she doesn’t get any lines, and the part is uncredited — but getting face time with early ’00s-era Paul Walker must have made everything worth it.

Solange: The Proud Family theme song

Long before she became a hipster icon in her own right, Solange was just a fresh-faced teenager rocking long red braids and getting her big break by singing the title theme for Disney Channel’s cartoon The Proud Family in 2001 — along with a set of three ultra-famous backup singers. (Solange had plenty of experience performing with the women of Destiny’s Child — the previous year, she filled in for Kelly Rowland during a tour after Rowland broke a couple of toes.)

Solange is currently at work on her third studio album. But if you’re a pop culture fiend of a certain age, this will always be one of the first things you associate with Beyoncé’s little sis — no matter how much better her music has gotten over the years.

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