‘The Sex Lives of College Girls’ star Amrit Kaur reacts to the show’s ‘genius’ reference to ‘Twilight’ and its deeper meaning

Amrit Kaur as Bela on season one of 'The Sex Lives of College Girls.'
Amrit Kaur as Bela on season one of ‘The Sex Lives of College Girls.’ Courtesy of HBO Max
  • “The Sex Lives of College Girls” star Amrit Kaur spoke to Insider about the show’s nod to “Twilight.”
  • On episode three, Kaur’s character introduces herself as “Bela, like in ‘Twilight,’ but Indian.”
  • Kaur said that the line was “genius,” but also speaks to “brown girls always having these white icons.”

The Sex Lives of College Girls” star Amrit Kaur is opening up about the latest episode’s reference to “Twilight,” and why the joke resonates on a deeper level. 

Episode three of the new show, released on Thursday, shows Kaur’s character named Bela Malhotra scrolling through Tinder and mulling over the lackluster men on the dating app. 

After being a self-proclaimed “nuclear loser” and nerd in high school, Bela is eager for a change in her love life as a freshman at New England’s Essex College. 

“Excuse me if for once, I want to date a guy with sick, ripped, tasty abs — like Zac Efron ‘Baywatch’ abs,” Bela tells roommates Whitney Chase (Alyah Chanelle Scott) and Kimberly Finkle (Pauline Chalamet). 

Bela’s hope comes to fruition later in the episode when she gets distracted by a hot guy in the library whose abs become visible as he reaches for a book on a shelf.

That prompts Bela to approach the aforementioned guy with abs and say, “Hi, I’m Bela, like in ‘Twilight,’ but Indian.”

A guy and a girl talking in a library on season one, episode three of 'The Sex Lives of College Girls.'
Amrit Kaur stars as aspiring comedian Bela Malhotra on ‘The Sex Lives of College Girls.’ HBO Max

“It was genius,” Kaur told Insider of her character’s introduction. “But also, on a deeper level, it goes towards this thing about brown girls always having these white icons and wanting to be like the white ingénue, even though she’s so not.”

The actress added that the comparison “is funny and deeply sad in many, many, many ways.”

Bela was referring to Bella Swan, a fictional character at the center of Stephenie Meyer’s wildly popular “Twilight” novels, who falls in love with a vampire named Edward Cullen in the small, rainy town of Forks, Washington.

Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson portrayed Bella and Edward, respectively, for the first “Twilight” film released in November 2008 as well as its four sequels. The movies became a worldwide phenomenon, released during a period of renewed interest in vampire-centric shows and movies.  

But mainstream projects like “Twilight” have oftentimes not included many, if any, characters of Indian descent. And if they were featured, they were sidelined and frequently played into stereotypes. 

The biggest exceptions in the fantasy genre are Padma and Parvati Patil, who appeared in J.K. Rowling’s “Harry Potter” novels as well as the films

Kristen Stewart as Bella Swan in 'Twilight.'
Kristen Stewart as Bella Swan in ‘Twilight.’ Summit Entertainment

In recent years, “The Office” alum Mindy Kaling has been instrumental in telling stories in which female South Asian characters are at the center of the narratives.

This includes her own sitcom “The Mindy Project,” which lasted for six seasons, and Netflix‘s “Never Have I Ever,” which is focused on an Indian-American teen navigating high school. 

“The Sex Lives of College Girls,” which was cocreated by Kaling and showrunner Justin Noble, feels like an extension of Kaling’s dedication to spotlighting diverse stories. The series is also inspired by Kaling’s time at Dartmouth and Noble’s experience at Yale. 

The show debuted on HBO Max on November 18, centering on four women — Bela, Kimberly, Whitney, and Leighton Murray (Reneé Rapp) — who come from different backgrounds and become roommates at Essex. 

Reneé Rapp, Alyah Chanelle Scott, Pauline Chalamet, and Amrit Kaur toasting on season one of 'The Sex Lives of College Girls.'
Reneé Rapp, Alyah Chanelle Scott, Pauline Chalamet, and Amrit Kaur on season one of ‘The Sex Lives of College Girls.’ Jessica Brooks/HBO Max

Bela chooses to attend the prestigious college because of their comedy magazine called the “Catullan,” which gave many future “Saturday Night Live” writers their start in the industry. She aspires to be a double-threat writer and performer on “SNL,” like Seth Meyers.

But as Bela settles into college life, she learns that succeeding as a woman of color in comedy will be a bigger uphill battle than she anticipated. 

Kaur said that to prepare for her role, she read all of Kaling’s books and “researched her deeply to see what her experience was like.” She also said Bela’s journey likely mirrors Kaling’s own difficulties as she tried to break through the male-dominated world of comedy. 

“You’re not allowed to be a strong, intelligent, outspoken, funny brown girl,” the actress said. “You’re just supposed to make jokes about curry and samosas. And we have depth beyond that.”

The first five episodes of “The Sex Lives of College Girls” are now available to stream on HBO Max. The first season continues with three new episodes on December 2, concluding with the final two episodes on December 9.