In her March 2014 editor's letter, Elle editor-inc-chief Roberta Myers explains just how that black and white cover featuring Mindy Kaling came to be.
As you may recall, Kaling's cover was one of four published for Elle's women-in-television-themed February issue. Had she been the only actress featured, the black and white photo might not have seemed strange, but since the other three (white) actresses were portrayed with color photographs, Kaling's stood out. When you looked at all four covers together, it looked like a game of "one of these things is not like the other." Myers is fully aware of the kerfuffle: