Jameela Jamil, T4 alum turned The Good Place star, is on an unapologetic quest to transform women's body image in a culture that insists on self-loathing. In a candid interview with Channel 4's Krishnan Guru-Murthy, Jameela Jamil talks Photoshop and its many ills, including the way magazines have used it to make her look white. She discusses exclusionary beauty standards and her "I Weigh" campaign. And she stresses the importance of representation in Hollywood and the continuing influence of the #MeToo movement. Basically? Jameela Jamil is here to enact change.
Jamil spoke to Guru-Murthy for his Ways to Change the World podcast, where she got frank about the damaging impact of airbrushing — it's "one of the foulest things to have happened to women," she said. Throughout her media career, she's been especially victimised by photo editors as a woman of colour. "People have made me look white in so many of the magazines and campaigns I’ve shot for. That hurts me. That hurts me from a cultural point of view," Jamil told Guru-Murthy. "People change my nose to make it look like a little Caucasian nose, and they’ve changed the colour of my skin to make it lighter and to make me look more acceptable, perhaps, to a Caucasian audience."
She also discussed the eating disorder she experienced in her teenage years, which she strongly attributes to the malign influence of media and the narrow image of beauty it presented to her. "I was a smart kid: I was a scholarship child, I also had a music scholarship, I had all of these different talents and gifts," Jamil said. "None of which I thought were important, none of which I remotely cared about because I still felt like I would never be good enough unless I weighed six-and-a-half stone."
Jamil's said similar on Twitter, addressing the societal preoccupation with women's appearances above all else. "Our mental health is NEVER looked out for in the media, only ever our exterior," she wrote in a powerful thread inspired by Flat Tummy Co, a company that sells appetite suppressant sweets.
How's Jamil fighting back? In part, through her "I Weigh" Instagram campaign — "a museum of self-love," she told Guru-Murthy. The campaign began with a single post, listing the many attributes more significant than her weight. Unbidden, her followers began to post their own photos; now, there's an Instagram page with 115,000 followers. On her personal blog, Jamil urged her readers, "Please remember you have every right to be here, and your life is important and it is precious, and on your death bed you aren’t going to be thinking about your love handles."
She continued, "I love women and we deserve so much more than this. We can do better. We have to. We can win the revolution against shame."
Speaking to Guru-Murthy, Jamil also discussed her experience as a woman of colour in both the UK and US entertainment industries, after she moved to the US to take up the role of Tahani al-Jamil in Emmy-nominated comedy The Good Place. She commented that in Britain, actors and presenters of colour are often hired solely "to tick the diversity box," adding, "I think that’s more progressive in America than it is in the United Kingdom."
She continued, "It is so ridiculous how many Caucasian people have played parts that were specifically for people from other parts of the world. I find that offensive. I find it ridiculous, I find it very small minded — and financially really dumb, because there are so many markets they could have opened themselves up to. Look at the tremendous success of Crazy Rich Asians!"
Jamil went on to discuss the impact of the #MeToo and Time's Up movements on Hollywood, saying, "There is a sense of real solidarity where we realise that we’ve been divided and conquered now it is only together that we’re going to be able to make a real change and protect the next generation of girls."
But, she argued, the movement can't progress if abusers continue to maintain a high profile in Hollywood — a timely comment after Louis C.K.'s return to stand-up, only nine months after admitting to sexual misconduct. "We can’t work with people who have hurt women," Jamil said. "Why are we giving the same routine abusers job after job after job at the height of Hollywood?"
So, Jameela Jamil devotees (and I hope there's even more of you after this interview): where can you see her next? Well, season 3 of The Good Place is on the horizon; according to Radio Times, it'll hit Netflix in the UK on September 28 (thank fork). She's also presenting a two-part Radio 4 show on sex and consent in the autumn, called The New Age Of Consent. According to the BBC, the show will address "recent explosive conversations around sexual assault whilst trying to determine what consent in sex and relationships should look like in a modern, digital world."
And one more thing: she's writing a book! No details on the title, topic, or release date yet (I've contacted her management for more info, but haven't received a reply yet) — but it's by Jamil, and that's a fairly solid guarantee it will be excellent. Now, I'm off to rewatch the last two series of The Good Place before September 28, and I strongly recommend you do the same.