Former T4 presenter turned Hollywood sensation, Jameela Jamil refuses to feel the wrath of Hollywood expectations; to be thinner, glossier and silent. Instead, she has become an inspirational voice for women’s rights and is educating a generation of women so that they know that their voice can be more powerful and beautiful than their looks.
Jameela accepted a call from me as she hopped out of an Uber with a driver taking a rogue route and began to tell me about her morning audition. She explained, “It was great but very weird, but they made me bloody do improv which I’ve never done before. I’m lucky as once I got the T4 gig I didn’t really have to audition again, but it’s different out here as there’s a bigger pool of actors.”
I’ve never been to Los Angeles; nevertheless, Jamil was about to offer me a glimpse into La La Land, one that’s not often reported. Many find the city to be too fake and thus have negative sentiment towards it, however, Jamil has taken the element of falseness associated with L.A and its effect on her personal life and turned it into something great, in true Jameela style!
She explained, “I’d never used Instagram much before but when I started on The Good Place I had to be more active on it.” After calling out an Instagram post that depicted what she thought was Kim Kardashian’s net worth in figures across her picture but was actually her weight in kilograms, Jamil turned her rage and disbelief at social media society and expectations into an active cause. She encouraged her followers and men and women globally to dispel the notion that a woman’s, or indeed a person’s worth should be reduced to looks and weight. She challenged them to weigh up the sum of their own parts, be it family, career success, sporting achievements, loved hobbies, education, or beating cancer.
She exclaimed, “The Kardashians are business women! Whatever I may think of them personally, and I’ve had my bold opinions about them, these women have built an empire and how dare these people
The passion in her voice was stirring and I could tell just five minutes in that this was going to be an empowering and inspirational interview. “Then, because of the algorithm, I was being served more posts like these, encouraging young women to compare their height and weight to these abnormally slender people.”
Jamil, who has always used her position in the spotlight to speak out for women, from period and sex talk to mental health and body positivity, alludes that this was the final straw for her and so she took to Instagram to post about her own weight, “I weigh: lovely relationship, great friends, I laugh every day, I love my new job, I make an honest living, I’m financially independent, I speak out for women’s rights, I like my bingo wings, I like myself in spite of EVERYTHING I’ve been taught by the media to hate.”
She explained, “I felt that these images of the Kardashians were so damaging and demeaning that I wanted to put up a post about what I weigh and how I value myself. I didn’t expect anyone to reply or to send me their pictures.”
The response was so strong that the actress had to create an Instagram page to showcase the positivity and bravery from her fans. And thus, I Weigh was born. Described as “a museum of self-love” by the creator herself, the campaign has brought to social media something that’s not often seen.
Instead of an ‘aspirational’ feed boasting about how much your clothes cost, how incredible your holiday destination is or
Having previously spoken about her hatred of tabloids treatment of women, Jamil continued what had now become more of an empowerment speech than an interview, “We have become hyper normalised to being mistreated like this and we don’t have to just eat it. Don’t give these pollutants so much power that they ruin our lives. We need to remind ourselves that we’re human, our bodies are breathing themselves and taking us from A to B; isn’t that amazing?! We’re a miracle; we’re strong and smart, and just because the media doesn’t say that things outside being sexy and thin are important, you are still important.
At this point, I had abandoned my prepared set of questions as Jamil had taken my expected route and upturned it for something entirely more powerful. Rarely do I interview a celebrity who can so easily and passionately talk about issues they care about. It felt as though I was listening to an audiobook version of Jamil’s own diary. It’s easy to see how her powerful voice has inspired a generation of women to think differently.
However, Jamil recognises that she didn’t always follow this suit herself. She told me honestly, “I spent almost a decade holding myself back from things because I didn’t think I was pretty or thin. I suffered from horrendous body dysmorphia and it’s only in the last few years that I could see what is actually in the mirror. Everything I was achieving that my male counterparts were wasn’t being recognised because the focus was on my appearance and it made me feel really worthless as a human being. Now, seeing what young girls are privy to through social media, I am scared to bring a girl into this world.”
Jamil, who believes that real change can only be implemented if those with influence use their position to speak up rather than be complicit or recycle the bad messages, is working to protect young girls, present and future, by recognising what’s around her and realising how she can change it.
She continued, “I Weigh isn’t going to work if I go away, I need to stay here and fight for this cause. Other celebrities need to join by not photoshopping or facetuning their pictures. Also, stop promoting fucking diarrhoea products, they don’t make you thinner they just make you shit yourself!” We laugh together in the sarcastic tone of her delivery, but all the while both knowing that the underlying issue cannot be laughed away.
Influencers like these are in a unique position to action change and Jamil urges that they don’t rob their followers of their self-love and self-respect. “These Influencers are multi-faceted humans, but they don’t show us that, they just show us their contouring and weight loss gummies. We need to show young women that we can be well-rounded and that our aesthetics don’t define our presence. We can be everything. You don’t have to choose between caring about your aesthetic or being interesting.” At this point we go off-piste to discuss our lack of contour knowledge, before returning to the conversation that feels like it’s quietly shaking the earth, whispering mantras to stir and uprising among women.
Jamil has been skinny-shamed and fat-shamed in the past, she explained “It’s hurt every woman I know. I don’t know one single woman who has a healthy relationship towards themselves. I never hear my male friends shit on themselves the way that women do. It’s baffling! The expectations are so much higher for women – there’s nothing a woman can achieve that would be recognised if her appearance wasn’t up to scratch.” It seems that to the media, it’s a no-win situation for women and that’s where I Weigh steps in, inspiring women to change the way their viewed, both by themselves and the outside world.
Instilling a fire in me too, the heated Jamil returned “We have to keep growing and fight back, particularly against these magazines who promote designers who don’t make clothes any bigger than a size 0. That means that the actresses, models and TV presenters have to be a size 0 to fit into them so all that women around the world see are tall, emaciated women. Why is it that men are told to get bigger in order to better their looks? In order to succeed men are told to take up more space and women to take up less for the same success.” I paused. My mouth hung open in shock as my mind conjured the image of a Johnny Bravo-style parade of men overshadowing us whippets. It was a startling realisation that what Jamil had just said was true in many walks of life. Immediately, I began to think about my own version of I Weigh.
Jamil had reminded me that I’m important and that I need to stand up for myself against the voice in my head that constantly tells me I’m not good enough. It’s this exact feeling that she’d aimed to instil in millions of women around the world following the accidental launch of the I Weigh campaign.
Her honesty and openness has made me love her even more, she said “After the I Weigh campaign, I set out to help women and they ended up fixing me in ways that I didn’t even know I needed to be fixed. I’m the strongest and most powerful I have ever felt and it’s because of the women who have sent me their I Weigh stories. I started standing up for myself more at work and with other people; I developed a sense of my own humanity thanks to these people.”
Urging Jamil to continue on her incredible emancipation speech, I asked if the I Weigh campaign will ever have a life off social media. “Yes,” she said, pausing. I’d feared there was an NDA involved and that I wasn’t going to be given any further information, but it seems Jamil is a fan of dramatic effect. She continued, “We’ve bought a website and we’re turning it into a movement where we’re going to make moves to change legislation to stop hate speech against women in tabloid magazines.” Take two of my jaw hitting the table, this time in shocked excitement.
She digressed, “I want to turn I Weigh into a lifestyle. Promote the unprompted, the young female businesses who aren’t talking shit about women or spreading negative messages. We want to promote adventure and empowerment to women, bringing them together as a community. Oh, and I’m also writing a book!” The casual sum of all the parts that will make I Weigh, including a move towards legislation, was so naturally spoken about by Jamil because she knows she can do it. She knows she can affect real change with this campaign.