February was a particularly difficult month. First, she went out queer, which seemed to exasperate a lot of people. Then she had to defend herself against charges that she had of Munchausen syndrome – a psychiatric disorder in which people pretend to be sick – an allegation launched by a writer who did not believe her history of health problems. She ended the month in a row on Twitter with Piers Morgan (public feuds being something natural for both) after the death of television presenter Caroline Flack.
Does Jamil ever want to live a quieter life? “It is not an easy path,” she said. “We are rushing on a pedestal and we always feel like a trap – it is very high, it is easy to slide and it is very far. I’m just learning that I don’t have authority over anything. She didn’t, she said, “be in perfect control at all times, but I’m a human prone to mistakes.”
We are talking on the phone, Jamil calling from her Los Angeles home, which she shares with her boyfriend, musician James Blake, and three friends. Locking was not too difficult, she says. “I couldn’t feel more privileged at the moment. I’m safe, I have a house. I can afford not to work for a while and I have my health, “she said.
“On a more frivolous note, I am really happy that the contact is canceled forever. “That has always appalled her,” she said, “and her explanation is something I have never considered before and that I will never forget. “The fact that you know that a hand was on a dick at some point before touching your hand is deeply disturbing,” she says with a laugh, describing it as “some kind of penis imprint on your palm.” . She always succumbed to a polite convention when someone reaches out. ” Never again. “
She is also enthusiastic about the possible return of women’s body hair, saying that “we are coming out of this fur, chubby, more spotted and, hopefully, alive. And that’s great – we are the lucky ones. Could this mark the end of ridiculous care ideals (lip fillers, strangely pristine eyebrows)? “For women in transition, I think not having access to beauticians is really difficult. But I think some women get used to seeing their faces without makeup and realizing that you don’t need all the nonsense we have flogged. “
Above all, she hopes that “our value systems will change. Celebrities were revered by heroes, and now it has become very obvious who the real heroes are. And I think celebrities are constantly donkeys. “I would be happy to never see a certain type of influencer again,” I said. “Who is going to get the money for cellulite cream, fillers or detoxifying teas?” No one will want to see your $ 300 bikini anymore. The way we looked at money, fame and materialism … “She pauses. “I think it disappeared overnight because we no longer have the luxury. We are talking about life and death. It’s a depression. [Celebrities] need to shut up and open their handbags. (Jamil donates to charities for refugees and domestic violence.)
She has a new podcast, which started earlier this month, and will soon be launching a YouTube show. (“Is there anything sadder than a 34-year-old woman trying to start a YouTube channel?”, She laughs.) Both are part of her I Weigh movement, a campaign that has started on Instagram in 2018 to promote the idea that people, especially women, should be “weighed” by their achievements rather than by the number on their scales – and to promote inclusiveness, social justice and Mental Health.
The final episode of the podcast features Reese Witherspoon talking about postpartum depression and her experience of sexism in the entertainment industry. Future interviews will be with writer Roxane Gay, Gloria Steinem, and founder of the #MeToo movement, Tarana Burke. It’s a sign of Jamil’s influence that she just made a wish list of the people she wanted to interview, and they said yes. “I became scary in MD [direct messages]», She says laughing. “I have absolutely no shame, and it’s great that the podcast talks about getting rid of the shame. It is also a podcast that is supposed to offer hope. We show someone’s journey from darkness to light. “
If his guests seem to open up, it’s probably because Jamil herself is incredibly candid. In the episode with Vivek Murthy, the former US general surgeon and author of Together, a book on loneliness, Jamil talks about trying to kill himself at 26. In other episodes, she talks about the eating disorder she had in her teens. It is almost easy to see why the conspiracy theory that she has Munchausen syndrome has taken off; she lived so much, almost too much for one person.
She attended an independent girls’ school in London (on a scholarship; she and her brother were raised mainly by their mother, a school secretary) where she says she was the victim of physical and violent racist bullying . She was abused as a child and was subsequently the victim of several sexual assaults. She said she was raped several times. At 17, she was struck by a car, seriously damaging her spine, and spent more than a year recovering. The mental illness led to a suicide attempt in her mid-twenties, when she sought therapy. She also underwent several painful operations in her childhood to cope with hearing loss, and had celiac disease and Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, which affects the connective tissues of the body.
By revealing so much about herself, she – unwittingly or not – places herself at the center of many experiences. She may say, not without reason, that being so open reduces stigma, but it can also resemble attention seeking and self-promotion. It seemed to be what caused the backlash when Jamil went out queer. She had been criticized on social media for her appointment as a judge on Legendary, a televised contest inspired by the black LGBT ballroom and fashionable culture. Apparently, Jamil was a heterosexual cis woman who had been in a relationship with a man for five years. Jamil doesn’t want to justify himself or how she identifies herself. (“Stay away from this question,” she said kindly when I raise it.) But was she surprised by the reaction? “No, I understood, because of the timing. I never tried to turn away from [the criticism]. I was just trying to add to the conversation; that i’m not saying that qualifies me as a ballroom party [culture], but you don’t really know my sexuality. “
She hadn’t been out until “because I was afraid people would think I was jumping on a fashionable train.” And various other reasons. So I understand repression. What she didn’t understand, she said, was the claim that she was a liar. “What a bizarre lie,” she said, laughing. “It doesn’t help us in any way to identify you in an industry that always discriminates against people. But the rest, I understood. That’s why I didn’t come back to complain. “
The same criticism of appropriation has surrounded Jamil’s campaign on body image when it is itself thin and conventionally beautiful. She was accused of shaming other women – the most damaging black women, such as rapper CupcakKe (after the artist announced that she had been on a 40-day “water fast”) without recognizing that the police of the body of black women is accompanied by its own painful story. There have also been accusations that she adopted the words and ideas of other people, such as the writer Stephanie Yeboah. Her brand of feminism has been described as “exclusive … and toxic” by writer Danielle Dash.
Jamil has always said that she is constantly learning and willingly admits her own mistakes and knowledge gaps. (In October, for example, she explained that she knew little about the presidency of George W. Bush after being involved in another line on Twitter.) Using her platform, especially as the one of the most prominent women of the South Asian heritage in the Western media, puts her in a delicate position. Does she talk about the airbrush and start a feud with the Kardashians over the diet products they promote – and risk making mistakes – or is she quiet? “I have asked magazines a number of times to cover myself with women of different body shapes and disabilities, and they say no. So either no one has the conversation, or I do the photo shoot by myself, because at least the conversation is taking place. People are impatient, she says; her YouTube show will provide a platform for other activists. “You have to grab the microphone first before you can play it,” she says.
Jamil is such a source of division, seemingly defended by those who like his open-mindedness and his sense of humor (she is not a kind of serious activist), and vilified by those who think that she is constantly a virtue signal for his own gain. Blake sometimes intervenes. (After Munchausen’s rumor went viral, he posted, “It’s pretty disgusting to see the woman I just love being huddled by a dog every day.”) Would she prefer that he don’t not? She laughs. “I don’t want it to hurt his career in any way, just because I’m in controversy. But it must be hard to see people hurting someone you love. I’m very lucky to have someone so hard in my corner. “
She says she is “absolutely fine” in the face of fallout if she feels bad. “It’s when it’s a lie, a smear campaign – it doesn’t suit me because it’s the technique of discrediting. We do [women] sound crazy and disturbed, and we try to devalue their speech and their work. There must be days, I say, when it gets too much. “I would say the Munchausen thing.” Caroline Flack’s thing really shocked me because we were on good terms. “
They didn’t really talk “just because of what was going on,” says Jamil (in October, Jamil criticized a cosmetic surgery show that Flack would present). “She reached out to me with such a love message, and she passed away that week.” Next week, Piers Morgan posted text messages from Flack to Twitter, which were sent to him last year to tell him that she was “wrestling” with Jamil, “as if I was contributing to his death, when I don had never aroused an argument with Caroline. I’m not criticizing the host, I’m criticizing the show. She says she didn’t post Flack’s latest message to him “because I’m not a scumbag.”
I’m not doing this for popularity. I’m doing this so I can undo what I saw when I was younger
Finally, she says, she won’t shut up. Outspoken women, and especially outspoken women of color, are disproportionately attacked online. “It’s not just the woman they slander,” says Jamil. “It is also a deliberate message that they send to all the other women not to speak out, not to defend something, not to break the rules. And that’s why I can’t back up now, because otherwise it would mean it wasn’t worth it and I shouldn’t have to crane my neck. “
The car accident partly explains its resilience. “A near death experience gives you a solid perspective,” she says. “Being dragged on Twitter or being embarrassed by television – or rejection – nothing scares me more. So I think it made me very daring. She was also inspired by Yes Man, the memoirs of Danny Wallace in which he spent a year saying “yes”. This partly explains his decision to move to the United States and to dare to audition for The Good Place, having never played before. “I’m definitely more surprised [at my career] that any of you could ever be. “
But it was his break in the mid-twenties that became the biggest turning point. “After that, I realized it was to be done or to die, and I had to investigate everything that had brought me to such a low point,” she said. “One of those things was shame. You blame yourself, especially when you are very young. But also ashamed of being a woman. You are too thin, you are too fat, you are not smart enough or you are too smart. I completely accept my own bullshit, but a lot of the things that caused a lot of trauma are not my fault. “
That’s why she does what she does, she says – sometimes misleading social media posts, fights, campaigns. “Important conversations are uncomfortable. And so we leave young people unarmed. “She would like to work on programs for schools” so that we don’t learn more about igneous rock than about consent, eating disorders and social media lies. “
And then for Jamil? It has built a large audience of social media and something of a power base. If it is to continue her acting career, constantly criticizing many aspects of the entertainment industry would be a fun way to go about it. So no pleasant and easy life for her. “I would do certain things differently,” she says. “I prefer to start the fights that I start and sometimes get in trouble in which I engage rather than sit here in silence and be an accomplice of an industry that pumps so much toxicity in the world. She understands the mistrust of some people towards her, she says. “I look like the enemy. I am a thin and privileged person who exists in this industry; I totally get distrust. I’m just going to have to do the work to prove that I was not a shit bag after all. I’m not doing this for popularity. I’m doing this so I can undo what I saw when I was younger, which hurt me and try to change it. “
There is a smile in her voice when she says, “And sometimes you have to be annoying and looking for attention to bring about this change. “
• Jameela Jamil’s I Weigh podcast is hosted on www.earwolf.com
• In the UK and Ireland, Samaritans can be contacted at 116 123 or by email at [email protected] or [email protected] In the United States, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-8255. In Australia, the Lifeline Crisis Support Service is on 13 11 14. Other international help lines are available at www.befrienders.org.