Even though Women’s History Month officially ended a week ago, I’m of the firm opinion that honoring women who are doing good work and promoting positive body image is something that should be shouted from the rooftops 365 days a year. So today, in recognition of someone who’s taking on one of the most difficult environments for body image out there (can anyone say Hollywood?), I’m here to focus on actress, writer, and activist Jameela Jamil.
For anyone who’s unfamiliar with Jameela Jamil, let me just first say that she’s one of the most badass women I’ve ever come across. Born in 1986 in London, Jameela grew up with both Coeliac’s Disease and Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, the latter of which can cause loose skin and extreme joint flexibility. And if that wasn’t enough, at age 17 Jameela was hit by a car, breaking several bones and damaging her spine which kept her bed-ridden for over a year.
I don’t know about any of you, but writing that paragraph alone makes me want to full stop, drop the microphone, and walk away.
And as formidable as those challenges were to start with, Jameela also struggled with negative body image, anorexia, and the overwhelming societal narrative (that we’re all way too familiar with) that made her feel like her worth was directly tied to her physical weight. In an interview with Channel Four News, Jameela described part of her growing up as being “Bombarded with a narrative that had no alternative . . . All of my magazines were selling me weight loss products or telling me to be thin. Otherwise, I wasn’t worth anything”. But while her narrative is, I’m sad to say, a story we’re given by Hollywood, the press, or social media nearly every single day, it’s exactly this platform that Jameela’s committed herself to take on.
In an ironic but simultaneously fulfilling twist of fate, today Jameela is working as a successful Hollywood actress in the wildly popular television series The Good Place. When not filming, she also writes on her potentially even funnier blog Diary of a Goon, where she spares no patience for anyone both online and in the real world who dare to trivialize women by what they’re eating, wearing, or how they look. In what is now one of my personal favorites called “I Weigh”, Jameela absolutely roasts a group shot of celebrities who have their weight in kilograms posted in front of them, with the question below asking “which weight are you?”
Not only does this post imply that the most important thing about a woman’s life is the number on the scale, it demonstrates that celebrities still have a long way to go in understanding how they shape messages surrounding body image. Thankfully, however, there are many powerful guardians at the gate who are ready to throw down and take on even the most daunting of Hollywood icons. And in this case, who else could we start with but the Kardashians?
Now while we could probably spend an indefinite amount of time talking about the Kardashians in all ways good, bad, and the ugly, I’d like to highlight how Jameela absolutely refused in two separate cases to let Khloe Kardashian or Kris Jenner slide when they promoted a supposed appetite- suppressing lollipop and a collection of “meal replacement” shakes. Besides the fact that I’m a little scared to learn how an appetite-suppressing lollipop even works, Kris Jenner also failed to include the potential side effects of the meal replacement shakes, which can include cramping, stomach pains, and impact contraception users.
It is both ridiculous and even a little dangerous to blindly promote a product to millions of people without including the side effects. But Jameela, calling Khloe a “terrible and toxic influence on young girls” and noting it’s “madness that these celebrities aren’t forced by Instagram to post the side effects of these products”, said exactly all of that for us and showed that when it comes to championing positive body image in Hollywood, she’s the one leading the charge.
So if you’re ever in need of a dose of encouragement, truly hilarious commentary, or an inspirational lift that there really are incredible people in Hollywood taking on anyone who puts women back in a calorie-defined box, I recommend stopping by “The Good Place” with Jameela Jamil.
Thank you to Meghan McCoy for writing this fantastic post!