It’s no secret that we’re major Jameela Jamil stans here at Create & Cultivate.
The unapologetically outspoken actress has blessed us with her words of wisdom as a guest on the WorkParty podcast, as a keynote speaker at our Desert Pop Up in Palm Springs, and as a fireside chat panelist at our Aerie REALtreat in Los Angeles. So, naturally, we’re thrilled to announce that she’s one of our 4th-annual Create & Cultivate 100 honorees. And here’s why.
Though her career kicked off in entertainment—she was the first solo female host of the BBC Radio 1’s Official Chart Show before she landed a coveted role on the hit show “The Good Place,” despite having no acting experience—now, she is well known as a leader of the body neutrality movement and as the founder of I Weigh, an organization she launched in 2018 to encourage people to weigh themself by their positive attributes, as opposed to numbers on a scale (the hashtag has been used over 37,000 times on Instagram). Since then she has called out big brands and celebrities for false advertising and marketing that promotes unfounded diets, appetite suppressants, and misleading messages to women and girls.
Ahead, we chat with the role model about her career in Hollywood, including the moment she decided to become a body neutrality activist, and the barriers she’s still working to break down in the entertainment industry.
CREATE & CULTIVATE: You moved to Los Angeles with the goal of becoming a screenwriter, but you had no contacts—something a lot of entrepreneurs can relate to. You are now a successful actor, but what did it take to get to where you are today? Was Hollywood receptive or have you had to fight for your spot? Why?
JAMEELA JAMIL: Hollywood has been receptive to me, but that’s because I was championed by such legendary showrunner Mike Schur who takes a chance on unknowns and on women, in particular. I was very lucky. In general, my fight is to be taken seriously as something other than a pair of tits and legs. But I have come in at the most progressive time in Hollywood’s history, where I believe change is coming.
You’re not content with just being another pretty face in Hollywood and you refuse to be quiet, using your profile to advocate for social justice. Can you recall a moment where you felt the call to arms and knew you needed to fight for equal rights and body neutrality?
I was 19 and watched a 12-year-old in a modeling agency made to cry about her weight. This reminded me of my time as a teen model, and how pushed I was towards starvation, that I decided to enter into activism to challenge body standards for women. I can’t believe 15 years later I’m still In this same fight. We aren’t moving fast enough.
Not only do you dispute the term “body positivity” but you also refuse to be airbrushed, which, in Hollywood, is a huge statement. When did you make that choice? Why?
I’ve been asking for years, but I had to become powerful to get my way. I suffer from body dysmorphia which makes Photoshop very problematic for me. I don’t do well with seeing physically perfect images of myself when I already struggle with the mirror. It’s not good for any of our brains to see that comparison. It diminishes self-confidence. It’s also so irresponsible as a celebrity to showcase unrealistic ideals. It’s a lie you are selling to impressionable women who are already under enough attack from society as it is. We have a duty to have more integrity.
When you hit a bump or hurdle in your career, how do you #FindNewRoads + switch gears to find success?
I’m afraid of failure. I think it’s noble to try when success isn’t guaranteed. So I just move on and try new things. I don’t think we know what we are capable of as women because of how long society has told us we are incapable of everything. So I treat it as getting to know myself, and it’s fun. Stressful at times, but fun.
You have become a role model to so many young women everywhere. What advice would you give a young woman hoping to follow in your footsteps?
Get therapy. Have a predominantly female team. Fight for other women to join you at your level. There is power in numbers, we are much stronger together. Ask for more. It’s available to you, but you will never find that out until you ask.