Jameela Jamil is founder of the I weigh campaign and a leading voice in the body positivity movement. With her striking make up and impeccable sense of style, Jameela frequently figures prominently on the world’s best dressed lists.
Despite her many achievements, Jameela remains incredibly humble. She told BBC news ‘I feel like my whole career has been an entire blag’. As if to demonstrate the lack of career planning so far, in an interview with The Cut Jameela laughs that she might bring out a rap album or become a professional tango dancer – in other words, she’s winging it!
Jameela the Campaigner
When it comes to her activism, however, Jameela DOES know what she’s doing. She’s not afraid to speak out and campaigns vociferously against fat shaming.
From an early age Jameela struggled with societal pressure to be a certain size. This lead her to developing an eating disorder in her teens and suffering from body dysmorphia. Speaking of the media’s influence, she told Stylist Magazine ‘we are forced into a uniform of thinness. Everyone who consumes our media thinks that if every celebrity is one size, then that must be the “normal” size. There’s something wrong with you if you don’t fit that aesthetic.’
Once in the public eye, Jameela experienced just how cruel the media can be. Side effects of medication caused her weight to balloon. The press purposefully took unflattering pictures of her and compared them side by side with ones taken years before. She wrote in a 2013 column for Company Magazine: ‘I suppose I naively assumed that, as I’m a writer, a DJ and a radio broadcaster, I wouldn’t be pressured about my size’. I naively assumed women had come far enough to not be objectified; that their worth would no longer be measured in direct proportion to their waistlines. I was wrong.’
Her experience with her weight as a teenager and the diet industry’s unrelenting compulsion that we need to look a certain way, led Jameela to set up the ‘I Weigh’ campaign’.
The campaign was kickstarted when she came across a photo of the Kardashian family on Instagram, in which they were labelled with their weights in Kg. In response, Jameela posted a picture of herself in which she was labelled with qualities – not quantities. Clearly indicating that when it comes to weight, we’ve got our priorities completely wrong.
Jameela’s message is clear. Rather than be obsessed with our weight, we should value ourselves for the important stuff like relationships and the life we’ve built for ourselves.
Jameela measures her self-worth by “the brilliant life I am so lucky to live, that I built by myself from scratch. The friends I am so lucky to have. What I’ve achieved. How I made people feel and how much I have enjoyed myself. It has taken me 10 years to get to the realisation that I am worth more than the digits on a measuring tape.’
After other women started to post their own ‘I weigh’ photos, Jameela decided to set up the separate @i_weigh Instagram account. This now has tens of thousands of followers, Not bad for a response to a photo of the Kardashians, eh?
Jameela the Activist
And Jameela’s work for body positivity doesn’t stop there. She played a vital role in ensuring regulations on the promotion of diet products on Instagram were changed. The new rules, which came into force in September last year, mean that under 18’s can no longer see promotional weight loss posts.
As well as this, posts that make ‘miraculous claims’ about weight loss products will not be allowed. The diet industry and celebrity endorsement of weight loss products is an issue that Jameela has been very vocal about, resulting in very public feud with the Kardashians because of their role in exposing their followers to such products. With Jameela telling The Cut that ‘If you call yourself an influencer on Instagram, you’re going straight to the Bad Place.’ (I love the cheeky reference to ‘The Good place series there!)
It’s no surprise she hasn’t minced her words when expressing to the
Kardashians the damage they could be causing for their young impressionable followers. She tweeted that ‘Their bloods are lined with the blood and diarrhoea of teenage girls’. This lead the interviewer, in the BBC clip I watched, to ask her whether it was necessary to use ‘quite such excessive language’. To this Jameela replied; ‘I wouldn’t be here right now, sitting opposite you or speaking at the UN or any of these things if I hadn’t made a big noise. Sometimes you have to use shock culture.’ (In a more comedic approach Jameela also made a parody video, taking the mick out of celebrities who advocate detox teas. It’s defo worth a watch).
Jameela, Queen of Body Positivity
Whilst Jameela has already achieved so much in her fight against body shaming, she’s not throwing in the towel. She believes the ‘disgusting tool’ of airbrushing should be illegal due to the fact it gives us unrealistic expectations; prompting us to buy products or turn to procedures to try and look like the person in the photo, when in fact this is impossible.
Earlier this year, she celebrated the fact that her promotional pictures for ‘The Good Place’ weren’t photoshopped so you could see her back fat. Jameela also wants other stars to do the same saying that ‘We have to stop setting standards for others that we ourselves don’t meet.’
Whilst Jameela humbly refers to herself as a ‘jack of all trades master of absolutely nothing’ I couldn’t disagree more. She is an absolute master at everything she tries, including her continued activism on body positivity. What she has achieved through her campaigning just speaks for itself. With the current discussion regarding Instagram’s impact on mental health and young women negatively comparing their appearance to that of celebrities, she’s the voice we all need to hear telling us to love ourselves.
P.S – How can you not appreciate someone who is prepared to stand up to the powerhouse that is the Kardashians? I would be absolutely petrified…