Shame takes on many forms.
We can feel shameful about our race, our gender, about aging, and so much more. Shame makes us stay small.
What if instead of feeling ashamed of our insecurities, we celebrated every aspect of ourselves?
What if we learned to think independently instead of listening to what the media says about us?
To become the powerful, confident people we’re meant to be, we have to identify our shame and work hard to eliminate it. It won’t just disappear on its own.
On today’s episode of The School of Greatness, I talk about shame with an actor who has made body positivity her mission: Jameela Jamil.
Jameela Jamil is an actress, model, presenter, and body positivity activist from the United Kingdom. She first started in media as a presenter and was recruited by BBC Radio 1 to host her own show where she made history as the first woman to host a network show.
As a fashion model, she has been featured on the covers of Vogue and The Cut among others. She is a social activist and philanthropist, and she founded Why Not People?: a company focused on making live venue entertainment accessible and comfortable for disabled people.
Jameela is best known for her role as Tahani Al-Jamil starring opposite Kristen Bell and Ted Danson on the television show The Good Place, which ran for six seasons on NBC.
Most recently Jameela started a movement that has been taking over the online world— the Instagram account @i_weigh helps women celebrate themselves, feel valuable, and fight toxic beauty standards.
Jameela is a big proponent of therapy as a way to move past struggles with shame. She says mental health should be a top priority for all of us despite the stigma around it. In this interview, we talked about how she overcame feeling ashamed of her race and her body, how being injured for a very long time when she was younger helped shape her future, and how to stay content no matter what you have going on in your life. Let’s get started!
Jameela had a rough upbringing and grew up with very little money and a lot of emotional problems due to a traumatic childhood.
She was deaf on and off until she was 12 years old and had seven operations to restore just half of her hearing back. She currently is looking into getting another hearing device because her condition gets worse as she gets older and she only has partial hearing.
She attended an all-girls school and was often bullied for her color and her size. She says she felt like she didn’t have many real friends.
Then, when Jameela was 17, she got hit by a car and hurt her back so badly that she couldn’t walk for over a year and a half without crutches or a walking frame. She was pulled out of school and bedridden for a year. She didn’t have many visitors during that year, so she watched TV from the moment she woke up until when she went to sleep. She watched all the daytime shows like Seinfeld, Frasier, Friends, and daytime talk shows. It was by watching all those hours of television that she taught herself acting.
“I’ve had a truly bizarre trajectory after a very tricky beginning, and so I think I’m having to constantly adapt myself to my ever-changing surroundings, but I think I’m an adaptable human being. I think we all are. But I don’t really shame and fear things that I resonate with any longer, and I think that’s been the key to my success.” – Jameela Jamil
Everything Jameela has learned from that experience has made her stronger, and given her a fire that fuels her philanthropic endeavors. She says she would step in front of that car all over again knowing everything she knows now, because that was the path to get her to her destiny.
Jameela discusses that men shaming women and men pitting women against one another is still a very present issue in our society.
“There are still, of course, oppressive patriarchal institutions that run Hollywood and run the media. And so that means that we [women] are being hazed from every angle by different outlets, in different forms. I think that unfortunately, this does come from male shame that has been ingested by women. So what I’m trying to do is empower women to start, rather than wait for men to stop shaming us. I think it’s more empowering to say, ‘Why don’t we now try to take agency over our own sense of self and our own sense of shame and kill it ourselves.’”
– Jameela Jamil
As a Pakistani-British woman, Jameela describes her background as being the “holy trifecta of shame.”
“I’m not trying to stereotype or bring any further negative connotation towards Muslim people. I’m not a Muslim myself. But it is definitely a culture that still controls women quite a lot […] So there’s a lot of shame in that culture, and a lot of shame in Britain. Shame is almost a badge of honor in Britain. The more you shame and flagellate yourself in Britain, the more respectable you are. They only respect the hustle, they do not respect the win.” – Jameela Jamil
Jameela has had to overcome a lot of these external forces by creating an inner fortitude that cannot be broken. She is more comfortable in her own skin now than ever before.
“I had huge shame around my culture, and just felt so much shame about being brown. I mean bleaching creams are still being sold in massive countries where you have a lot of brown people both within the brown and black community. Bleaching is huge.” – Jameela Jamil
Now Jameela is trying to shout from the rooftops that women do not need to feel shame for their outward appearance, and to be more aware of consumerism trying to use them as pawns to make a profit.
“I think no longer being afraid of people thinking I’m unlikeable or difficult has been something very exciting to embrace. I am not here to be anyone’s friend. I’m here to educate people and wake people up and stop them from making all of the mistakes I’ve made that lost me 30 years of my life.” – Jameela Jamil
But all is not lost. Jameela did have a breakthrough when she came to America. That’s when the trajectory of her life began to change.
NBC’s The Good Place cast is a very diverse one, and Jameela says that is what audiences want to see. They want to watch shows where they can identify with the main characters.
“We have categorical proof of how much success you have when you include the people that we have disregarded for so long. Look at Black Panther, Crazy Rich Asians, Bridesmaids, and The Good Place…all these hits are happening. When you deny most of the world representation, you are denying yourself a huge spending power because people can’t relate to the stories anymore and they stop going and paying to see story lines they can’t relate to.” – Jameela Jamil
Jameela is especially proud of the character she gets to play, and the depth of her character’s story.
“I think it’s just great to see a South-Asian woman whose main storyline isn’t about being a South-Asain woman. It’s not really important to my character and I think that’s brilliant.” – Jameela Jamil
The road to becoming Tahani was an interesting one. One of Jameela’s first gigs was being a host live on television, where she had to read a teleprompter. It was so natural to her because of all the television she watched as a teen. That gig led to a radio career which she did for a couple of years. She liked radio and wanted to step away from the camera because she was tired of being reduced to “nothing more than her aesthetic.”
She was very successful as a radio broadcaster and was the first woman to ever be given the official chart (UK’s Billboard 100). The radio station had been on air for 60 years and the award had never been given to a woman before her.
Whenever she would visit America, she would turn on the television and see a multitude of races, ethnicities and age ranges represented. She loved it.
“You had curvaceous African Americans in their 50’s hosting ‘good morning’ shows, and all races and colors and sexualities on these big mainstream shows, so my heart was calling for America.” – Jameela Jamil.
Jameela also liked that America allows people to be more than one thing. She wanted to be an actor and a screenwriter, and in Britain, you are very much told to “stay in your lane” and do one thing.
After a breast cancer scare in 2016 that ended up not being cancer, Jameela decided it was now or never to take a chance on her dreams. She bought a one-way ticket to America with absolutely no plan.
She took an audition because her agent basically forced her to, and she ended up landing the role of Tahani Al-Jamil. The rest, as they say, is history.
Now that Jameela has made it up the ranks in Hollywood, she is determined to use the “key of her privilege” to open the door for other people.
“Privileged people are afraid of sharing their privilege with other people, because they think about what will be taken away from them rather than what other people have been denied all this time. And we’re not taught to share, we are taught to fear. And we’re taught greed is a good thing, and we demonize people who don’t have the privilege we do, and say it was their fault.” – Jameela Jamil
Jameela is a huge advocate for therapy and believes everyone should go to a therapist. It shouldn’t be taboo and it’s extremely helpful.
“If we’re not mentally well and as strong and sound as possible, then how can we ever succeed and how can we ever be successful? If we are weakened and suffering then we are more likely to be discontent, and if we are not content then we are more likely to consume. The only elimination diet worth doing is a psychological one. We have to get all the toxicity out of our bodies.” – Jameela Jamil
When Jameela thinks about success in her own life, she believes her success will not be defined by all of her achievements and the empire that she is trying to build — success to her, is about taking time to enjoy her life, to stop and look around, and to be a person who is remembered by the way she loves people. That is what she wants her future children to remember.
Here’s what Jameela says are her four personal truths for her own life:
If you found value in what Jameela and I talked about today, please tag Jameela Jamil and me, Lewis Howes, on Instagram with your key takeaways. Please also go to Apple Podcasts, give it a five-star rating, and don’t forget to subscribe!
I always ask my guests about their definition of greatness at the end of each interview and this is what Jameela had to say:
“My definition of greatness is happiness. That to me is the hardest thing to achieve in this world more and more. Happiness is the sign of success and it’s very rare to find successful, happy people. If I manage to achieve both then I would truly be a great success.” – Jameela Jamil
If you’re ready to learn how to be courageous by being authentic, you can check out the entire podcast here. You can also browse the entire library of podcasts on The School of Greatness! Until next time!
Lewis: This is episode 797 with the inspirational Jameela Jamil. Welcome to the school of greatness my name is Lewis Howes, a former pro-athlete turned lifestyle entrepreneur and each week we bring you an inspiring person or message to help you discover how to unlock your inner greatness. Thanks for spending some time with me today now let the class begin.
Brene Brown said “Courage starts with showing up and letting ourselves be seen.”
I am so excited to show up today with Jameela Jamil to talk about unlocking the real you and showing all of yourself. Now, for those who don’t know who Jamila is she’s an actress, writer, DJ, model, and radio host who currently stars opposite Kristen Bell and Ted Danson on the television show The Good Place which is a mega hit. She first started in media as a presenter and was recruited by BBC radio 1 to host her own show where she made history as the first woman to host a network show official chart.
As a fashion model she has been featured on the covers of Vogue and the Cut. Jameela is a social-activist and philanthropist having founded Why Not People? an event and membership company focus on making live venue entertainment accessible and comfortable for disabled people. Most recently she started a movement which has been taking over the online world and Instagram account @i_way for women to celebrate themselves and feel valuable and fight toxic beauty standards.
In this interview we talked about how she overcame feeling ashamed of her race and her body. How being injured for a very long time when she was younger helped shaped her future and the lesson she learned during that injury. Acknowledging privilege and using it as a key to open doors for others. The importance of mental health, therapy, and staying content no matter what you have going on in your life, that and so much more. This is a powerful one make sure to share with your friends’ lewishowes.com/797.
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I am so excited about this interview I hope you enjoy this one I think it’s an important conversation that everyone needs to hear, make sure to share with your friends as you’re listening. Without further ado let me introduce to you the inspiring Jameela Jamil.
Welcome everyone back to the school of greatness podcast we’ve got Jameela Jamil in the house. We met 4 or 5 years ago through a mutual friend and you’ve taken off since then. You’ve just moved out of L.A. you were a big radio star in the U.K doing radio show and hosting events and things like that and you have an amazing story. Can you share about, you had an interesting childhood and I read that you were bedridden for a year and recovering for a year it’s that true when you were 17? You taught yourself how to act by watching TV?
Jameela: Not intentionally, I just learned how to act and host and learned how to be around people from watching television, everything I know is from watching TV.
Lewis: You just got your first show a couple of years ago and you never acted before right?
Jameela: I’ve had a truly bizarre trajectory after a very tricky beginning and so I think I’m having to constantly adapt to myself to my ever-changing surroundings, but I think I’m an adaptable human being I think we all are. But I don’t really shame and fear things that I resonate with any longer and I think that’s been the key to my success.
Lewis: How much did you shame yourself growing up?
Jameela: A lot, I mean I’m Pakistani and a woman and from Britain so I mean that’s the holy trifecta almost of shame of different ways for people.
Lewis: Pakistan women in London in UK right? Every time I go to London it’s very diverse and there are people from all over the world.
Jameela: But women get very shame in my culture, you have a very narrow parameter in which you are able to live freely without being judged and shamed.
Lewis: How are they shaming you on that culture?
Jameela: I mean I’m not trying to stereotype or bring any further negative connotation towards Muslim people, I’m not a Muslim myself. But it is definitely a culture that still controls women quite a lot and in many parts of the less developed cities within the Muslim countries women really don’t, I mean a lot of them aren’t allowed to drive or read or go to school. So there’s a lot of shame in that culture a lot of shame in Britain, shame is almost a badge of honor in Britain the more you shame and flagellate yourself.
Lewis: The more respected you are?
Jameela: Yeah. They only respect the hustle they do not respect the win. They actually genuinely disrespect the win and as soon as you win you are no longer a member of the society and you are pushing yourself.
Lewis: So don’t be successful?
Jameela: Don’t be ambitious and successful. It’s a very common thing in British culture if you compliment any woman she would immediately tell you how cheap and old and shit the thing that she’s wearing.
Lewis: I love to acknowledge people.
Jameela: It’s a very American to compliment people which is lovely.
Lewis: So British people don’t compliment?
Jameela: You have to self-deprecate until you explode.
Lewis: But it’s just like shows you have a lack of self-worth when you can’t receive the acknowledgment.
Jameela: To us it feels like a lot of conceit and I don’t applaud this way of being, I think it’s held us back tremendously and sometimes I wonder where it comes from and I have a very far fetch theory about it, which is I wonder it and went to try, I mean colonize and take over so many countries and was slowly told to bugger off by all of these countries.
Lewis: No who do you think shames more to women? Men shaming women or women shaming women?
Jameela: Men shaming women and men pitting women against one another and there is still, of course, an oppressive patriarchal institutions that run Hollywood, it runs media. And so it means that we’re being hazed from every angle by different outlets and different ways and different forms. So, I think that unfortunately, this does come from male shame that has been ingested by women and started to use it against [?]. And so what I’m trying to do is empower women to start rather than wait for men to stop shaming us. I think it is more empowering to say ‘why don’t we now try to take urgency over our own sense of self and our own sense of shame and kill it ourselves.”
Lewis: So kill it so it doesn’t matter what it says to you?
Jameela: Yeah I just don’t care. I don’t feel shame anymore I have murdered my shame.
Lewis: How does someone murder their own shame?
Jameela: A very long process sort of dividing all of your different types of shame especially if you’re a woman and a woman of color. There are so many different forms of shame that you are having to navigate to all of the time as you isolate each one and then you go after which of the different things in life you have to eliminate in order read yourself a fact.
Lewis: Can you share some of the shame that you’ve murdered off?
Jameela: I mean I’ve gone off anywhere from the way that I look because growing up I only saw thin white women that glorified body image. Thank God I was born in the 90’s, so I think that I had not grown up then if I’ve grown up now in this current time where you are hunted almost by shaming brands, it really feels like that I don’t know what I would do, I don’t know how teenagers are coping at all like the numbers are the highest they’ve ever been of teenage cosmetic surgery.
Jameela: I mean the suicide rates in teenagers have just accelerated that I’m afraid of having children because I don’t know what I am bringing them into, it feels irresponsible currently to not do everything in my power to clean up this dirty world before I bring up a child into it.
Lewis: So the body image was the first?
Jameela: I felt shame about my race because I grew up in a time where there was no representation of my people. You have white people playing my people or like numerous white people browning us and playing us and always only portraying us as the terrorist who killed white people or as the stereotypical embarrassing socially [?] unattractive, unsexy boon. I never saw women who like me being seen as the strong one or the objective desire and that definitely harmed me and made me internalize a lot of self-hate for my race for a really long time.
Lewis: You didn’t have any positive role models?
Jameela: No. So, I had huge shame around my culture and this feel so much shame about being brown, I mean bleaching creams like [?] and lovely are still being sold and massive countries where you have a lot of brown people both within the brown and black community like bleaching is huge.
Lewis: Why is that if whiter people want to be more exotic looking now?
Jameela: Now, white people aren’t looking to be very dark skinned so I think there’s like a soft caramel that everyone’s going for. So, I think those of us who have like natural melanin in our skin is also a very different culture. So over there you are seen as almost, I think almost on a historical reference of it is that if you are seen as a dark skin in my country it means that you are working outside. So I think that was part of the thinking and glorifying wealth.
So that still is something that exists because of lack of representation and so again that’s something that I am trying to be the change that I want to see in the world.
Lewis: What was the biggest insecurity you had that you’ve moved past or are working on still?
Jameela: Weirdly it’s been a strong outspoken woman.
Lewis: That’s an insecurity?
Jameela: It’s not an insecurity now but it’s one that I have to move past. But when you are bright and if you funny that is something that hasn’t really been like or celebrated or really acknowledge in the world as a good thing for a woman, and I was actively told that I wasn’t smart or funny by male writers back in the United Kingdom, and really my only value was in my appearance and I was just a stander and look attractive while the boys did all the funny things and the writers and predominantly male and I was just never really given a change and also dealing with a lot of masculine and insecurity. I’m not saying all men do this there’s a lot of secure and wonderful ally men who are great but there are also a lot of men who are very threatened by an intelligent woman and a powerful woman who’s willing to speak out and not this fear of being like is so prevalent in female, because we are told that we must be likeable we must not be seen as problematic in any way. I think no longer being afraid of people thinking I’m unlikeable but difficult has been something very exciting to embrace. I am not here to be anyone’s friend like I’m here to educate people and wake people up and stop them from making all of the mistakes I’ve made that lost me 30 years of my life.
Lewis: You lost 30 years?
Jameela: I was mentally ill for so long but not now, I don’t consider myself mentally ill I have a lot of work come out of it, but I had a rough childhood with no money and lots of emotional problems due to circumstances I won’t go too far into because of a very difficult and traumatic childhood and then I was deaf on and off until I was 12. I think I notice I was deaf when I was 1 and a half and so I would have to have maybe 7 operations until we would restore just half of my hearing back and I still have any partial hearing now and I’m thinking of getting a hearing device at the moment because it gets worse as you get older. But I think that was a really difficult thing to overcome and then I got bullied at school for my color and for my size because I was chubby and because I went to an all-girls school and that can be brutal. I was hit by a car into another car and hurt my back so badly that I couldn’t walk for over a year and a half without crutches or walking frame and was pulled entirely out of like the socializing and the social growth of being a teenager. I was just this isolated weirdo who had no one come to visit me.
Jameela: Yes. And so I spent sort of sometimes a whole week entirely on my own without any human interaction other than my brother who himself was incredibly sick at the time who would take me to the toilet, but other than that no other real interaction.
So, I would watch television from the second I woke up into the second I fell asleep and watching television on daytime TV. So those characters became my friends and those people became how I learn social norms and the TV shows that I was saying the daytime TV shows were helping me understand that my trauma that I had gone through up until then emotionally and psychologically. So generally and weirdly I owe a lot on daytime TV because it helped me identify the evils of my life and start planning how to get away from them. So, everything I know I owe to a television.
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You feel like your character is empowering people watching you to breakthrough certain norms or beliefs?
Jameela: Probably not my character but I think the Tahani the character I play on the show. Yeah, I think it’s just great to see South Asian woman whose main storyline isn’t being about a South Asian, it’s just sort of it’s not really important to my character and I think that it’s brilliant and I love that about it. Everything is very diverse and just very normal and people respond to that because they can actually identify with it. We’ve seen we have categorical proof of how much success you have when you include the people that we have disregarded for so long. Look at Black Panther, Crazy Rich Asians, Bridesmaids, and the Good Place like all these hits are happening because people are denying most of the world of representation just mean you are denying yourself a huge spending power, because people can’t relate to the stories anymore so they’ve stopped going and they stop paying to see storylines that they can’t relate to. It’s dumb.
Lewis: Yeah it is.
Jameela: It’s like when you deny yourself or when you deny women their rights and certain countries in this world and you wonder why you’re still a 3rd world country. So, it’s cool to be a part of a show that definitely it runs throughout all of it, I think there could stand to be more disability representation and more LGBTQ+.
Lewis: I think [?] did a great job 5 years ago. I watched this all the time that and Nashville because I love signing shows because I can’t sing and I was like ‘I like what I can’t do.’ And you know they had someone in a wheelchair they had some people of all races and colors.
Jameela: And look at the success.
Lewis: Now how did you get this role in the first place because you came to be a screenwriter is that right? Were you just writing and someone said audition for this?
Jameela: Well, if you go back to 10 years I was English teacher who was approached by a producer in a pub said that he thought, we started a conversation and he said he thought I was funny and then there was this huge national audition going for this big hosting job in the U.K and I was like ‘no, thank you.’
Lewis: Teaching high school English?
Jameela: English was a foreign language when I was teaching high school English.
Lewis: You got the gig?
Jameela: So I got the gig where we later I was live on television not knowing myself how I knew all of the [?], I was able to read a teleprompter it was so natural to me and I have never done anything like that and it was because of the television. So, that lead to a radio career after I did that a couple of years I decided I wanted to step away from the camera because I was tired of being reduced to nothing more than my aesthetic, so I move onto the radio where I have to prove that I could actually be a broadcaster and that went really well and I was the first woman to ever be given the official chart which is our billboard 100 which has been on air for 60 years and never been given to a woman.
Jameela: Thanks. I did that a couple of years and that did really well and I really enjoyed it and I have huge respect and love for the BBC but I was still restless, I still had more that I wanted to do and in the United Kingdom especially even 6 years ago, I mean still now there isn’t much but diversity is still such a problem and female interesting jobs and roles are still few and far between, we still have a competition called ‘rear of the year.’ These are broadcasters who’ve worked really hard to where they are being reduced to their buttocks which you know that’s your vibe that’s cool I am not judging that, but that wasn’t for me. I didn’t want to become a reality TV star and go on like a dancing show, I didn’t want to do any of those things. For me personally I wanted to be able to have the [?] I deserved and every time I come to America I turn on the television and you had curvaceous African American in their 50’s hosting good morning shows and all race and color and sexuality on these big mainstreams shows. So, my heart was calling for America and also I wanted to be a writer and in England you’re very much told to stick to your lane, either you’re a host or an actor or you’re a DJ you can’t be a multi [?] whereas in America they see multi [?]. And so you are an example of building his own empire and that’s kind of inspiring.
So, I was toying with the idea of leaving but I have also had that typical fear which I think was especially hits women of like ‘you’re lucky to be in any room you’re in.’ So, I had not been honoring that on that feeling of unrest in me and a lack of stimulation and then a doctor found a lump in my breast which is huge and I had a week to find out whether it was cancer or not. I kind of get this every decade I get health scare and kicks me in the ass. In a week I had a bucket list of everything that I would do if it turns out to not be cancer and the number 1 thing was to move to California. I had no plan, no visa, no agents and no nothing and like lost all of my money trying to set up, well I basically gave away all of my money to charity. So, I didn’t really have a lot going for me this time other than the profile that I built up in the United Kingdom. But a week later I found out I didn’t have cancer I had to have operation 6 weeks to that date and you can fly so that was the day I flew out on a 1-way ticket to America with all of my bags and no idea what I was gonna do.
Lewis: This was what, a couple of years ago?
Jameela: 4 years ago. That’s around the time we met and I had written this pilot that got sent to [?] by a friend just to see if anyone wanted to represent me and they did and they signed me as a writer. Then this audition for the good place came up and I was kind of out of cash at this point, so instead of looking to host or do something I didn’t think it would be acting but I was kind of pressured by my agent to go for this audition. So, my agents and managers forced me to go to this audition for The Good Place even though I was so certain I couldn’t act. So, now I am an actor on The Good Place and I’ve almost kind of completed all of my multi-hyphonates.
Lewis: Do you think you’d be able to make the impact you’re making without being on TV?
Jameela: No and that’s the sad thing about it you know and I think that when people don’t acknowledge that privilege is really depressing, like my looks even though 10 years ago my looks were considered not attractive because ethnicity was not in and I used to be called a monkey on Twitter every single week, now my looks are more in so I therefore can say that I have whatever they would describe this sort of I have a societally conventionally attractive aesthetic so they call that pretty privilege and also slim and also I am wealthy now so I have that privilege, and also I have a platform. I am bursting with privilege just because I have been through a lot then subjected to a lot of racism and all these different things. It doesn’t mean that I do now have the privilege and it’s interesting because some people not many people most people support my activism, but some people say I’m too privileged to speak out for the under-privileged.
Lewis: No matter how much you try to serve or help like you’re always going to be judged.
Jameela: Like also a clever way to or a stupid way to silence everyone because we don’t listen to the underprivileged. So, we kind of just step on them and push their voices out and so you’re either with the attractive [?] or the fat [?]. I’m determined to use the key of my privilege to open the door for other people and more people need to do that it’s a shame that so many people with power and privilege way more power and privilege and influence than I have congratulated me privately but don’t stand alongside me for fear of losing money.
I was a teenager who had an eating disorder and anything a celebrity would recommend that they attributed falsely to how they kept their physique because I don’t know everyone has an eating disorder. I remember even Oprah used to be big in the game of recommending weight lost stuff and if Oprah was like ‘I drink oolong tea to lose 60 pounds’ then I would drink 10 cups of oolong tea a day that I didn’t know was the most caffeine you can ingest. So, I was there shaking and having palpitations and unable to sleep for months at a time. We’re not given any information when we were young about these things and we don’t know what we’re taking, we also don’t know the lies about it.
Jameela: Kids believe that and they buy it because they’re innocent, and grown women and adults are buying this stuff that they think make them look like some sort of superhero aesthetic we see on Instagram. I’m just basically pulling down the trousers and lifting up the skirts of the industry to show everyone that it’s all bullshit and I try to walk the walk and make sure no one is ever allowed to shoot me.
Lewis: You started this account was it a year ago I think? I way?
Jameela: Yeah. I kept on seeing pictures of women, famous women, whose worth 10’s of millions and sometimes a billion and their weight would be written across their bodies on Instagram.
Lewis: Their weight?
Jameela: In kilograms or pounds so like would be written across their bodies with their heights so that you could compare your weight to their weight. And we do this with all female celebrities. We do this to terrify women into losing weight and then they have to go and buy all these quick fix weight loss products in order to do that and they panic about it and think about it all day, which I feel like almost either deliberate or non-deliberate. But I think it might be more deliberate brilliant tactic to slow women down is if we’re always neurotic about [?], and worrying about time and worrying about gravity and wrinkles and all these different things are coming to us all. We celebrate wrinkles in men and we think gray hair in men is sexy and dignified. We don’t [?] or whatnot on screen we always show the older man with the much younger woman, like we really value an older man. But an older woman has to be sort [?] to the point where she looks like an emoji of a front cover of magazines, and we even do that on screens.
So, if you [?] people with this much information of what is completely natural and you shame them about it all the time, then what happens is they spend time that they could be spending on growing their business. They’re not growing anything they are consumed with this evil pointless nonsense thought pattern of self-hatred and it wastes time, it wastes a lot of my time and now I don’t really like to spend a lot of time. I look at myself in the mirror in the morning put on makeup if I feel like a bit and then I get out of the house not worrying about or thinking about it all day, I consider every inch that my size and arms grow to be a little acts of resistance against an industry that taught me that I have to be thin and I have to take up little places in order to be deemed valuable.
Lewis: What are the biggest lies that were told right now the toxic lies that just aren’t true?
Jameela: Almost everything we’re being told is lies because we’re being sort of fed constant fear about one another and for those who have privilege where the people at the top kind of teaching them that equality would be oppression for them. And so privilege people are afraid of extending their privilege for other people and sharing their privilege with other people, because they are thinking what will be taken away from them rather than what other people have been denied all this time. And we’re not taught to share we are taught to fear. And we’re taught greed is a good and fair right thing and we demonize people who don’t have the privilege and say it was their fault. I think part of that comes from there’s a woman called ‘your fat friend’ on Twitter who once told me that she thinks that our fear of obesity and the reason we’re so fat phobic and so rude about fat people is that it’s our own fear of becoming fat ourselves that makes us blame and shame them. We do the same thing with poor people we do it with a lot of marginalized people.
So fear we fear women we fear [?] women about the way that they look, we fear what our male colleagues earn. I always ask my male colleagues what they earn because I think it’s insane that that’s a taboo conversation. Why is it weird to ask someone else what they earn? Why is it a rude question?
Lewis: I ask it all the time.
Jameela: I love asking people what they earn especially men so that I know what I’m getting is fair. I can compete with my male peers and so there’s no reason that I should be paid less, I’m bringing a lot of people to the table, I have a higher social media following than a lot of people and that is purely for intellectual property. So, I believe we all deserve to be equal and I think making that subject taboo has been a brilliant way of making sure that everyone is in the dark about inequality. It’s also weird to ask a woman how old she is, it’s not weird to ask a man how old he is.
Lewis: So someone asked you how old you are?
Jameela: Yeah, 33. I’m not blaming men for that fear I am saying why have we made that a weird thing? Why is surviving a really long time? How absurd is that? Why is that something to be embarrassed of? It’s brilliant. I don’t want to see the young person dead I want to see old.
Lewis: Wrinkled and used up.
Jameela: I’m going to be a giant testicle and that’s fine with me because I’m going to be a testicle that lived without worrying and laughed and loved and didn’t spend too much of my life thinking about these things that are fundamentally unimportant.
Lewis: I love that. For the women out there who feel like they don’t value themselves, they’ve got all these insecurities they’ve been brainwashed through family or social norms or media or whatever it may be.
Jameela: And competition.
Lewis: How did you start to let go of that and value yourself? What would you recommend to someone listening who is really struggling with that?
Jameela: Therapy. It’s so ridiculous, again that’s become a taboo thing it’s very clever way to control us. If we’re not mentally well and strong and sound as possible then how come we ever succeed and how can we ever be successful? Because if we are happy and content and successful. If we are weakened and suffering then we are more likely to be uncontent. So, if we are not content then we are more likely to consume. So, a world that operates to consume anything cars, products.
Jameela: Consumerism relies upon our unhappiness. So, therefore it’s very clever to then make it something to be ashamed of having therapy, whereas therapy is just going and talking to someone about secrets that isn’t, that person isn’t gonna hold secret against you later down the line. It’s the best thing in the world and we should all be doing it and it’s not a sign that there’s anything wrong with you it is the surest sign that there will not be anything wrong with you going forward.
Lewis: That you won’t bottle something up and explode on people later.
Jameela: A lot of people say that depression is repressed rage and I really believe that for myself and so much rage bottled up in me because of how hard my life has been up until you know the last couple of years really and that came out as depression and I really believe that a lot of my repression came out in that hard lump in my breast that I had to have removed.
So, it’s really important just to get all of this toxicity out of you that’s the only elimination worth doing is a psychological one.
Lewis: What advice do you have for men about moving forward from where we are now to having a more peaceful living environment for decades and centuries to come?
Jameela: Well, these things that men can do for women but there are also things that men can do themselves. Men are all so subjective to so much toxicity and so much shame and you know they are taught that they cannot be sensitive and they cannot be soft because soft is associated with weakness. So, I think men need to acknowledge in which they are being constantly fed this information from the minute they are born. So men are just told about these lies about what they are supposed to be, and I think actually once you see it you can’t unsee it and you look at all the signaling and the messaging for you as a young man.
As a man in this world, you have to look at all the things you are being told and then register how those things actually make you feel. Male suicide is the highest it’s ever been, male impotence is the highest it’s ever been like somethings wrong. There’s something going on that we need to identify and I have a lot of sympathy towards men, I don’t deny that they have been hugely problematic and a part of this is the oppression of women comes from their direction, but I also register a lot of men grow up indoctrinated over this society.
Lewis: They are not allowed to be in a way, just like women aren’t allowed to be a certain way men aren’t allowed to be in a certain way.
Jameela: And I think men are taught to fear women strength I think maybe perhaps there’s an insecurity like a deep almost cellular level that makes some men afraid especially in certain countries more than others. I think that’s a really sad way to look at our relationship because women are now able to make the person [?], we then feed the person with our body now we can go out and we can work.
Lewis: Game changer.
Jameela: So many different ways in which we are liberated that men seem to have not been taught the value of the companionship between the genders and the joy of our differences and also how sex is lovely with a man if you are straight, and so is spending a day and listening to a man’s experiences and thoughts. Feminism is just supposed to be a quality of the social and economic you know quality of the sexes and I don’t think that’s a good way to go about things that are helpful. I really love and value the men in my life and I think my life would be worse without them. And I wish more men in a deep sense around the world could understand that there’s something so wonderful to be had in that dynamic that goes so far beyond your seed.
Lewis: If men only knew, like I just started seeing someone recently and I asked her “What’s something you’ve enjoyed with our time together the most?” and she said, “The moment you really opened up and I cried one time.” And she was like ‘when you cried with me it just showed me who you really are and made me love you more.’
Jameela: Make someone feel safe.
Lewis: And I was like ‘if men knew that showing emotion when emotion is had is such a powerful thing.
Jameela: It speaks sincerity and when someone is bravado and all these different, like, fronts we can sense that and we don’t like it, and those of us who think we like it often been conditioned by Hollywood to think and by literature to think that is a real man.
So, what I was trying to say about man is basically just like identify what you think actually defines your masculinity and investigate each of those things and see which of those actually brings through with you and which of those things oppress you, because they will be a huge key in unlocking the real you and the real you is likely without all of these sorts of [?], and to start looking at women of great value in life and great friends and [?]. Not all of us but not all many. And to find power and solace and love in the opposite gender I think that’s what they can do and then support us that you see other men treating women badly.
Jameela: Make sure you are not just being part of the problem, make sure that you’re actively tackling the problem with us.
Lewis: This is called the 3 truths. So, imagine it is your last day a hundred, 200 or 300 years away and you’ve extended your life as far as you want it to be. But you’ve fully used up your testicle at the end of the day it’s wrinkly and you’ve given it all. It’s your last day and you’ve accomplished or gone after everything you want. You’ve created everything that you want to achieve and dreams they’ve come true. But for whatever reason you can’t leave any of it behind you got to take it with you, so no one has access to your information anymore and you get to leave behind on a piece of paper or digital or whatever it may be, 3 things you know to be true about all of your lessons from your life that you would then share with the world. 3 lessons that you would leave behind and this is all you can leave behind these 3 truths, what would you say are yours?
Jameela: Do everything in your power to ensure your mental health that is your number 1 priority in this world, because with that mental health you will be able to not only empower yourself but you will be more valuable to other people and that you will be stronger.
Do not allow shame and guilt to be weaponized against you. These are non-things that have been, that is almost man made that have been created to keep you in submission and you must banish those things immediately in order to leave happily.
Make sure to be affectionate because physical affection to me is the number 1 favorite part of my life. All of the money and the success and all of the fame and celebrity that get to enjoy none of it means anything more than wake up in the morning and having a coffee and cuddle with my boyfriend.
I love the activist I am very proud of what I’ve achieved but truly like the relationship that I worked really hard to build with a loved one and with my friends and being affectionate, I think affection is something that we are so starved of in this generation because of this online dating. We started to fear intimacy.
Lewis: Why do we fear it?
Jameela: We fear it because we stopped it’s become foreign to us because everything is so digital and everything is so desensitized and humanize and because of these acts and because of these phones and computers, like we’re the most connected we’ve ever been but the most disconnected we’ve ever been because we stop engaging physically. And so physical affection is something that you really must actively seek out in your life and these things are kind of awful under the umbrella of your mental health and strength, but if I could have a 4th. The gratitude I know it sounds like a very L.A thing to say but if you are grateful and you are content then you beat the system.
Lewis: You have.
Jameela: If you are grateful and content then they haven’t manage to control you. And you are no longer a pawn in the game of consumerism.
Lewis: Imagine the greatest regret that you don’t want to have, imagine it’s that day and you didn’t do something or you didn’t go after something or you didn’t say something or you didn’t let go of something that you wish you would have done. What would that regret be that you never want to have?
Jameela: I hope this doesn’t come across as hugely conceited but I can’t even fathom one of those because nothing that I have yet to look back on.
Lewis: Now moving forward that you don’t do.
Jameela: Is there anything I don’t want to regret? If I don’t manage to kill shame on [?] then I would really regret that because I believe I have the tools, platform, and the ability to do that. I can’t think of it I can’t fathom it because I’m so aggressively in beast mode at the moment that I hopefully will have something to look back and regret.
You know what I’m wrong, I will regret if I spend all of my life just working because currently I just work 24 hours a day and I don’t have a social life and very exciting what I get to do and very stimulating but I also am not taking care of myself appropriately and so if I achieve all of these success and I save all of these other people and I make all of these money and empire that I’m trying to build but I didn’t also take the time out to enjoy my life and stop and look around, I think I will really regret that. So, I have that in the back of my mind all of the time the concept of balance because that’ll be sad. I don’t want kids who are just proud of me I want kids who if I choose to have children and if I choose to stay with one person I want that person to remember my love not just my achievements.
Lewis: I’ve got 2 final questions if we can go back to the 17-year-old who had no interaction with people for weeks at a time and only watch TV. What would you say to yourself now back then if you know everything now?
Jameela: I would say that if you turn all of these traumas that happened to you and something good and you helped other people then it would have been for something. So get up and get better and go out there and help people. I think that’s truly how teaching people how to not look at themselves just as victims but imploring them to take that struggle and turn it into gold of some sort be that emotional or financial gold I think can be very empowering. I would look at those years as the reason I am now empathetic emotionally, intelligent, and driven generous person and I would not be this person I would be a complacent emptier person without all of that struggle. So, I am grateful for it I would walk to that car again and I think it was one of the best things that have ever happened to me and they have contributed to my superpower in my opinion.
I think trauma is something that can hurt you and also can really truly [?] you into something interesting and strong and durable.
Lewis: I love that I’m sure she’d appreciate that.
Lewis: Well I want to acknowledge you for the courage you have to constantly do the things that are unpopular and to constantly do things that maybe pull you away from friends or family or people you’ve known for a long time. So, I mean I really acknowledge you for showing up and taking the leap across the world to come to a new place when you didn’t have anything, you keep stepping in the new opportunities where you’re not skilled at necessarily where you don’t have the experience and the confidence necessarily, and you’re taking the leap and you’re constantly using the platform for good which I really acknowledge.
Jameela: Thank you I am also still ignorant and problematic and stupid in many ways but that doesn’t discourage me from knowing I can do better.
Lewis: of course.
Jameela: I’m all, yank that way.
Lewis: How can we support you moving forward? We can follow you on Instagram.
Jameela: On @i_weigh which is the platform I built to empower people to measure themselves and value themselves by their attribute and contribution to society. It’s an incredible platform that is at 650,000 followers already. So follow us there you can follow me on my Instagram and my twitter if you want to see inclusive feminist progress who’s very willing to learn so [?] and embarrassed myself so frequently. But you can come to my space and feel like it’s okay to have ignorance as long as you’re willing to try to do better.
Lewis: Twitter and Instagram?
Jameela: It is @jameelajamil and I think I’m @jameelajamilofficial on Instagram because a little boy in Sri Lanka decided to steal my name on Instagram. I will be putting a book next year and I will be on the good place this year which is a wonderful comedy about moral philosophy and I will be turning i_weigh into a business. So if you want to come and work with us you can always find me on my social media, we are looking for people who are true allies to all people.
Lewis: So in i_weigh they can create a post as well?
Lewis: I’m gonna do one of those too I’m inspired.
Jameela: Thank you. I really want more men involved in my activism and in what I say about feminism and stuff like I really believe in the potential of our as a humanity and as an ally.
Lewis: This is the final question. What’s your definition of greatness?
Jameela: My definition of greatness is happiness. That to me is the hardest thing to achieve in this world more and more so every single year with everything else comes in the way of it. Happiness is the sign of success and it’s very rare to find success in happy people. If I manage to achieve both then I would truly the great success that I hope to be.
Lewis: Thank you appreciate it.
Jameela: Thank you so much.
Lewis: There you have it my friends I hope you enjoyed this interview such a powerful message. Be a hero and a friend for someone today by spreading the message of this podcast and the message of greatness. You can really impact people’s lives when you share valuable resources with them such as this or a book or a video that inspires you to help people improve their lives. That’s our mission here on the school of greatness is to impact people’s lives to improve, to grow, to find peace, to find love, to find harmony and I hope you got a piece of that today with this interview.
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And as Brene Brown said, “Courage starts with showing up and letting ourselves be seen.” What part of your life have you lacked the ability to show up? What part have you been closing off, hiding, projecting and not revealing your true self? Are you hiding in things that you are ashamed of? Are you hiding back on what you are guilty of? Are you hiding your other gifts and talents to other people around you and into the world? How are you hiding? Courage starts with showing up and letting ourselves be seen. Let yourself be seen today with a friend or family with your friends online and real life, you deserve it and they deserve to see you. I love you all so very much you know what time it is, it’s time to go out there and do something great.
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