Get to Know Jameela Jamil, Actor, Activist & Founder of "I Weigh" | The 2019 MAKERS Conference
Actor, activist and founder of the body positivity Instagram movement “I Weigh," Jameela Jamil is balancing the scales in favor of women. After noticing a toxic trend of pop-culture media judging women by their size, she took it upon herself to flip the script and measure women by the weight that really matters— that of their accomplishments.
JAMEELA JAMIL: I'm angry with irresponsible celebrities, who take a platform that they're given and they use it so greedily. And so I'm going to be part of the change, or they will have to kill me, which they probably will. I was a quiet kid. I was very weird. I was deaf from maybe the age of like one or two. Had seven operations on the inside of my ears before I was even 12 years old. And I think when you can't hear you become very, very hyper observant, hypervigilant. I just wasn't set up for being a teenage girl in an all girl school especially not one of the only poor girls in that school. I'm one of the only South Asian girls in a predominantly white school. I didn't eat really a meal between the age of maybe 14 and 17, probably longer. And I didn't menstruate during that time. And I was just a miserable obsessive anorexic, who would hide my food. But it was something that got knocked out of me literally when I was 17. I got hit by a car into another car and broke my back. And so I wasn't able to move for about two years. I gained 75 pounds and had to learn how to walk again, which really re-established my relationship with my body and made me realize that I'd really abused it and taken it for granted for a very long time. And so it's the best thing that ever happened to me. And while it didn't take away probably the body dysmorphia, it took away the habit of hurting myself deliberately. The day that the show got announced and my ratings were really big, way higher than anyone anticipated, the only thing that got reported about me was that I'd gained some weight. And there were photographs fat shaming me all over national magazines. And one of the worst things about that is that that was actually one of the best years of my life. But in all the photographs that they would publish of me, I look sad. It forced me just to fall in love with myself and to fight back, to fight back for myself and to fight back for women. In that week, I decided to make a bucket list or a fuck-it list as I like to call it. The number one thing on that list was move to Los Angeles. And a week later, it turned out not to be cancer. And I was told by, I'd say, nearly everyone that I was too old, too fat, and too ethnic to try and start a career again in the United States. We were just told that it was an annoying English Pakistani woman, who's too tall. And my agent looked at it and he was like, yeah, it's just you. So he sent me in for the audition. And I had no nerves really because why would they give me the job? I saw a picture of the Kardashian's with their weight written across their bodies. These are business women, and you would never have a picture of six businessmen reduced just to a number on a scale. I would like to weigh myself in what matters, and that was my financial independence, my activism, my relationship, my amazing friends, the things that I am grateful for. That's what I weigh. So that's why I started the iweigh movement because we're world leaders. We're leading scientists, and yet we're still being undermined and measured on a scale. This is ridiculous. I truly believe that making women obsessed with their image is a clever way to take our eyes off the ball. It means that we're not thinking about business, the way that as much as we could. We're not sleeping as best as we could. We're not able to grow the things that matter in our lives because we're so busy panicking about our bodies. What a genius way to stop us from becoming equal. How can we be as powerful as men when we're worried all the time. I'm done with standing back and watching women be hurt. And really, we've seen with MeToo and Time's Up, you just have to get loud and you have to be really, really fearless. And so the revolution is not only coming. It is here. [MUSIC PLAYING]