Jameela Jamil (born 25 February 1986) is an English actress, radio presenter, model, writer and activist.
She began her career on Channel 4, where she hosted a pop culture series in the T4 strand from 2009 until 2012. She then became the radio host of The Official Chart, and was co-host of The Official Chart Update alongside Scott Mills on BBC Radio 1. She was the first solo female presenter of the BBC Radio 1 chart show.
In 2016, Jamil relocated to the United States. She is known for her role as Tahani Al-Jamil in the NBC fantasy comedy series The Good Place. She is also known as the host of the TBS late night game show in The Misery Index and as one of the judges of voguing reality competition show Legendary.
Jameela Jamil was born on 25 February 1986 in Hampstead, London, to a Pakistani father and Indian mother, Ali Jamil and Shireen Jamil. She stated in 2015 that she was born with congenital hearing loss and labyrinthitis, which she has had several operations to correct, and that she had 70% hearing ability in her left ear and 50% in her right ear. At the age of nine she was diagnosed with hypermobile Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, a genetic disorder affecting the connective tissue in the body.
Jameela Jamil also stated that she was diagnosed with coeliac disease at age 12. She experienced mercury poisoning at age 21, which she attributes to mercury leakage from amalgam teeth fillings, and further exacerbated by the improper removal of them, which she declared burned holes in her digestive system.
As a teenager, she suffered from anorexia nervosa and did not eat a full meal between the ages of 14 and 17. She believes her eating disorder developed due to societal pressure, including magazine articles selling weight loss products. She has said that at the age of 17 she was struck by a car while running from a bee, breaking several bones and damaging her spine. She was told that she might never walk again but slowly recovered after steroid treatment and physiotherapy, using a Zimmer frame to start walking.
She credits the car accident for pushing her towards recovery from anorexia, saying it changed her relationship with her body. She attended Queen’s College School in London but was unable to complete her A-Levels because of her accident.
She then taught English to foreign students at the Callan School of English in London for two years. In a 2013 interview with The Independent, she said she worked as a model scout but never as a model, although in 2020, she revealed she worked as a model but denied being one in early interviews. She also worked as a photographer, fashion scout and model agent for Premier Model Management Limited.
2009–2015: Early media career
Jameela Jamil, pictured at the London Fashion Week, 2009
Jameela Jamil stated in an NPR interview that she was working as a teacher when she was discovered by a producer at a bar and asked to audition as a presenter. She then applied to be a presenter via email after seeing a T4 (youth slot of British free-to-air Channel 4) job advertisement.
Jameela Jamil appeared on Music Zone on E4, the youth channel owned by Channel Four, towards the end of 2008. She then began presenting at Channel 4‘s youth slot T4 in 2009. In January 2009, when the previous presenter Alexa Chung left the morning TV show Freshly Squeezed, Jamil succeeded her as co-host, alongside Nick Grimshaw. In 2010, Jamil presented The Closet, an online fashion advice show on the social networking site Bebo produced by Twenty Twenty Television.
From 2011 to 2014 she wrote a column for Company, the women’s monthly magazine. In January 2012, Jamil replaced June Sarpong as the host of the reality show Playing It Straight. In June 2012, Jameela Jamil collaborated with Very to debut her first fashion collection. At the end of 2012 Jameela Jamil became the radio host of The Official Chart, and was co-host of The Official Chart Update alongside Scott Mills on BBC Radio 1. Jameela Jamil made radio history, becoming the first sole female presenter of the BBC Radio 1 Chart show.
2016–present: Transition into acting
It’s very exciting. I know it shouldn’t be a big deal, but there’s also a huge lack of ethnic minorities in showbiz. I’m completely Asian – not mix – and I’m so proud to be such a big part of Radio 1. I actually can’t wait to get started now!
Jameela Jamil left London in 2016 and moved to Los Angeles, with no plans of acting, instead intending to work as a screenwriter. While working as a writer at 3 Arts, her agents told her that Michael Schur, who co-created Parks and Recreation, was looking for a British actress for a new upcoming comedy series. Having no prior acting experience at this point, she went for the audition and told the casting director that she had stage acting experience. She was later recalled for a second interview with Mike Schur and all of the producers, in which she claimed to have comedy improv experience. She was eventually given the role.
The show premiered in September 2016, with Jamil being a regular cast member of the NBC fantasy comedy series The Good Place, where she played Tahani Al-Jamil. Jamil’s character became known for her tendency to name drop.Jamil at San Diego Comic-Con on July 20, 2019
Jameela Jamil made her first American magazine cover on the February 2018 issue of The Cut. She provided her voice as a guest on the animated television series DuckTales. In 2018, Jameela Jamil joined the cast of Disney’s Indian-inspired cartoon set in fictional Jalpur. Mira, Royal Detective is expected to air on Disney Junior channels in 2020, with Jamil playing Mira’s Auntie Pushpa. In 2018, Jamil hosted a recurring segment on Last Call with Carson Daly during its final season, entitled “Wide Awake with Jameela Jamil”.
In March 2020, she posed fully-clothed in suit and tie for Playboy magazine’s “On Speech” issue. She later tweeted, “From my Playboy shoot, I wanted to be shot like a man. No retouching, hi res, loose, comfortable clothes and completely unsexualized. I felt extremely free.”
In April 2020, she debuted her podcast I Weigh with Jameela Jamil, which focuses on women’s accomplishments, body positivity, activism and racial inclusivity. In October 2020, the podcast was nominated for an E! People’s Choice Award.
Late in 2015, Jameela Jameela Jamil launched Why Not People?, an events and membership company dedicated to hosting live entertainment events accessible to people with disabilities. In March 2018, Jamil created an Instagram account called I Weigh, inspired by a picture that she came across online of Kourtney, Kim and Khloé Kardashian with their half-sisters Kendall and Kylie Jenner, detailing each woman’s weight.
Jameela Jamil describes I Weigh as “a movement… for us to feel valuable and see how amazing we are, and look past the flesh on our bones”. The account welcomes submissions of followers’ non-edited or airbrushed selfies using the hashtag #iweigh, with text describing the things that they feel grateful for or proud of. In part due to this work, Jamil was listed as one of BBC’s 100 Women during 2018.
Jameela Jamil has been a critic of diet shakes and appetite suppressants. She explained that in her teens she starved herself, took laxatives and tips from celebrities on how to maintain a low weight. She has criticised the Kardashians, rapper Cardi B, and other influencers for promoting diet suppressants via social media. Jameela Jamil created a petition via change.org, titled “Stop celebrities promoting toxic diet products on social media”, with a goal of reaching 150,000 signatures. She called upon social media networks such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to ban the practice, noting its dangerous rhetoric on young impressionable teenagers. In September 2019, Instagram rolled out new global policy restrictions to help protect teen users.
There’s little to no information about the side effects or main ingredients, the harm they may cause or any of the science behind how these products are supposed to work. They are instead, flogged in glossy paid adverts by celebrities and influencers with no expertise or authority in nutrition/medicine/biology.— An excerpt from Jamil’s diet petition
Using social media, Jameela Jamil often calls out media industry standards and labels other female celebrities as “double agents of the patriarchy” by promoting unhealthy body image, often invoking her own experience of having an eating disorder in her arguments. In 2013, she criticised Rihanna in her column for Company magazine, blaming the artist for maintaining a relationship with her abuser for fame, smoking marijuana, and for posting “provocative images on Instagram to millions of hungry followers”. In 2014, she wrote on her disapproval of Beyoncé sexualising her public image like Nicki Minaj, Rihanna, Miley Cyrus, Iggy Azalea and criticised all these artists for “deluding themselves into thinking it’s ‘feminism’ if you get your fanny out on “your terms.”
In 2019, she called out rapper Cupcakke on Twitter for posting about doing a water fast. Jamil often calls out Kim Kardashian for promoting unhealthy body ideals, such as by wearing a corset, promoting body makeup to cover skin imperfections such as psoriasis and for offering maternity shapewear for her fashion line. In August 2020, Jamil announced on Twitter that she was deleting tweets from 2009 to 2020 in order to make her account more activism-focused. Months later in November 2020, Jamil claimed that it was a third-party app which caused her Twitter posts to disappear in the previous months, and that she had deleted her entire Twitter post history to figure out why her posts were being removed.
Jameela Jamil is against the airbrushing of editorial images and refuses to retouch all her photo shoots.
I think it’s a disgusting crime to Photoshop your images and put them out there in the world without announcing that’s what you’ve done. It’s a lie, you’re lying to your fans, and your followers, and people who look up to you. You’re an asshole. I really believe that. You’re an asshole.— Jameela Jamil, An excerpt from the 2018 Nylon magazine cover interview
She is also critical of the fashion and modelling industry standards and remarked that runway models looked “long-starved” and “terrified”. Jamil frequently references Victoria’s Secret models as a counterexample to her own identity. She has also called Chanel designer Karl Lagerfeld a “ruthless, fat-phobic misogynist” after his death.
Jameela Jamil appeared on C4 Orange Rockcorps 2009, volunteering to help create a concert to fund local community projects. She has supported the Cultural Learning Alliance, which promotes access to culture for children and young people, and Vinspired National Awards for people aged 16–25 who have contributed to their communities through volunteering. Jameela Jamil designed her own version of SpongeBob SquarePants to be auctioned off with all the proceeds going to Childline.
Jameela Jamil also said that she would wear a chicken costume for the same number of days equal to the number of thousands of pounds she raises for Comic Relief. She was sponsored approximately £16,000 and wore the costume for 16 consecutive days.
Jameela Jamil has been in a relationship with musician James Blake since 2015. She came out as queer after her appointment as a judge of voguing reality series Legendary received backlash, as voguing ball culture is rooted in black and Latino LGBTQ communities in New York.
In interviews, Jamil has mentioned several bee attacks in her life, including being hit by a car at age 17 when running away from a bee. In 2015, Jameela claimed that while she was interviewing musician Mark Ronson in the Hollywood Hills, the ‘biggest swarm of killer bees’ she had ever seen made them retreat.
Ronson contradicted Jamil’s version of events, describing ‘one or two individual bees’ and walking ‘slowly inside’ in response. Jamil related that while filming the first season of The Good Place in 2016, she was chased by a dark swarm of bees and again got hit by a car. In 2019, Jamil states she ran away from bees while crossing the road to the UN headquarters to give a speech.
In several UK interviews in 2013 as well as on the 1 October 2018 episode of Good Morning America – complete with video footage of her falling  – Jamil stated that she lost a tooth, smashed her nose, broke her elbow and several ribs, and got a concussion when she slipped and fell on her face while running around the set with Olly Murs at a recorded event leading up to the pair acting as presenters at the Orange Rockcorps volunteer’s London concert of September 2010. Jamil stated she glued her broken tooth together with eyelash adhesive after the incident, which has apparently held on as of 2020.
On 3 October 2019 in interview on HardTalk, a BBC News Channel programme, Jamil stated that she had been raped several times in her life and that in the past she looked at blaming women, but has changed to blaming the societal patriarchy that produces that scenario.
Jamil has also stated that at age 12 she was attacked by a man on Oxford Street, the main shopping street in London – recounting, “[He] grabbed my vagina […] in my school uniform at 3.30pm, so hard and for so long, that I bled and had to throw both of us against a wall to get him off”, that as a teenager, three men ejaculated onto her leg on escalators on the London Underground on three separate occasions, and that she has been the subject of many lewd acts by men since age 11. She also recounted that she was dragged into a car in Belsize Park as a 15-year-old, and was saved because someone saw her predicament.
In 2015, Jamil mentioned that she left the BBC Radio 1 Official Chart Show because of a breast cancer scare in 2014, and had lumpectomies on both breasts, in which she says she lost a ‘large chunk’ of breast tissue. However, in the 3 October 2019 Hardtalk interview, she concurs with the interviewer that she had a breast cancer scare ‘in 2016’, and that this precipitated an immediate move to Los Angeles after ‘a week’ waiting for test results that showed it to be a single ‘benign lump’.
Separately in a segment recorded in 2016 for Fashion Targets Breast Cancer, she instead describes having ‘recently’ experienced ‘a lump in her breast that showed signs of precancerous cells‘. Also in October 2019 in the same month as the HardTalk interview but not in the interview itself, she stated she suffered from actual cancer twice, having cervical cancer in 2016 and 2019. Jamil also revealed she has the autoimmune disease Hashimoto’s thyroiditis in 2019.
In 2020, a social media user accused Jamil of having Munchausen syndrome and falsifying or exaggerating specific public claims of health issues. For instance, Jamil claimed to have had a peanut allergy at birth and had recently posted an image of a peanut snack, though it is possible for peanut allergies to fade as a person ages. Jamil denied that she has the condition and the social media user clarified that they are not a medical professional.Jamil at the Grammy Awards, 2020
Jamil has also stated she has experienced anxiety, depression and obsessive-compulsive disorder in various interviews. On 10 October 2019, as part of World Mental Health Day, Jamil stated she survived a suicide attempt six years prior. In an episode of the talkshow Red Table Talk in 2020, Jamil revealed that she attempted suicide for the second time eight years ago due to a nervous breakdown. She also stated that she partook in EMDR therapy to treat her post traumatic stress disorder prior to her move to Los Angeles
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