The legacy of female advocacy is one that beats the test of time, evolving to grandeur as every day passes. Jameela Jamil, actress and women’s rights activist, personifies the virtue of justice in her agenda to expose the plague of social media standards by targeting A-list celebrities, such as Cardi B and Khloe Kardashian, for their exploitative advertising of weight loss products. This has caused her to face much backlash from the general public: not just from fans but from fellow activists as well, due to her seemingly brash comments. This included comments such as hoping that “all celebrities sh*t their pants in public, the way the poor women who buy this nonsense upon their recommendation do.” 1 While her intentions were to point out the flaws found in Hollywood’s marketing tactics, her execution was also very deeply flawed and counterproductive.
Jameela Jamil’s rise to stardom was unlike most celebrities. Jamil was an English teacher who decided to go into radio hosting, TV presenting, and writing. She was even featured in The Times, Cosmopolitan Magazine, The Huffington Post and Company Magazine.2 After having moved to Los Angeles California and landing her role as Tahani Al-Jamil in The Good Place, she quickly gained a lot more fame and fans, thus giving her platform a new sense of importance and influence.3 While most celebrities are notorious for simply using their platforms as a source of monetary gain and fame, Jameela Jamil presented a sense of responsibility to go against that Hollywood norm of exploitation. Instead, Jamil began to quite crudely call out her fellow stars for taking advantage of their place in society, profiting off the insecurities many women and young girls face due to the social standards set by our very judgmental society. She even went as far as posting a video mocking laxative promoters, saying “I’ve got abs, but I’ve never done a day’s exercise in my life and I haven’t been on a diet, [and] I ate five hamburgers last night,” while pretending to drink a laxative while fart noises played in the background, and later cutting to Jamil, mascara running down her face, sitting on a toilet, clearly attempting to convey the realities behind the misuse of laxatives and other misleading weight loss products.4 These instances of outlash against popular A-listers gave people more reason to disregard her seemingly wild and empty allegations. Additionally, other activists lost respect for her as a role model for inaccurately painting an image of their mission.
Celebrities who glorify the idea of ‘rapid weight loss miracle pills’ or ‘rapid fat burning drinks’ do not realize that they are actually selling more than just a quick fix. Along with this ‘quick fix’ comes a lifetime of self-consciousness, self-image issues, and most importantly and dangerously, health complications. According to a study done at the University of North Dakota School of Medicine and Health Sciences, laxatives can cause symptoms such as dehydration, imbalances of electrolytes and minerals. In fact, in extreme cases of laxative use and over-use, their consequences can even be life threatening.5 The National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders released information stating 50 million men, women, young adults and children have suffered from an eating disorder in the US alone.6 Symptoms and consequences like these are usually ignored by the consumers because the companies selling these ‘weight loss’ products have found the best ways to market towards younger people. An excellent example of this is the use of vibrant pink packaging with pretty fonts, and especially having celebrities advertise them. While it could be argued that the celebrities who advertise weight loss products should not be targeted because they are simply selling a product, not a disorder, more common than not, those who take laxatives or detox juices partake in binge eating under the impression that all of the calories and food will be flushed from their system. However, this is not how the gastro intestinal system works in the human body. On the contrary, by the time the product takes effect, most, if not all of the calories, would have already been absorbed by the small intestine. 7 A plethora of young girls and boys have fallen into eating disorder-like habits and celebrities are not being held accountable for their recklessness in enabling this culture. Most choose instead to live in blissful ignorance.
Once she recognized that the best way to fight against this ever-growing problem was not with ignorance but education, Jamil apologized. Acknowledging that her initial efforts were giving the wrong impression of her intentions, Jameela sought out information and became educated in subjects regarding eating disorders, feminism, women’s studies, and the truths behind the big money corporations she was determined to bring down. Armed with the right information and a new mindset, Jameela Jamil became a respected woman’s rights activist. She took part in the Aerie REAL Role Model campaign, which was exclusively focused on brand inclusivity, taking steps towards representation of different body types and skin colors. The campaign included other role models such as renowned poet Cleo Wade and famed actress Samira Wiley. As an Aerie REAL Role Model, Jamil came to the realization that “It’s not that [she is] starting to love everything about [her] self. [She’s] starting to not care about the things that don’t matter and [to] care about the things that do matter, like what kind of a friend [she is], what kind of a colleague [she is], what [she is] contributing to the world and society, and how [she] make[s] other people around [her] feel,” proving that with time and education anyone can make the change towards self-enlightenment and just overall self-improvement to become an advocate.8
She later went on to become the founder of her own body positivity campaign called I Weigh, which has now reached 672,000 followers on Instagram. The I Weigh campaign focuses on teaching women and men that a person’s value does not come from the weight on a scale, placing emphasis on overall ‘life positivity’ rather than ‘body positivity.’ This is because in a society that focuses on the exterior alone, it is important to acknowledge all the wonderful inner traits that make a person who they are. Too many people today base their entire self-worth on how much they physically weigh and how they physically look in comparison to the many models on social media that have been made and built to be marketable. Jamil encourages people instead to look at what it is that truly determines someone’s self-worth. For example, Jameela began her campaign by posting a photo of herself with a list of characteristics that she believes make her who she is, stating “I weigh: lovely relationship, great friends, I laugh everyday, I love my job, I make an honest living, I’m financially independent, I speak out for women’s rights, I like my bingo wings, [and] I like myself in spite of EVERYTHING I’ve been taught by the media to hate myself about.”9 Through this movement, she and other campaign ambassadors have posted ways to live healthier and happier lives, such as posting inspirational quotes, lifestyle tips, and examples of other men and women’s I Weigh characteristics. Having an A-list celebrity use her platform to serve as an inspiration rather than taking the opportunity to profit off her fans is admirable and is a prime example of how celebrities can do more.
While Jamil is determined to fight the war against manipulative big money corporations, she has found more empowering ways to get her point across and make a long lasting impact. Her story has inspired other stars in her position to take more responsibility for the influence they have on their fans. She uses her story of growth to show that it is truly never too late to become an ally, activist or to simply become more knowledgeable in the issues our society has yet to deal with. And although she may have had a rocky start to her work as an activist, she now lives her life proving to women and men everywhere that every single person should “feel valuable and see how amazing [they] are beyond the flesh on [their] bones.”–Jameela Jamil. 10