The Untold Truth Of Jameela Jamil

Jameela Jamil, the actress who plays the ultra-sophisticated Tahani on the hit NBC show The Good Place, is a star on the rise. She was one of the breakout actors of the popular sitcom, whose cast includes big names like Kristen Bell and Ted Danson. Fans quickly fell in love with her character's name-dropping ways and her superficial diva attitude that masked a vulnerable and caring soul.

Jamil isn't just making waves because of her role on The Good Place, though. The star has also become something of a social media sensation who is quick to comment on social justice issues. While she might be new on this side of the pond, Jamil has actually been in show business in her native England for quite some time. Here's everything you need to know about Jameela Jamil, from her early childhood and career in the United Kingdom to her time taking Hollywood by storm.

Severe bullying made her childhood difficult

Although noted for her seemingly effortless glamorous look today, Jamil was far from a fashion icon growing up. Her schoolmates were not very kind to her, and Jamil was bullied throughout her childhood. "I was physically and verbally [abused] very badly at school," she told HuffPost. "Like beaten senseless by kids for being from a Pakistani family and for being poor. That was before the age of 10, and that went on until I was about 16."

It wasn't just her race that Jamil was tormented for, but also her size. "I was very chubby on and off at school," she said. "I didn't look like the other girls. I was much taller than everyone else. I had bad skin, and braces."

The bullying that Jamil experienced is part of the reason that she is so committed to protecting marginalized groups today. "I think I was a teenager when I first started to really get angry about injustice, because I think in my life I faced so much direct injustice and racism and bullying and classism," she said.

She's faced with racism throughout her career

The bullying that Jamil suffered through for her race didn't stop when she left school. Throughout her career, she has been the target of harassment — not just in real life but also from people on the internet. "I've experienced racism out in the streets wherever I am," she told HuffPost. "I have experienced racism online from trolling. I just recently, in 2018, did this interview with Krishnan Guru-Murthy for Channel 4 and it was a widely circulated interview, and we got messages like, 'That room must have been stinking with those two Pakis in the room.' Those are the kinds of messages I receive on a daily basis."

This is one of the reasons she loves portraying Tahani on The Good Place, which has been noted for its diverse casting. "It feels like a true honor and it feels like a sign that the times are changing," she said.

Photo shoots can be a struggle

There's no question that Jamil is a beautiful woman, but even her slim figure doesn't fit the Hollywood ideal. "I'm a size 6 and 5'10", and I can't fit into most samples," she told Harper's Bazaar. "What is going on? If I have to be shot for press, which I'm contractually required to do for my show, I have to wear these clothes in order to be shot in these magazines. If I can't fit into the clothes, I can't be shot in a magazine, therefore I cannot fulfill my contractual obligation." Not fitting into clothing can come with a dose of self-shaming, said Jamil.

The pressure put on women is part of why Jamil, who has declared war on unrealistic standards, is part of the #AerieReal Role Models campaign. Like Jamil, Aerie doesn't believe in airbrushing its models. "There is a real rebellion happening, and a real revolution," said Jamil. "I didn't realize how tired and done women are with being routinely abused and made to feel not good enough."

Making strides in the body positivity movement with I Weigh

Jameela Jamil's history of disordered eating may be in her past, but she still struggles with her body image. "I can't get rid of it," she shared with Red, regarding her body dysmorphia. "Something's wrong with my brain and I will rally against it forever."

Her personal struggle is part of the drive behind the I Weigh campaign, an Instagram account that measures a woman's "weight" in her attributes and her accomplishments, rather than her physical size. She launched the account after seeing an Instagram post of celebs with their weights listed. "I snapped," she wrote on her blog. "I am just done. I'm so done with seeing this and letting it pass me by.... We are subliminally bullied all day by the magazines, the side bar of shame, social media, and by each other. The onslaught is so aggressive that we are going to have to retaliate with 10 times the strength to undo all of the damage to the global psyche of women."

Health problems have plagued her throughout her life

As an advocate for the body positivity movement, Jamil is quick to remind people that you can't know how healthy someone is based on their weight. "I have high cholesterol, severely low blood pressure, ehlers danlos syndrome, I'm pre-diabetic, super unfit, and a doctor once called me 'clinically weak,'" she wrote on Twitter.

The actress has suffered from myriad health problems since childhood. Born partially deaf, she was in and out of the hospital for surgery as a child. Today, she has 70 percent audibility in her left ear and 50 percent in her right. She also has severe allergies to shellfish and peanuts, as well as celiac disease, so she has to follow a very careful diet. 

For years, Jamil suffered from an eating disorder that continued until a car hit her when she was 17, causing injury to her spine. Confined to bed for a year, she thought she wouldn't be able to walk again without the help of a walker. "There's something about not being able to move that gives you a new respect for your body, and I honestly think that accident saved me," she told The Guardian.

The Good Place was her first acting gig

Believe it or not, Jamil hadn't had a single acting role before landing the role of Tahani on The Good Place. In fact, she hadn't even gone on a single acting audition. After a breast cancer scare, Jamil decided it was time for a change and moved to Los Angeles in 2015 (via Elle). She had no intention of becoming an actress. "I was told about an audition for this role and said 'no way, I've no training and I'm surrounded by people who've devoted their lives to this,'" she told BBC. "My agents pushed me into it and said 'let's see if you can act, if you can't act we won't send you to another one.'"

To Jamil's shock, she landed the role and was immediately star-struck by her colleagues. "I've never been so floored," she said. "I mean, I've started my first acting job opposite Ted Danson and Kristen Bell."

Jamil added, "The whole thing has been bananas. Absolutely terrifying. There's not been a day I've not been going — 'that's Ted Danson, that's Ted Danson.'"

Her career before acting was pretty impressive

Jameela Jamil might be new to acting, but she isn't new to show business. Her career trajectory has been a bit unorthodox. She first entered the workforce as an English teacher, before becoming a columnist and then the first woman to ever host the BBC Radio One Chart Show. The peculiarity isn't lost on Jamil, sho admitted to The Cut that her career has mostly been made possible through incredibly good luck.

"I don't know what the f*** I'm doing," she said. "Maybe I'll bring out a rap album; I don't know. Or become a professional tango dancer. I have no trajectory." She continued, "If I had a trajectory I probably would never have been able to do all the fun things I've done."

Jamil's laissez faire approach to life seems to be working out well for her. "I have high hopes but no expectation," she told The Call podcast.

The film Bridesmaids was life-changing for her

The 2011 film Bridesmaids drew comparisons to 2009's The Hangover. Far from being the typical chick flick, Bridesmaids showed that women can be just as raunchy and as vulgar as the guys and that stereotypical femininity isn't all it's cracked up to be. Jamil told HuffPost that the movie helped shape her because of how it portrayed women. 

"It was the first time I feel like I saw women on screen free to be disgusting, and to be themselves, and to be raw and honest and flawed," she said. "We see such a polished version of women all the time, and that is not who we really are on a girl's night in our house. We are filthy, and we're funny and we're disgusting, and we're bright, and we hide these things in ourselves because they are considered unpalatable for men."

Jamil's love for Bridesmaids reflects her desire for honest representations of women in the media, saying that the characters in the film "reminded me of me," adding, "I felt like finally there was a film that shows what women are really like."

She's been slammed for alleged anti-feminist stances

While she has become something of a feminist icon, not everyone is impressed with Jamil's stances. Some have slammed her for some of her past comments about women, such as a 2013 column written by Jamil in which she criticized singer Rihanna for posting a naked picture of herself on Instagram. "It just saddens me that so many young girls out there who look up to her as their icon, may be led to think that this is how to get attention, this is how you prove your worth, and rise within your world," she wrote. "Not to mention the thousands of talented young singers who watch how less clothes = more success. That's not how to get ahead or receive lasting respect in your field."

Other targets of Jamil's rants have included Beyoncé and Miley Cyrus, whom she claimed were supporting the patriarchy under the guise of self-empowerment through overtly sexual performances. Critics have pointed out that such criticism shames women for their sexuality, bringing Jamil's feminism into question.

A feminist in progress

Jamil acknowledges that her feminism isn't perfect, but she says that no one's is. It's all about the journey and growing into a more aware and understanding human being. "I think we are all feminists-in-progress," she told HelloGiggles. "I believe that we don't all have all of the answers, and I think that there's a great power in admitting to that, because then you create space for yourself to grow, and to learn, and to change."

The actress said that her feminism has evolved, and that she has learned more about intersectional feminism over the years and how to better uplift all women. "I'm someone who didn't understand feminism; I didn't even know the term intersectional feminism, I think because I just thought, 'Well, I love all people, so therefore I am an intersectional feminist,'" she said. "But my feminism wasn't specifically targeting and helping and elevating cultures that weren't mine. I was focusing on the plight of brown women, and therefore ignoring the plight of black women or women with disabilities or women who are deaf, or blind, or trans."

She says sexual harassment is "everywhere"

Jamil isn't a stranger to sexism, but then, is any woman? The actress shared her history of being harassed with Grazia in frank and terrifying detail. "I was 6 the first time a man showed sexual interest in me, 11 the first time I was groped, I was 12 when a 40 year old man grabbed my vagina on Oxford street 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," she said.

Even more horrifying, Jamil says, is how commonplace sexual assault is. "I've been groped maybe 20 times at rush hour, I've been raped. I've been followed," she said. "I've been stalked. I've been chased by groups of men I've had to outrun to save my life. I've been assaulted just for saying no to a man's phone number. I've been blackmailed in business in pursuit of sex. And I deal with constant rape and death threats on social media in my career." She noted that "the scariest thing" is just how many women have dealt with these experiences.

She wants more men involved in feminism

It's not enough for women to support the feminist movement. Jameela Jamil wants to see everyone championing equality, telling HuffPost that men — not just women — have reached out to her about her I Weigh campaign. This, she said, is the mark of true progress in the feminist movement. "I think it's actually very important to involve men in feminism," she stated. "I do think it's really important to not be divisive in the discussion about equality."

Jamil thinks that it's critical for men and women to unite in the battle against sexism, saying that "we need men's help." She added, "The oppressed need the help and the goodwill of the oppressors. Even if all men aren't trying to oppress us, unfortunately by doing nothing you are still a part of the problem. I think we need to do this with men. It's not a fight, it's just about equality."

A book is in the works

While people outside of the U.K. are largely unaware of Jamil's writing talents except for what she pens on her social media posts, her fellow countrymen have been reading her words for years. That might change in the future, though, as Jamil has announced that she has plans to write a book. According to BBC, the book will be based on the monthly lifestyle column she wrote for Company from 2011 to 2014.

Jamil has also flexed her writing talents for some other publications. According to her blog, she's written columns for The Times, Cosmopolitan, and HuffPost. Just when will this promised book come out? It's hard to say, as a date hasn't been announced, but it looks like it might take longer than her fans want. "I am writing a book," Jamil wrote on Twitter in June 2018. "Writing a book is stressful. The urge to procrastinate is extreme."

She won't hold back

People who make the mistake of thinking that Jameela Jamil is just a pretty face may very well find themselves on the receiving end of her sharp tongue. The actress doesn't tolerate haters. "My response to them is that you should f*** off and get in a bin," she told HuffPost. "The nearest bin ― find it, get in it and live there. I think it's fear that makes us discourage women from speaking out, especially women of color." She went on, "I think people know how badly women of color have been treated, and therefore they know how much rage has probably been stored up and they're afraid of what's going to happen when we open our mouths."

Jamil is determined to say her piece, no matter what others think of it, especially because doing so sets an example for the next generation. "I think it's sad that people are surprised that I have an opinion," she said. "And I think it's great that young women see that I said my piece and I spoke my opinion."