Jameela Jamil Talks Activism & Social Media at AerieReal Event

This past weekend alopecia activist, mentor and model, Dani Candray, invited me to watch actress and activist Jameela Jamil give her first Real Talk. Jamil recently took on the mantle of being an Aerie Real Role Model. If you're not familiar with Aerie's Real mission, it is to empower all women to love their real selves. Since 2014, the retailer committed to stop retouching and Photoshoping their models in support of showing their natural bodies. The free event was hosted by Aerie and was held at the 1 Hotel in West Hollywood. The audience was filled with a diverse group of women and even a few men, all gathered to see Jamil get interviewed by renowned journalist Elizabeth Holmes. Jamil talked about everything from toxicity in social media to working entertainment as a women, and she did not spare a single opinion.

Holmes started off the interview by asking Jamil all about her start on social media, in particular on the controversial app Instagram. Jamil stated that she was sort of “forced” by her team to make an Instagram per contract. She was initially afraid of the app because of how triggering certain images could be, especially because she struggled with an eating disorder when she was younger. She explained her opinion of social media by saying, “Don’t click the explore button; it’s terrible for your soul! Social media starts targeting you to fix problems you don’t really have.”

When it came to the way some women gain their followings on social media, Jamil went on to state that from a non-shaming perspective, she noticed there was a trend of women having large followings based on their posts that involve a lot of Photoshop and tend to be sexualized toward straight men. The actress then went on to explain, “I wondered if I could get a large following the way men do, by having strong opinions or being gross like sitting on a toilet pretending to have diarrhea.” Jamil mentioned that post wasn’t her proudest moment, but she noted it was an effective message.

Being a women on social media often comes with the pressure to stick to the status quo. Jamil continued explaining why she changed her tactics on social media: “I wanted to be myself without feeling like I had to be the leader. I wanted to see if I could be powerful or scary and still succeed on social media.” 

Jamil went on to coach the audience on how they too could be more “scary” and confident in themselves. She advised us to “Start with micro-no’s. I challenged myself to a year of “no.” For example, if my coffee didn’t turn up right, I’d have them change it. Then it evolved to fixing my dinner order, then asking for a raise at work, etc.” She continued on to say, “You have to kill your inner bully… There was a seed of self hatred inside us as kids, and we grew with it.  My advice is to listen out for that bully because it’s distracting you from all the things you’re supposed to be paying attention to - it’s just holding you back.”

In the information age we’re currently living in, stories change within the time it takes for a few tweets to surface. Jamil continued on to advise that “Like phones, we need to update along the information. Now I’m speaking my truth and if I’m wrong, I say ‘Sorry, I fucked that up.’ and now you can all learn alongside me.” With the combinations of egos and ruthless pace of social media Jamil also touched on cancel culture and why it could drive people away from activism. She went on to explain “We’ve got to normalize people making mistakes. This new super-woke and evolved version of us where we’ve never made a mistake or been ill informed, that person doesn’t exist... if we tell people they can’t ever make a mistake, then they will stop seeing value in changing."

We’re all familiar with Jamil’s thoughts on how toxic social media can be; however, she still acknowledges that it can be used for good. With the help of her friend Megan, Jamil has founded I WEIGH, which is a website dedicated to advocating for and passing the mic to everyone so that no one feels left out when voicing their opinions, values and experiences. The Instagram boasts over 700k followers - one of which is the official Instagram account of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, Harry and Meghan.

When asked about her future plans for I WEIGH, she exclaimed, “I want to turn it into a company that’s a lifestyle website for your actual life. I want people to get information about being smarter and happier. We hope for it to be radically inclusive and promote the importance of community.” 

As the interview came to a close, Jamil reminded us of the reason why people are just now starting to listen to her. “It’s not my responsibility to make people like me, it’s to use my platform to speak truth. Without privilege, you cannot be fully effective. People say I’m too slim to speak for issues, but this isn’t the first time I’ve talked about weight stigma. When I was talking about anti-fatness and I was chubby, people called me bitter and jealous. I’ve been doing this for years, but they’re only listening now because they don’t want to know what other people are going through; we just bury our heads in the sand because we’re selfish and greedy bastards.”

Her answer was a reminder that she is just as angry and motivated to speak out like the rest of us; the only difference is that she has a larger platform to advocate from. The interview closed with Jamil reminding us of the progress we’ve made in the entertainment and beauty industries. “Ten years ago, you never saw women with brown skin or south Asian girls being celebrated. I’ve only recently come into this, but when I was growing up, I didn’t have anyone to look up to as a beauty standard.”

Jameela gave us a wonderful take-home message after her interview. She declared, “Go out there and arm yourself with knowledge. If you’re privileged in any way - white, able-bodied, straight, etc., make sure you are talking to other non-marginalized friends about their privilege because it’s not just about freeing just yourself but everyone else as well. Right now, we’re all under attack and that’s why we need to work together.”

Hearing Jameela speak was a motivating experience. I hope everyone gets the chance to hear her speak in person one day. Don’t forget to check out I WEIGH and continue to support women like Jameela who are using their platforms to change the toxic system we’re in.