When she took the stage as the keynote speaker at theCurvyCon, The Good Place star Jameela Jamil was very open about the optics at play there. She is not a plus-size woman, so why is she one of the loudest voices asking society to stop body-shaming women?
She was prepared to answer that question.
"I'm the only one that they're listening to, and I hate that," Jamil said of her public statements against diet culture, particularly the weight-loss products shilled by celebrities like the Kardashians. "I literally ask magazine covers to include other women on the covers with me of various colors and sizes and they say no. So my option is either I walk away and the conversation doesn't happen or I have to do the photo shoot by myself. ... I do appreciate that me being positioned as the thin savior is gross."
At the same time, Jamil's activism also comes from personal experience. She shared with the audience the story of how she was bullied about her weight at school and at home as a girl, leading to anorexia and dieting as a teen. She went through body shaming in a much more public way in her 20s, when she was a popular radio presenter for the BBC. Rather than focus on her success, the British tabloids spent six months harassing her about weight she had gained due to medications she had to take.
At the time, she said she was offered enough of her own weight-loss product endorsement deals to have her own “laxative castle” by now.
The fact that the press, and society as a whole, just treated her as a body depressed her then as it does now.
"You tell men grow up and be successful so you can marry the Victoria's Secret model," she said. "Whereas with women, it's just: Try to be the Victoria's Secret model. That's it. That's the only standard we're given."
So no, she's not just a skinny actress talking about other people. In 2018, she launched her "I Weigh" community, beginning with a viral Instagram post about how she's so much more than how much her body weighs. At the same time, she is adamant about the fact that her movement is not about "body positivity" per se.
"We don't preach body positivity because I'm a slim woman," she told theCurvyCon audience. "That's not my space. That is your space."