Jameela Jamil Talks Lockdown In LA And Her Empowering New Podcast

'It drives me crazy when you see celebrities talking about how bored they are in their mansions.'

jameela jamil

by Bonnie McLaren |
Updated on

‘The two words to describe me right now are just "horrified" and "bloated",’ Jameela Jamil{ =nofollow}says, speaking to Grazia from lockdown in Los Angeles. She is spending it with her friends and boyfriend. ‘We’re basically living in a frat house,’ she laughs. ‘I have to do all of my Instagram lives or news appearances from one tiny corner of my house because it’s the only part of my house which is clean.’ Minutes later she politely asks her boyfriend, musician James Blake, to shut the door as he starts playing video game Fortnite.

The former T4 presenter, now better known for her role in The Good Place and her activism, is speaking to Grazia as she launches her I Weigh podcast, which discusses mental health with the likes of Billy Porter, Gloria Steinem and Roxanne Gay. ‘We considered actually putting [the release date] off when the pandemic hit because I feel gross promoting anything which isn’t the NHS,{ =nofollow}’ she explains. ‘But, at the same time, this conversation about mental health couldn't be more timely - people are stuck in doors with no access to therapy, and no one to talk to.’

On the second episode of the podcast, the presenter debunks the stigma surrounding loneliness - something she told followers she suffered with during her teens and twenties, but was too embarrassed to admit - with the Surgeon General of the United States Dr. Vivek Murthy. ‘From the response we got it, it was the right decision [to launch the podcast],’ Jameela tells us. ‘The messages have just been unbelievable. And you know, we're not treading on light subjects. We're getting incredibly real about things because we're trying to destigmatize and demystify mental illness.’ The first episode was with actress Beanie Feldstein, who will star alongside Jamil in the film adaptation of Caitlin Moran’s How To Build A Girl. ‘Because of my job,’ she says, before asking ‘I have access to such wonderful people - whether they are artists or doctors or surgeons - why should I learn from these people by myself when I could share it with everyone else?’

We're not treading on light subjects. We're getting incredibly real about things because we're trying to destigmatize and demystify mental illness.

Despite the underlying pressure many feel to be productive right now - and maybe learn a new skill or take up yoga during this pandemic - the presenter says perhaps the best use of your time ‘isinvestigating your mental health{ =nofollow}’. ‘If you are not feeling creative, then that is the best way I think you could be productive,’ she explains. ‘To be kind to yourself, and to figure out how to take away your own pain.’

In 2008, Jameela started her presenting career on Channel 4’s now defunct Freshly Squeezed. Her first celebrity interview, she says, was with Reese Witherspoon and Vince Vaughn, when they were promoting the film Four Christmases. (‘She was so generous and kind. She has that Tom Hanks energy.’) Fast forward over a decade, and Reese is joining Jameela on her podcast, for a discussion which the presenter describes as ‘open’ and ‘emotional’. ‘Reese almost never appears on podcasts - she doesn't do that many big interviews, so I was very lucky that she agreed to do mine,’ Jameela admits. ‘I think it was probably something to do with the fact that she follows I Weigh and has campaigned for it from the beginning. But also I think she did it because she was my first ever TV interview, and now as I'm beginning my podcast, she [wanted to support] that as well because she literally cannot stop supporting women.’

She has tried to pay it forward. On what many people thought was an April Fools', on the first day of the month Jameela posted an Instagram photo with the caption ‘wanna text me?’ followed by a number. On social media, she was quick to clarify it wasn’t an April Fools', and talking to Grazia, she explained that it’s a service she’s taking part with over 9,000 Americans as a support network for those struggling. ‘[I’m] sending strangers personalised voice notes and videos,' she explains. 'Someone [talking to me] was pregnant and got dumped at the beginning of the quarantine, so she's been reaching out to me, and I've just been offering her support.’ Jameela adds, exasperated, ‘I can't believe what people are going through right now.’

'I'm fine,’ she explains. ‘I'm so fucking privileged. And I’m also privileged enough to have had access not just to therapy, but the best therapist, I think maybe in the world, so I'm pretty robust. And I have the time and the stability to be able to help, and donate, and do all of these different things. That’s why it drives me fucking crazy when you see celebrities talking about how bored they are in their big mansions.’

In fact, she says, she ‘had to get off Twitter’ because of it. ‘I cannot believe the complaints that they're making, it’s making me feel sick,’ she laments. ‘I have not been bored for one second of this pandemic. There's so much we can do, so many organizations to get involved with: domestic violence charities or eating disorder charities or mental health campaigns.’

‘This isn't me virtue signaling,’ she continues. ‘I just don't understand what my peers think they're doing if they're trying to be relatable or something. It's not fucking relatable. Nothing about us is relatable. I've definitely been tone deaf in my past, but Christ now is not the time. Now is not the time to talk about how hard you're finding this. Emotionally, that's fine. But, but don't don't say you're bored in a house that would be someone else's dream holiday.'

Whereas Jameela is the first to admit she has made mistakes in the past - the actress says, since her profile has started to rise, she’s learned that she can allow herself time to speak on important issues. ‘I felt like I had an obligation to answer everything,’ she says. ‘And I've now learned that I don't and that sometimes by speaking before I'm ready I can end up causing harm.’

‘The first time I saw a headline that said that I was the feminist hero that we all needed, I thought “Oh, I'm fucked”,' she adds. 'Because I've never said that about myself, but people ingest it as if I write my own headlines. I think that I've done some good in the world. I think I've raised big conversations, and I'm proud of that, but I also recognize that I’m fallible and I speak sometimes when I shouldn't.’

I think I've raised big conversations, and I'm proud of that, but I also recognize that I’m fallible and I speak sometimes when I shouldn't.

Alongside the work she is doing, Jameela says she’s been watching a lot of comedy - ‘I’ve been on an Adam Driver binge’ - but she also tells us that she’s had to stop watching the news ‘compulsively’. ‘Practice self defense of the mind right now,’ she says, giving her advice to others who might be struggling. ‘Don’t follow influencers who make you feel bad about yourself: anyone who makes you feel fat, or poor or sad, unfollow. Don't watch the news compulsively. I had to stop a couple of weeks ago because I was starting to have almost panic attacks thinking about what was happening to people around the world. And the fact that I'm so far away from home, and worrying so much about my friends.’

The presenter is also shocked at some people's insistence on turning lockdown into a chance to diet. ‘Nobody is coming out of this with abs,’ she says. ‘I'm coming out of this chubbier, spottier, filthier, and hopefully, alive. And I'm fine with that.’

Before she hangs up the phone, Jameela is keen to share her last piece of advice. ‘Just get rid of your fucking scales, or hide them somewhere,’ she says. ‘Because in this moment, the idea of stepping on a scale that is going to tell you how happy or not you are allowed to be - because that's what it is - a scale is the thing that we [use to] determine on as to have permission on whether or not we're not have good day. Get the fuck away from the scales.’

You can listen to I Weigh here. Episode three, with Reese Witherspoon, is out April 17.

READ MORE: Jameela Jamil: 'I’ve Been Raped, I’ve Been Followed, I’ve Been Chased By Groups Of Men I’ve Had To Outrun To Save My Life'

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