Jameela Jamil

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Jameela Jamil
Jamil smiles with a black microphone in front of her
Jamil at the 2018 San Diego Comic-Con
Born
Jameela Alia Jamil

(1986-02-25) 25 February 1986 (age 35)
London, England
EducationQueen's College, London
Occupation
  • Actress
  • presenter
  • model
  • writer
  • activist
Years active2009–present
Partner(s)James Blake (2015–present)
Websitejameelajamil.co.uk Edit this at Wikidata

Jameela Alia Jamil[1] (born 25 February 1986)[2] is an English actress, presenter and activist. She began her career on Channel 4, where she hosted a pop culture series in the T4 strand from 2009 until 2012. She then became the radio host of The Official Chart, and was co-host of The Official Chart Update alongside Scott Mills on BBC Radio 1. She was the first solo female presenter of the BBC Radio 1 chart show.[3]

In 2016, Jamil relocated to the United States. She is known for her role as Tahani Al-Jamil in the NBC fantasy comedy series The Good Place.[4] She is also known as the host of the TBS late night game show in The Misery Index[5] and as one of the judges of voguing reality competition show Legendary.[6]

Early life[edit]

Jamil was born on 25 February 1986 in Hampstead, London, to a Pakistani father Ali Jamil,[7] and a Pakistani-British mother Shireen Jamil.[8] She stated in 2015 that she was born with congenital hearing loss and labyrinthitis, which she has had several operations to correct, and that she had 70% hearing ability in her left ear and 50% in her right ear.[9] Jamil has stated that at the age of nine she was diagnosed with hypermobile Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, a genetic disorder affecting the connective tissue in the body,[10] and that she was diagnosed with coeliac disease at age 12.[11] She has also stated she experienced mercury poisoning at age 21, which she attributes to mercury leakage from amalgam teeth fillings, and further exacerbated by the improper removal of them, which she said burned holes in her digestive system.[12][13]

She has stated that she suffered as a teenager from anorexia nervosa, and describes not eating a full meal between the ages of 14 and 17. She believes her eating disorder developed due to societal pressure, including magazine articles selling weight loss products.[14] She has said that at the age of 17 she was struck by a car while running from a bee, breaking several bones and damaging her spine. She describes being told that she might never walk again but slowly recovered after steroid treatment and physiotherapy, using a Zimmer frame to start walking.[15][16] She credits the car accident for pushing her towards recovery from anorexia, saying it changed her relationship with her body.[14] She attended Queen's College School in London but was unable to complete her A-Levels, citing the accident.[17] She has stated she then taught English to foreign students at the Callan School of English in London for two years.[16][18] In a 2013 interview with The Independent, she said she worked as a model scout but never as a model,[17] although in 2020, she stated she worked as a model but denied being one in early interviews.[19][20][21] She also describes having worked as a photographer,[18] scout and model agent for Premier Model Management.[15][22][23]

Career[edit]

2009–2015: Early media career[edit]

Jamil, pictured at the London Fashion Week, 2009

Jamil stated in an NPR interview that she was working as a teacher when she was discovered by a producer at a bar and asked to audition as a presenter.[24] She also said she applied to be a presenter via email after seeing a T4 (youth slot of British free-to-air Channel 4) job advertisement.[25][26] Jamil appeared on Music Zone on E4, the youth channel owned by Channel Four, towards the end of 2008. She then began presenting at Channel 4's youth slot T4 in 2009.[27][28] In January 2009, when the previous presenter Alexa Chung left the morning TV show Freshly Squeezed, Jamil succeeded her as co-host, alongside Nick Grimshaw.[21][27][29][30] In 2010, Jamil presented The Closet, an online fashion advice show on the social networking site Bebo produced by Twenty Twenty Television.[28][29][31]

Jamil also started working as an event DJ in 2010.[32][33] She has stated that her first show was at Elton John's birthday party, where she says she was invited to DJ because she lied about having prior experience.[34][35] In subsequent interviews and social media, she stated that she worked as a DJ for eight years, after studying music for six years on a music scholarship.[36][37]

From 2011 to 2014 she wrote a column for Company, the women's monthly magazine.[28][38] In January 2012, Jamil replaced June Sarpong as the host of the reality show Playing It Straight,[39] in which a group of gay men lie about their sexuality and compete with a group of straight men for a woman's affections in order to try to win money. In June 2012, Jamil collaborated with Very to debut her first fashion collection.[40] At the end of 2012 Jamil became the radio host of The Official Chart, and was co-host of The Official Chart Update alongside Scott Mills on BBC Radio 1. Jamil made radio history, becoming the first sole female presenter of the BBC Radio 1 Chart show.[41]

2016–present: Transition into acting[edit]

It's very exciting. I know it shouldn't be a big deal, but there's also a huge lack of ethnic minorities in showbiz. I'm completely Asian – not mix – and I'm so proud to be such a big part of Radio 1. I actually can't wait to get started now!

 — Jamil, on being the first female host of The Official Chart[42]

Jamil left London in 2016 and moved to Los Angeles.[43] She recounts having no plans of acting, and that she instead intended to work as a screenwriter.[44] While working as a writer at 3 Arts, her agents told her that Michael Schur, who co-created Parks and Recreation, was looking for a British actress for a new upcoming comedy series.[45] Having no prior acting experience at this point, she went for the audition and told the casting director that she had stage acting experience.[46] She was later recalled for a second interview with Mike Schur and all of the producers, in which she claimed to have comedy improv experience.[47] She was eventually given the role.[48][49][50]

The show premiered in September 2016, with Jamil being a regular cast member of the NBC fantasy comedy series The Good Place, where she played Tahani Al-Jamil.[4] Jamil's character became known for her tendency to name drop.[51]

Jamil at San Diego Comic-Con on 20 July 2019

Jamil made her first American magazine cover on the February 2018 issue of The Cut.[52] She provided her voice as a guest on the animated television series DuckTales.[53] In the same year, Jamil hosted a recurring segment on Last Call with Carson Daly during its final season, entitled "Wide Awake with Jameela Jamil".[54]

Jamil's boyfriend, musician James Blake, stated that Jamil contributed to the production of his fourth album Assume Form in 2017-2018; she is credited as an additional producer to five songs on the album.[55][56]

Since 2019, Jamil has been the host of The Misery Index, a comedy game show on TBS.[57]

In 2018, Jamil joined the cast of Disney's Indian-inspired cartoon set in fictional Jalpur. Mira, Royal Detective debuted in March 2020, with Jamil playing Mira's Auntie Pushpa.[58]

In March 2020, she posed fully-clothed in suit and tie for Playboy magazine's "On Speech" issue. She later tweeted, "From my Playboy shoot, I wanted to be shot like a man. No retouching, hi res, loose, comfortable clothes and completely unsexualized. I felt extremely free."[59][60]

In April 2020, she debuted her podcast I Weigh with Jameela Jamil, which focuses on women's accomplishments, body positivity, activism and racial inclusivity.[61] In October 2020, the podcast was nominated for an E! People's Choice Award.[62]

In June 2021, Jamil was cast as the Marvel supervillain Titania in the Disney+ streaming series She-Hulk, set in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.[63]

In 2021, Jamil contributed to the production of James Blake's fifth album Friends That Break Your Heart, adding additional production to the albums first single, "Say What You Will".[64]

Activism[edit]

Late in 2015, Jamil launched Why Not People?, an events and membership company dedicated to hosting live entertainment events accessible to people with disabilities.[65] In March 2018, Jamil created an Instagram account called I Weigh,[66] inspired by a picture that she came across online of Kourtney, Kim and Khloé Kardashian with their half-sisters Kendall and Kylie Jenner, detailing each woman's weight.[67] Jamil describes I Weigh as "a movement... for us to feel valuable and see how amazing we are, and look past the flesh on our bones".[68] The account welcomes submissions of followers' non-edited or airbrushed selfies using the hashtag #iweigh, with text describing the things that they feel grateful for or proud of.[68][67] In part due to this work, Jamil was listed as one of BBC's 100 Women during 2018.[69]

Jamil has been a critic of diet shakes and appetite suppressants. She explained that in her teens she starved herself, took laxatives and tips from celebrities on how to maintain a low weight. She has criticised the Kardashians, rapper Cardi B, and other influencers for promoting diet suppressants via social media.[70] Jamil created a petition via change.org, titled "Stop celebrities promoting toxic diet products on social media", with a goal of reaching 150,000 signatures. She called upon social media networks such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to ban the practice, noting its dangerous rhetoric on young impressionable teenagers.[71] In September 2019, Instagram rolled out new global policy restrictions to help protect teen users.

There's little to no information about the side effects or main ingredients, the harm they may cause or any of the science behind how these products are supposed to work. They are instead, flogged in glossy paid adverts by celebrities and influencers with no expertise or authority in nutrition/medicine/biology.

— An excerpt from Jamil's diet petition[71]

Using social media, Jamil often calls out media industry standards and labels other female celebrities as "double agents of the patriarchy" by promoting unhealthy body image, often invoking her own experience of having an eating disorder in her arguments. In 2013, she criticised Rihanna in her column for Company magazine, blaming the artist for maintaining a relationship with her abuser for fame, smoking marijuana, and for posting "provocative images on Instagram to millions of hungry followers".[72] In 2014, she voiced her disapproval of Beyoncé sexualising her public image like Nicki Minaj, Rihanna, Miley Cyrus, Iggy Azalea and criticised all these artists for "delud[ing] themselves into thinking it's 'feminism' if you get your fanny out on "your terms."[73][74] In 2019, she called out rapper Cupcakke on Twitter for posting about doing a water fast.[75] Jamil often calls out Kim Kardashian[76] for promoting unhealthy body ideals, such as by wearing a corset,[77] promoting body makeup to cover skin imperfections such as psoriasis[78] and for offering maternity shapewear for her fashion line.[79] In August 2020, Jamil announced on Twitter that she was deleting tweets from 2009 to 2020 in order to make her account more activism-focused.[80] Months later in November 2020, Jamil claimed that it was a third-party app which caused her Twitter posts to disappear in the previous months, and that she had deleted her entire Twitter post history to figure out why her posts were being removed.[81]

Jamil is against the airbrushing of editorial images and refuses to retouch all her photo shoots.[82]

I think it's a disgusting crime to Photoshop your images and put them out there in the world without announcing that's what you've done. It's a lie, you're lying to your fans, and your followers, and people who look up to you. You're an asshole. I really believe that. You're an asshole.

— Jameela Jamil, An excerpt from the 2018 Nylon magazine cover interview

She is also critical of the fashion and modelling industry standards and remarked that runway models looked "long-starved" and "terrified".[83][84] Jamil frequently references Victoria's Secret models as a counterexample to her own identity.[85][49][82][86] She has also called Chanel designer Karl Lagerfeld a "ruthless, fat-phobic misogynist" after his death.[87]

Jamil also supports the climate change movement, expressing her admiration for Jane Fonda, Greta Thunberg and several other climate change activists.[88]

Charity[edit]

Jamil appeared on C4 Orange Rockcorps 2009, volunteering to help create a concert to fund local community projects.[89] She has supported the Cultural Learning Alliance, which promotes access to culture for children and young people,[90] and Vinspired National Awards for people aged 16–25 who have contributed to their communities through volunteering.[91][92] Jamil designed her own version of SpongeBob SquarePants to be auctioned off with all the proceeds going to Childline.[93] Jamil also said that she would wear a chicken costume for the same number of days equal to the number of thousands of pounds she raises for Comic Relief. She was sponsored approximately £16,000 and wore the costume for 16 consecutive days.[94]

Honours[edit]

Jamil was one of fifteen women selected to appear on the cover of the September 2019 issue of British Vogue "Forces for Change", by guest editor Meghan, Duchess of Sussex.[95]

On 2 August 2019, Jamil was awarded "Advocate of the Year" from the Ehlers-Danlos Society.[10]

Jamil received the "Phenom" award from the 12th annual Shorty Awards on 3 May 2020.[96]

Personal life[edit]

Jamil has been in a relationship with musician James Blake since 2015.[97][98] She came out as queer after her appointment as a judge of voguing reality series Legendary received backlash, as voguing ball culture is rooted in black and Latino LGBTQ communities in New York.[99][100][101][102]

In various 2015 interviews, Jamil mentioned that she left the BBC Radio 1 Official Chart Show because of a breast cancer scare in 2014,[103] and that she had had lumpectomies on both breasts, in which she said she lost a "large chunk" of breast tissue.[104][12] In a 2015 interview with the Daily Mirror, she instead describes the 2014 scare as a single "lump", and waiting "three or four days before the results revealed that the lump wasn't cancerous", and that this experience inspired her: "But once I was given the all-clear I thought, 'That's it. I'm out of here. I'm off to see the world and do all the crazy things I've never done.'"[105] In an interview originally broadcast on 3 October 2019 for HardTalk, a BBC News Channel programme, however, Jamil concurs with interviewer Zainab Badawi that she had a breast cancer scare "in 2016" (mm:ss 09:40–10:50), and that this inspired her 2016 move to Los Angeles immediately after a "a week" waiting for test results that showed it to be "just" a single "benign lump", as she had "always wanted to know what that would be like". She recalls her thought process as: "I was like, right. I don't have cancer. I'm very lucky. I'm off."[106][107] Separately, in a segment recorded in 2016 for Fashion Targets Breast Cancer, she instead describes having "recently" experienced "a lump in her breast that showed signs of precancerous cells".[108] Also in October 2019 in the same month as the HardTalk interview but not in the interview itself, Jamil stated on Twitter that she had suffered from actual cancer twice.[109] She did not give further details at the time, but in 2020 in response to challenges to the veracity of her accounts, she stated that she experienced "cervical cancer. Which is extremely common and scary".[110] Subsequently, she responded to being challenged that she had stated that she had experienced cancer twice, stating that she experienced cervical cancer once in 2016 and again in 2019.[111] Jamil also divulged in 2019 that she has the autoimmune disease Hashimoto's thyroiditis.[112]

In interviews, Jamil has mentioned several bee-related incidents in her life, including being hit by a car at age 17 when running away from a bee.[113] In 2015, Jameela claimed that while she was interviewing musician Mark Ronson in the Hollywood Hills, the "biggest swarm of killer bees" she had ever seen made them retreat.[114] Ronson contradicted Jamil's version of events, describing "one or two individual bees" and walking "slowly inside" in response.[115] Jamil related that while filming the first season of The Good Place in 2016, she was chased by a dark swarm of bees and again got hit by a car.[116] In 2019, Jamil states she ran away from bees while crossing the road to the UN headquarters to give a speech.[117]

In several UK interviews in 2013[118][119] as well as on 1 October 2018 episode of Good Morning America – complete with video footage of her falling [120] – Jamil stated that she lost a tooth, smashed her nose, broke her elbow and several ribs, and got a concussion when she slipped and fell on her face while running around the set with Olly Murs at a recorded event leading up to the pair acting as presenters at the Orange Rockcorps volunteers' London concert of September 2010.[121] Footage shot shortly after this incident shows Jamil completing various challenges for the event, including pushing a wheelbarrow full of woodchips and helping to build a coat rack.[122][123] Jamil stated she glued her broken tooth together with eyelash adhesive after the incident, which has apparently held on as of 2020.[124][125]

During the 3 October 2019 HardTalk interview, Jamil stated that she had been raped several times in her life and that in the past she looked at blaming women, but has changed to blaming the societal patriarchy that she considers produces that scenario.[126][107] Jamil has also stated that at age 12 she was attacked by a man on Oxford Street, the main shopping street in London, recounting: "[He] grabbed my vagina [...] 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," that as a teenager, three different men ejaculated onto her leg on escalators on the London Underground on three separate occasions, and that she has been the subject of many lewd acts by men since age 11.[127] She also recounted that she was dragged into a car in Belsize Park as a 15-year-old, and was saved because someone saw her predicament.[85]

In February 2020, journalist Tracie Egan Morrissey, a founding editor of Jezebel.com and the Vice website Broadly,[128] published an Instagram story that went viral,[129] in which she accused Jamil of having Munchausen syndrome, where those affected feign disease, illness, or psychological trauma to draw attention, sympathy, or reassurance to themselves. Morrissey cited allegedly contradictory public statements made by Jamil about specific health issues, accidents and injuries, including those discussed above such as cancer and cancer scares, bee-related car accidents/incidents, whether or not she worked as a model, and injuries sustained through accidents, and accused Jamil of falsifying or exaggerating these claims.[130][131] Morrissey also accused Jamil of falsifying claims of allergies, specifically because Jamil had previously stated she had suffered a peanut allergy since birth[132] but subsequently posted an image on social media of a peanut snack, describing her fondness for it.[133] Jamil responded stating variously that her "allergies/intolerances lessened as [she] grew older", and instead that they were caused by "mercury poisoning in her twenties" and that they "cleared up as [she] healed [her] gut".[134][135] Regarding cancer and cancer scares, Jamil responded she had a breast cancer scare when she was 28 in 2014, but did not address her agreeing in the HardTalk interview that she had a breast cancer scare in 2016 immediately prior to her move to Los Angeles,[126][107] nor did she address her video statement in 2016 [108] about "recently" experiencing "a lump in her breast that showed signs of pre-cancerous cells".[136][130] Jamil also stated that the "actual cancer" she had experienced was "cervical cancer. Which is extremely common and scary".[137] Jamil's boyfriend James Blake stated that he "was there [...] when the doctor gave her the cancer diagnosis".[138] When Morrissey and others on social media challenged Jamil that she had in fact stated in October 2019 that she had had cancer twice,[139] Jamil stated that she had had "Cervical cancer, 2016 and 2019. Both during the good place [sic]".[140] Jamil denied that she has Munchausen syndrome.[137]

Jamil at the Grammy Awards, 2020

Jamil has also stated in various interviews that she has experienced anxiety, depression and obsessive-compulsive disorder.[141][142] On 10 October 2019, as part of World Mental Health Day, Jamil stated she survived a suicide attempt six years prior.[143][144] In an episode of the talkshow Red Table Talk in 2020, Jamil revealed that she attempted suicide for the second time eight years ago due to a nervous breakdown.[145] She also stated that she partook in EMDR therapy to treat her post traumatic stress disorder prior to her move to Los Angeles.[146][98]

Performances[edit]

Film[edit]

Film appearances by Jameela Jamil
Year Title Role Notes
2019 How to Build a Girl Cleopatra
2022 Marry Me TBA Post-production
TBA The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight Narrator Filming

Television[edit]

Television appearances by Jameela Jamil
Year Title Role Notes
2009–12 Freshly Squeezed Herself Lead host
T4 Host
2012 Playing It Straight
2014 Celebrity Juice Series 11, episode 8
2015 The Great Comic Relief Bake Off Series 2, episode 3
2016–20 The Good Place Tahani Al-Jamil Main cast
2018 Hollywood Game Night Herself Episode: "Ho Ho Holiday Game Night"
Last Call with Carson Daly Host, recurring segment, Wide Awake with Jameela Jamil
2019–21 DuckTales Gandra Dee, W.A.N.D.A Voice role; 4 episodes
2019–present The Misery Index Herself Lead host
Still Laugh-In: The Stars Celebrate
2020–present Legendary Judge[147][148]
2020 American Dad! Christine S. Voice role; Episode: "Exquisite Corpses"
Big City Greens Phoenix Voice role; Episode: "Animal Farm"
Crossing Swords Sloane Voice role; 4 episodes
Harley Quinn Eris Voice role; Episode: "Bachelorette"
Mira, Royal Detective Auntie Pushpa Voice role; Recurring role[149]
Jurassic World Camp Cretaceous Roxie Voice role; Recurring role
Animaniacs Sultana Voice role; Episode: "Episode 12: A Zit!/1001 Narfs/Manny Manspreader"
2021 Rugrats Lady De-Clutter Voice role; Episode: "Lady De-Clutter"
2021 Star Trek: Prodigy Ensign Asencia (voice) In production; recurring character[150]
2022 She-Hulk Titania Main Role

Radio[edit]

Radio appearances by Jameela Jamil
Year Title Role Notes
2012 The Radio 1 Request show with Jameela Jamil[151] Host BBC Radio 1
2013–15 The Official Chart
2020 Wait Wait... Don't Tell Me![152] Guest

References[edit]

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Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]

Media offices
Preceded by
BBC Radio 1
Chart show presenter

13 January 2013 – 18 January 2015
Succeeded by