There are few people more unapologetically themselves than Jameela Jamil — this much is clear on Twitter, where she uses her visibility to advocate for causes close to her heart, call out problematic rhetoric, and, above all, speak her mind.
When she arrives to DJ at Spotify’s Halloween costume pop-up in Soho on Thursday, I can’t help but feel her entrance should be backed by Billie Eilish’s “You Should See Me in a Crown” — and that’s before Jamil rests Spotify’s replica of the Gen Z singer’s spider-covered crown on her own head to complete her “Silly Eilish” costume. She’s someone who moves with purpose, even while wearing a sweat suit branded with the name of a “very fancy” L.A. supermarket frequented by “assholes.” She admits to being one of said assholes, adding that she’s borrowed the cozy two-piece from her musician boyfriend James Blake.
When it comes to Halloween, “silly” — as illustrated by her Erewhon sweat suit — is Jamil’s M.O. “I don’t do sexy,” she tells me. “I tend to like go as a cow, and I’ll get my other friends to all dress as cows and we’ll turn up as a herd. I love to turn up as a food — I’ve gone as a banana before, that was very enjoyable — or Santa Claus — like evil Santa Claus, because then I get to wear the padding and I feel held and loved. I’m not like Heidi Klum — like Heidi Klum goes hard — and I just don’t have the patience. I do my own makeup in five minutes, I don’t have time to paint my skin.”
Another thing she doesn’t have time for? Second-guessing her tweets. “I second guess myself after I’ve already posted, which is an interesting celebrity technique that no one else adopts,” Jamil jokes. “I like to say whatever is on my mind, and I feel like straight white men get to do that all the time."
She continues, "I mean, Harvey Weinstein was just invited out to a Hollywood party in New York last night, and so therefore I believe I deserve the same right to f—k up and thrive, make mistakes, and I don’t have a problem with learning publicly. I’m just trying to be an example of somebody who proves you can make a mistake and not get canceled. You can make a mistake and become a better person."
As for the inevitable backlash that comes with speaking one’s mind before a sea of anonymous haters, Jamil is unbothered. “I just really don’t like that many people. So I feel like if I dislike them and it doesn’t impact their lives negatively — they’re still masturbating and eating and living their lives — then why should it have to affect mine?”
Even so, Jamil is irked by misconceptions about the root of her activism. “The sad thing about activism is we only give a voice to those with privilege. Tarana Burke started #MeToo, but all the famous slim, white actresses got all the credit,” she began. “I’m saying the same things I said when I was more marginalized and before Asian people were accepted and when I was chubbier, and now that I’m slim and suddenly brown is ‘in’ — like this is the year of the brown girl — it seems I’ve just picked this up like a new hobby."
Jamil resents the assertion that what she does is easy — especially considering the monetary loss that comes with being picky about partnerships. "Do you have any idea how rich I would be if I’d sold laxatives?" she says. "Oh my God, you’d all be sh—ting fire and I’d be resting on my million dollar bed. The amount of cash I don’t get because I’m so careful about not working with problematic brands … " Jamil has partnered with both Spotify and Bumble. "What I’m doing isn’t fun — this is just necessary. If I’m going to have children, I’m not bringing them into this s—t show.”
In addition to acting and activism, Jamil is passionate about music — an interest she shares with Blake, who credited her on his new album New Form. “He’s my biggest cheerleader,” Jamil tells InStyle. “He always builds my confidence and he’s always championing me on the side. And you see his Twitter, it looks like a bloody fan account of my activism, it’s really sweet that he just re-tweets.”
But despite Jamil’s own fame and years of advocacy, she’s still sometimes reduced to “James Blake’s girlfriend.” Recently, Blake’s name was used as a snide jab against her during a Twitter argument — a move Jamil calls “a really misogynist, backwards way to respond really unnecessarily.”
“There’s no reason to kick a woman when she’s down and then use her famous, well-respected boyfriend as a way to further demean her and patronize her,” Jamil said. “I’m going to leave it alone and hope that he just grows up. It was just a very classic, gross way to demean someone.”