Jameela Jamil Says She’s Turned Down $3M This Year From Problematic Brands

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Emily Tannenbaum
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Photo credit: Rich Polk
Photo credit: Rich Polk

From Cosmopolitan

We all know Jameela Jamil is an activist with a capital A. When she's not starring on The Good Place as the bougie socialite Tahani Al-Jamil, the 33-year-old actress is constantly speaking out on gender equality, Instagram scams, and encouraging body positivity as the founder of the "I Weigh" movement.

Obviously, when you talk a big game, you're bound to piss some people off. Recently, the actress went head-to-head with Victoria's Secret Angel Sara Sampaio on Twitter over the treatment of young models and the insane standards set by the fashion industry as a whole. Let's just say it got heated.

"She misunderstood my messaging. She thought I was attacking girls, whereas I was very clearly attacking the industry," Jameela tells Cosmo over the phone when asked why she kept the convo going for so long. "She got quite defensive and because she had a large platform, her words could very easily misinform a lot of people. Therefore, I stuck to my guns and made very clear to her why what she was doing is problematic."

Jameela got into all of that and more while speaking to Cosmo about her latest form of activism: launching Karma Savings with Credit Karma to help users start free savings accounts, pull themselves out of debt, and become financially responsible. And yes, you can be smart with money and turn down a sh*t ton of cash.

Why did you decide to partner with Credit Karma on this particular platform?

I advocate a lot for young people and mental health, I believe that money stress can really be one of the primary things that can prevent someone from being able to look after themselves.

So starting a savings account is kind of like a form of self-care.

I think it's important that we find ways for young people to be given a line of dialogue that isn't always just spending, spending, spending, spending, spending. I think it's really important for them to also learn how to save. Especially since next year, they're going to be the biggest spending power in the world. It's really important that they're not just targeted to withdraw but also taught how to deposit and look after themselves.

Photo credit: Credit Karma/Ilya Savenok
Photo credit: Credit Karma/Ilya Savenok

Speaking of money, you've said in the past that you've missed out on opportunities because of how often you speak out. Could you give me an example?

I find the messaging of some brands, especially the ones targeted towards women, highly problematic and I can't work with those companies. I turned down maybe $3 million in the last year as my profile has risen. That's not even counting all the diet and detox brands, exercise DVDs, and fitness programs I've been encouraged to sell, which push that "fat is failure."

I would own about three houses right now if I gave them my time. I don't take them because I genuinely walk the walk about caring about the items that I'm promoting and am encouraging other people to engage in.

During your argument with Sara on Twitter, you mentioned your own time as a model. What was that like for you?

I only modeled for a while and then I got hit by a car and ended up in a wheelchair, which probably actually saved my life. Otherwise, I would probably still be a model with an eating disorder.

I was encouraged to smoke by agents and peers. I was encouraged to only eat red peppers or take a small bag of sweetener around with me so that whenever I felt like I was gonna faint, I would just have a little bit of sugar rather than eat any full meals.

That's insane.

I was weighed in front of other people, even up until the age of about 22 when I was a TV broadcaster. I remember being at a high-fashion magazine with one of the biggest photographers in the world, who announced to the room that I'm too fat for the clothing and would have to hold the dress against myself.

Why did the car accident end your modeling career?

I got hit by one car into another car and basically destroyed my back. I was in bed for about a year and in a wheelchair for about six months after that. At that point, I had gained about 70 lbs on steroids, so I was "too big" for modeling. I also developed a sense of purpose to protect my body after that and stop starving myself. I still had an eating disorder mentality, but I stopped actively starving myself once I got better because I realized that my body was fragile and I was taking it for granted.

And when did this happen?

This was when I was 17. Very intense, but it saved my life.

Obviously this is very off topic, but The Good Place is almost over and I'm about to need a new show to watch. What are you binging?

I literally work from the second I open my eyes to the minute they close, so when i have a rare opportunity of time...I love, love, love Couples Therapy, it's my favorite reality TV show. Where people really go to couples therapy.

Photo credit: Jamie McCarthy
Photo credit: Jamie McCarthy

Do you watch with your boyfriend?

Yes! My boyfriend and I already got all of our tiffs sorted out when we were at the beginning of our relationship, and we went separately to make sure that we weren't bringing our own issues into the relationship or projecting onto each other. So we did our therapy very early on.

We realized this show could probably be quite triggering for quite a lot of couples because the things that come up are incredibly awkward, but we felt like we had already done that difficult work before we watched it.

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