Jameela Jamil wants you to know she’s not like Tahani, her character on NBC’s hit series, “The Good Place.”
She’s a lot nicer, more relaxed and much more self-aware than princess-like philanthropist Tahani. Set in the afterlife, the show follows four characters who have died and woken up in the suburban fro-yo version of heaven. In this group, Jamil plays Tahani, a charity ball planner and notorious name-dropper who spent her time on earth envying the attention lavished on her sister.
“There’s so much love for Tahani, which is so funny because she’s so annoying,” Jamil says without the false posh accent her character takes on.
The former deejay turned TV star still remembers a time when she was constantly surrounded by Tahani-types. “I just took the annoying parts of all of those people and poured them into Tahani.”
Off-screen, Jamil is quick to share her playful sense of humor with hundreds of thousands of fans across social media. She pokes fun at her so-called glamorous life and isn’t afraid to show both the fabulous moments of her day and the humiliating ones (including wardrobe malfunctions and a recent injury sustained while playing tennis).
Jamil credits Mike Schur, the showrunner of “The Good Place” with giving Tahani her more sympathetic qualities. She also says her experience of starring on “The Good Place” has changed her outlook on her life and on the lives of others.
“Everyone you know who’s vain, insecure or self-obsessed, it normally comes from somewhere. It has made me a more tolerant person to remember there’s always a backstory.”
And there’s one other change: “I no longer kill spiders now,” she says. “I trap them and release them, which is what you’re supposed to do. I’m now always thinking about the point system. It’s ruined my life.” (On the show, the point system gives credits for good deeds and subtracts points for bad life choices. Your final score determines if you land a spot in the so-called good place in your afterlife.)
Starring on “The Good Place” has put her life and her career on a new path.
Jamil’s audition was the first time she ever acted. “I never thought I would get it, so I just felt like it was a chance to meet one of my heroes,” she says, referring to Schur, one of the producers behind “The Office” and the executive producer behind “Parks and Rec.”
Jamil won over Schur to land the role and went on to charm audiences with her portrayal of the complex Tahani.
In her time off from shooting before bringing Tahani back for Season 3 of “The Good Place,” Jamil started an awareness campaign after seeing one too many Instagram posts obsessing over the weight of the Kardashian sisters. During one photo scrolling session on Instagram, Jamil stumbled on an account with mostly women followers that posted the weight of each of the Kardashians.
Jamil says she felt disgusted.
“I clicked on the comments, and it was so many girls freaking out about their weight. Something in me snapped. Whatever you think about the Kardashians, these are still businesswomen, and even they are being reduced to nothing more than pounds and kilograms,” she says.
In response, she launched I Weigh, an Instagram account celebrating women for more than just their size on the scale. Since she launched in March, Jamil’s new project has gained over 21,000 followers. Women from around the world are sending in their own versions of the things in life they “weigh” more than their weight. This may be the degrees they hold, their family or their hard-fought battles against cancer, eating disorders or mental illness.
The movement became so popular, Jamil had to hire an assistant to help her document the photo submissions. She hopes to publish a book based on the initiative.
Raising awareness about how women’s looks are constantly dissected is just one of many social causes Jamil is passionate about, and something she’s been an advocate about for over a decade.
You can almost hear her eyes roll as she recites the unreal beauty standards held against women.
“My obsession, more than my career or acting, is to try to make this world a safer place for the daughters I hope one day to bring into this world,” she says. “I don’t want her to grow up thinking she is nothing if she doesn’t look like teenage sex doll – or whatever it is we’re all supposed to look like now.”
Jamil says she’s at her “boiling point” with how women’s appearances are judged and worries that social media has made the judgment of women a nonstop threat to our health.
She recently took to Twitter to call for a ban on airbrushing.
She hopes the conversation she is starting will lead to change. She wants women to stop buying into industries and images that are doing them harm, be it cosmetic surgery or Instagram accounts that bring you down. And she wants to see the ridiculous age gaps between on-screen couples shrink.
“We don’t even blink when we see a man with a woman half his age in Hollywood,” she says. “We’re being subliminally poisoned that aging is bad.”
Jamil is already seeing the positive fruits of her labor take root. Women have written to her about how the stories shared on the Instagram account have changed their outlook on life. Others are reevaluating how they look at themselves when they can’t come up with nice things to write about themselves.
“It was already toxic when celebrities and models were supposed to look [a certain way], but now because of social media, it’s leveled the playing field. Now, we’re all supposed to look like that. It’s gone mad,” she says.