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Jameela Jamil’s recent podcast and ”I Weigh” movement truly re-defines the current discourse on body positivity, shame and mental health.
I grew up to the merry tunes of Disney movies from the time I could walk, and then to the more mature movies to pacify the confused and angsty teenager within me. And I am the best representation of what they call “a product of your own environment.” When I failed to find hope and inspiration from my immediate environment, I would look to the world of fairy tales and pop culture to understand myself better.
The characters from movies took on their own tangible forms within my mind and I listened to their voices. It was Jo March from Little Women who taught me that the ‘strong independent feminist’ archetype is complex. At the same time Merida from Brave taught me that self-love has little to do with the men I date. Meanwhile Charlie from Perks of Being a Wallflower taught me that mental health mattered and it was only natural to confront my demons.
And as I grew, the women I looked up to changed too. One of them was Jameela Jamil – the British actor, writer and activist. When I heard her podcast, ‘I Weight,’ I realised and learnt a number of things, mostly about myself.
Jameela Jamil is known widely for her role as Tahani Al-Jamil in the comedy-drama, The Good Place. Other than admiring her as Tahani, what really struck me, was her activism. She has always been vocal about her opinions on the toxic diet cultures and pseudo-feminist ideas we seem to be bombarded by on social media.
Apart from seeing a South-Asian woman, like myself, contribute so much to an issue, I am passionate about, Jameela Jamil’s true appeal lies in her drive to be herself. She is unapologetically herself and sticks true to her values, be it on her podcast, interviews or even her social media. Jameela Jamil rarely fails to use her personal journeys to help her audience understand and come to terms with their own problems.
Her podcast, ‘I Weigh’ is a part of her movement of the same name. She started the movement in 2018 and it is all about mental health, and self-image, and other feminist themes.
The podcast features several personalities who have been vocal about these issues. They include – feminist scholar Roxane Gay, Irish comedian Aisling Bea, queer actor Billy Porter, Demi Lovato and Reese Witherspoon.
While the podcast talks about a number of issues ranging from body positivity to mental health, it does not force an idea or concept on you. On the contrary, it makes you reflect on your own life.
The self-love and body positivity movements, while necessary, seem to impose an almost aggressive push towards self-acceptance. It seems to overlook the fact that self-reflection and feeling comfortable in your own skin is an essential part of it.
The name ‘I Weigh,’ contrary to what most people would think, is not a reflection of physical weight but self-worth, value and love.
‘I Weigh’ resonated me a little differently especially after having entered my 20s. Here, I feel, the stakes are higher and the messiness of adult life and decision-making is finally starting to impact me.
The podcast doesn’t just touch upon mature themes, it does so in a very unabashed and natural way. It made me think a lot about the lessons I learnt about. While eight-year-old me was inspired to be bold and determined like Princess Jasmine, 20-year old me is willing to accept my weaknesses and problems after listening to ‘I Weigh.’
The podcast offers a reflection into today’s social media and internet culture which is fraught with polarisation and divide between individuals and groups of people. Roxane Gay’s interview focuses a lot on her struggles with her weight. And also on the plight she faces being what she calls a ‘fat woman on the internet’ who is voraciously involved in political discourse.
Many of the guests offer honest and genuine insights and reflections on their own personal issues. Aisling Bea reflected on the emotional trauma of mental health issues and how loneliness continues to be an issue in an age when we seem even more interconnected.
Reese Witherspoon spoke of her journey in Hollywood so far and the misogyny and double standards she fought throughout her career. She pondered upon her early stardom days when she was criticised for gaining weight, and how while being away from her family, she forgot she was maturing and growing up.
Billy Porter also reflects on his journey in film and theatre, especially as an openly gay man back in the day. He recalls a childhood filled with the emotional wounds of trying to be ‘man enough’ when even those closest to him often refused to accept him for who he was.
Overall, Jameela Jamil’s podcast has not only been an eye-opener during this quarantine and confinement period it truly made me reflect. The podcast helped me self-actualise some of my own personal struggles of self-image, mental health and even dating life.
Even though self-worth and image remain steady works in progress, ‘I Weigh’ gives you a great deal of introspection and soul-searching. This might just help you begin the journey in real earnest.
Picture credits: Still from Netflix series The Good Place
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Shivani is currently an undergraduate political science student who is passionate about human rights and
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