Jameela Jamil discusses being made to 'look white' on magazine covers

‘Airbrushing and changing my ethnicity is bad for my mental health’

Sabrina Barr
Thursday 30 August 2018 11:38 BST
Jameela Jamil discusses being made to look white in campaigns and on magazines

Jameela Jamil has expressed the hurt that she’s felt over being made to "look white" in photo shoots throughout her career, explaining the negative impact that airbrushing has had on her mental health.

When Jamil first decided to move to Los Angeles from England, she was told that she was “too old, too ethnic and too fat” to succeed in Hollywood.

Now a star in the universally acclaimed sitcom The Good Place, the presenter and actress has spoken about how on many occasions she’s been airbrushed to look “more acceptable to a Caucasian audience” when taking part in photo shoots.

“People have made me look white in so many of the magazines and campaigns I’ve shot for,” she told Krishnan Guru-Murthy for the Channel 4 News podcast Ways to Change the World.

“That hurts me. That hurts me from a cultural point of view.

“People change my nose to make it look more like a little Caucasian nose and they’ve changed the colour of my skin to make it lighter and to make me look more acceptable, perhaps, to a Caucasian audience. It hurts my feelings.”

Jamil feels very strongly about the way in which airbrushing can alter the relationship people have with their bodies, as it can make them feel as though they’re “not good enough”.

“Airbrushing and changing my ethnicity is bad for my mental health, it’s not just bad for the mental health of the girls who are looking at it,” she said.

“It makes me dislike what I’m seeing in the mirror. It sends a direct message from the editor to me and from whoever Photoshops my image to me, that I am not good enough as I am, that the way I turned up on the set that day wasn’t good enough.

“It’s dangerous for the women in this position as much as it is for everyone reading it.”

Following the growth of the Time’s Up movement and the creation of Jamil’s I Weigh campaign, the actor and presenter feels that she now has more autonomy when taking part in photo shoots, ensuring that “nothing is altered.”

However, this hasn’t always been the case.

“You’re not given approval,” Jamil said, when asked whether she was aware that images of her had been altered in the past to make her look more white.

“You have no idea what photo they’re going to use, you’re not given any power, you have no autonomy.

“Only now do I have some sort of autonomy and I’m going to use it as much as I can and take as much advantage of it as I can to try and never be part of the problem that really destroyed my teen years.”

Earlier this year Jamil launched the I Weigh movement, which has seen thousands of people share what they “weigh” on social media in terms of their personalities and proudest achievements.

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