Edinburgh TV Festival: Jameela Jamil says ‘backlashes’ are exaggerated by the media

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Actress and activist Jameela Jamil says the media often exaggerates the volume of criticism she receives.

The Good Place star regularly campaigns on issues of body image, race and feminism, occasionally attracting controversy on social media.

“Naturally, the thing that gets the most attention is when I experience ‘the backlash,'” she told the virtual Edinburgh TV Festival.

“So people think I’m just constantly [getting] backlash. That’s not true.

“Honestly, if you even read the articles where it’s like ‘Jameela Jamil backlash’, it’s two tweets that… haven’t even been sent to me, they’re just about me, and they call that a backlash,” she explained.

“I have 90% support, my inbox is full of thousands of positive messages of either support or thanks.

“So I do want women out there… to know that I’m not just batting away the patriarchy all the time, I am consistently living a rewarding and engaging and fulfilling life, in my pursuit of equality.”

Media outlets sometimes sensationalise stories to drive clicks and advertising revenue, but Jamil suggested there could be another motive for highlighting criticism of her activism: To discourage other women from becoming too vocal.

“They want to terrify us about speaking out because, especially post-MeToo, we’ve seen the tremendous power of when women come together.”

However, she acknowledged, her comments and actions sometimes do provoke a genuinely strong reaction.

“Sometimes there is backlash and you just have to make a decision,” she said.

“If you are going to be someone who speaks out, you have to understand you’re going to rub people up the wrong way, people who are on the opposition, as well as people on your own side, because there is a weird amount of competition in activism, that I don’t understand.”

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Media captionJameela Jamil on equal pay, #MeToo and body image

“And you have to protect yourself. I am someone who is incredibly lucky to have… a loving household that I live in with friends and a boyfriend, but also I have access to very good therapy.

“So if you’re going to engage in this, make sure that you have built yourself a proper support system, because it is hard, but it isn’t impossible and it’s not as bad as they try to make it look.”

Jamil, who first became famous in the UK as a presenter on T4, has gone on to become a successful radio presenter and actress, starring in the hit comedy series The Good Place.

While she says the media exaggerates criticism of her activism, she has occasionally attracted significant criticism.

Earlier this year, she was hired as a judge on the HBO’s Legendary – a voguing competition celebrating the underground gay culture of ballroom, prompting complaints that she was not representative of the black LGBT community.

In response, Jamil came out as queer, adding that she had previously struggled to discuss the topic because “it’s not easy within the south Asian community to be accepted”.

Jamil has previously said airbrushing should be illegal and campaigned against diet products.

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