Jameela Jamil: ‘I smuggled 10 steaks out of a Hollywood party between my thighs’

Jamil: 'The further I get away from my teens, when I was lonely and sad'
Jamil: 'The further I get away from my teens, when I was lonely and sad, the happier I am' - Jeff Kravitz

Best and worst is a regular interview in which a celebrity reflects on the highs and lows of their life

Born in Hampstead in 1986, Jameela Jamil attended Queen’s College School in London but abandoned her A-levels aged 17 after a serious car accident. After working as a model, talent scout and teacher she was spotted by a television producer and in 2008 started presenting on Channel 4’s youth show T4. In 2016 she relocated to LA and won her first acting role in NBC’s The Good Place. In 2022 she starred in Marvel’s She Hulk and she now hosts her own podcast, I Weigh. She is in a relationship with singer James Blake and splits her time between LA and London.

Best childhood memory?

The summer I spent in Spain with my big brother Adnandus, when I was about eight years old. He’d moved there and he introduced me to the Beatles. He gave me the Blue Album and the Red Album. On my final day, I was so sad to be going and it was raining, and I was crying. Then he put onHere Comes the Sun’ and it stopped raining, and the sun came out and that was when my obsession with the Beatles began. I was like, “Oh, they’re magical.” And to this day, it’s still my number one, most listened-to song on Spotify.

Best day of your life?

My 38th birthday. I’m really loving getting older. The further I get away from my teens, when I was lonely and sad, the happier I am.

I started the day in Italy and had loads of cake and coffee for breakfast, then I flew back to London and some of my best friends, who’d never met each other, came to visit me and we had dinner, and everyone got along fabulously well. And they all brought me doughnuts which makes me feel fabulously seen as I’m very cake-motivated. And we just had the most wonderful night sitting on the floor in my hotel room eating chicken and chips. It was just completely joyous, and I laughed until I cried.

Best moment on screen?

Filming season two of The Good Place. We’d had a really long day and Ted Danson and I had to dance together in that old fashioned way you see in movies where he’s twirling me around like a princess. He’s an amazing dancer and I’m rubbish and he taught me to dance to Nat King Cole’s ‘Unforgettable’. It was 1am and we were in the iconic Universal Studios, and there were fairy lights everywhere and for a moment I totally forgot myself and I was like, “We’re in love and we’re going to get married.” It was one of the most extraordinary pinch-me moments ever.

The Good Place, Season 2, with Manny Jacinto, Ted Danson and Jameela Jamil
The Good Place, Season 2, with Manny Jacinto, Ted Danson and Jameela Jamil - Alamy

Best photoshoot?

The recent shoot for Edward Enninful’s final British Vogue cover was incredible. I have never felt like more of a competition winner in my entire life. I was in complete shock from the beginning of the day to the end. We literally did that shoot in three minutes all in the same room together. The photographer, Steven Meisel, played the song ‘What’s New Pussycat?’ by Tom Jones and we shot for the course of that song. I ruined the first nine shots because I was laughing because I thought it was a joke and then I realised, “Oh my God, this is serious and everyone around me is posing really beautifully.” So, then I just found a pose that worked and froze for three minutes.

Best activist moment?

Speaking in front of the US congress in September 2020 about trying to create regulations around teenagers having access to diet products and weight and muscle gain products, because there’s Viagra, heavy metals and laxatives in a lot of these products. And being included in Time magazine’s 25 Most Influential People on the Internet [in 2019] with people like Ariana Grande, Prince Harry and Donald Trump – my natural peer – was a pretty weird day.

Jamil addressing Congress remotely during the pandemic, 2020
Jamil addressing Congress remotely during the pandemic, 2020

Best celebrity encounter?

I married Larry David. Well, I officiated at his wedding. I got qualified on the internet in the state of California and I’m allowed to conduct weddings, but not circumcisions. They’re very strict on that. They write it on the document as part of the terms and conditions. I’m still available for hire. It’s price upon request.

Best decision?

Starting my podcast, I Weigh. I’ve learned so much and I’ve met so many incredible people and I’ve come to understand the full scope of how ignorant I am, and to become less ignorant through the process. It’s also given me an opportunity not to be filtered as an extreme caricature through the media like I usually am. They paint me as such a maniac, but I’m actually very normal and relatable.

Worst childhood memory?

A boy called Josh at a teenage party once said to me, “I wish the pretty girls had a personality like yours.” I had a big crush on him but that was the first moment I realised that boys didn’t think I was pretty. I didn’t slap his face though. I took it in a spirit of acceptance. Josh, if you’re reading this now, thank you for encouraging me to continue working on my personality.

Worst moment of your life?

Just before I was 17, I was hit by a car into another car and I broke my back. Technically that’s the worst moment of my life, but it was the best thing that ever happened to me because at 17 I developed a sense of perspective that’s never left me. We lived in a tiny flat at that time and I had to sleep in the living room, and I was so incapacitated that I couldn’t urinate on my own and my brother had to carry me to the toilet, so my scale of what a disaster is dramatically shifted, which is so helpful in this industry.

Now, if I go for a job and don’t get it, I’m like, “I don’t care because I can use the toilet on my own.” Being able to use the toilet on my own is my metric of being OK, so nothing really rattles me.

Jamil with her partner, the singer James Blake, in 2024
Jamil with her partner, the singer James Blake, in 2024 - WireImage

Worst experience of racism?

This has definitely lessened as I’ve become older and because of the bubble I live in. The last time it happened was three hours after the Brexit referendum. I was outside a Snappy Snaps in Notting Hill and this really angry older man called me a Paki and said, “Go home!” I said: “I am home. I live about five minutes away.” It just felt really pathetic.

Worst social media experience?

I have massively reformed my communication skills on social media in the last few years as I used to say things and then not care about the backlash, but I’ve realised that speaking about people rudely in public deserved that backlash. I’ve realised that I don’t want to be so knee jerky and stoop to other people’s level. When I was younger, I found it fun to be so unfiltered because I was so filtered growing up and when I opened that Pandora’s box a lot of F words came out. But now I’ve closed that box. Well, semi-closed it. It’s not fully closed.

Worst personality trait?

I am not very good at reading the room, which sometimes leads to me being a little bit inappropriate. People say that’s endearing, but I don’t know. It pisses some people off so I’m trying to work on it, but I think it might just be innate. I’ve just always had a lack of ability to really read the room or know when is right to speak or how honest to be, so it’s something that I’m constantly wrestling with.

Worst celebrity encounter?

Knocking over Al Pacino at a Hollywood party. I hadn’t been in LA long and was at this huge bash with a massive buffet, but no one eats anything over there – I decided to take about 10 really juicy steaks home, so they didn’t go to waste. I piled them up on a plate, wrapped them in a cloth napkin and then sandwiched them between my legs with the blood oozing down my thighs – I was wearing a little black dress and was about six-foot-four in heels – and headed for the exit. Unfortunately, on the way out, I crashed into Al Pacino and sent all five-foot-six of him sprawling to the floor. He was still moving so I grabbed the steaks, thrust them under my arms like an American footballer and disappeared unidentified through the crowd.

Jameela Jamil is the founder of I Weigh