FEATURE: Jameela Jamil: A Figure We Need Back in Music



Jameela Jamil


ALL PHOTOS (unless credited otherwise): Getty Images

A Figure We Need Back in Music


I could have titled this piece ‘MrsJam’ or given it a truly pun-dreadful…


name that would have cringed the senses and caused vomit to gush out of every pore! Avoiding any tabloid newspaper ‘wordplay’; I decided I would keep it fairly enigmatic and oblique. Next week, I am concentrating on a number of things. I have interviews lined up but, in terms of features; I am investigating everything from the pros and cons – for new artists – of a record deal; why the always-excellent Jack White is a modern-day Renaissance hero; ways the Internet can bring music to less-well-off communities and nations – a bit about an album that is very special to me. Before I get to the point of this feature; I have spent the longest time looking for ‘legal’ images of Jameela Jamil. I am not suggesting there are dodgy images circulating of the thirty-one-year-old: one must be careful when reproducing images from various websites! That is a shame because there are some truly heart-melting photos that accompany her recent interview with GQ. It is a fantastic piece that focuses on the incredible Brit and her role on the U.S. hit show, The Good Place. The photos for that interview were shot by the mega-talented Elizabeth Weinberg. They capture the former Freshly Squeezed host in a very good light. By that, I mean her incredible, natural beauty radiates but, more than that; the expressions she employs contrast the funny, charming and accessible answers she gives in the interview itself.


I thought about using one of those photos for the thumbnail here as it, quite possibly, the most striking image I have ever seen of anyone, well...ever. I thought about being a copyright rebel and nicking the photo as I smoked a gnarly cigarette and chuckled to myself...“Who will ever know!”; as I sipped a beer and listened to James Blake’s latest album through second-hand headphones. I felt it best to temporise my desire for intellectual theft as that could lead to me having to destroy this piece (you can email GQ (and other sites) permission to use their photos but magazines/sites rarely reply and actually give that permission – even if it for a perfectly good article!). I have collated some photos – I think – are all above-board and legit! Rather than get bogged down in photographic legalities; I think it is best I stop waffling and chattering nervously. Many of fondly remember Jameela Jamil as the fresh-faced, enthusiastic host of T4 and Freshly Squeezed. She used to run down the music charts on BBC Radio 1 and would bring her unique and inimitable talents to the masses. This might sound like I am casting her as a bygone star who is getting on in years: she is younger than I am and not even at the peak of her career! Right now, she appears alongside the silver-haired mega-legend Ted Danson and Kristen Bell on The Good Place - she plays Tahani al-Jamil.


IN THIS PHOTO: Ted Danson and Kristen Bell in a promotional shot for The Good Place

She is an upper-crust character who, as opposed to being the same stuffy, posh English characters U.S. shows usually recruit – the kind that would scream at a barista in a Mayfair coffee shop for overcooking their duck’s liver, herb-infused panini on rosemary bread – she is a lovable and relatable woman who is more than the ‘token Brit’: she plays a key role and her acting skills have been applauded by critics (despite the fact this is her first acting role; she has learnt a lot from her co-stars). You can read the interview in full – and see Jamil on the show – but points come out of the piece that makes me realise, A): She is a big loss to British music T.V./radio and, B): She is someone who could make some real changes in the music industry. That might sound like a weird assertion…so let me explain. In that GQ piece; there are some bold confessions – if she met her character from The Good Place in actual life she would punch her in the tit (only the one, as it is explained!) – and a wonderful blend of warmth, wit and quirkiness. It is no surprise Jamil landed a role in a successful U.S. show: given the impact she made on British screens; that call was only a matter of time! The always-lovely and beguiling Jameela Jamil is, very much, in a good place (sorry!) right now. Dividing her time between California and London; the actor and journalist is embarking on a new stage in her life.



I remember reading a blog she wrote where she decided to abandon and flee her life in the U.K. and go to America – no real agenda; only that feeling she had to get away and make a bold change. That, at the time, lingered in the back of my mind. I was struck by the temerity and gamble a young woman would take and had a fear: what if that backfires and she feels isolated there?! That risk, actually, flirted with my subconscious and has impacted some of my decisions in life. These range from the small – a recent tattoo I got depicting some Kate Bush lyrics – to the medium – gearing myself to escape to London and try and get my writing exposed – to the life-changing and overly-ambitious…this is where the ‘music’ part of my piece comes in. There are a lot of issues and conflicts in the music industry that requires discipline, a vital voice and a natural leader. I wrote a piece recently that proposed a notion many of us want to see: forming a ‘music government’ that would appoint various people/departments to care for various sides of the industry – from protecting small venues to tackling sexism and racism; preserving older music and bringing it to new generations; ensure music is integrated into the primary-school syllabus of the U.K. through to ensuring there is adequate and effective support to those artists who suffer mental-health problems.



Whilst many have seconded my notion – getting all Smokey Robinson here! – there have raised a legitimate question: how do you start a movement as huge and unwieldy as this?! That is fair enough but I am pragmatic and ambitious: it will start with acorns and small, positive steps. I have brought Jameela Jamil to mind because I feel she has a similar love for music and a desire to see (positive) changes; she has that experience and knowledge and the personality D.N.A. to affect real movement and evolution. I will come to her professional C.V. but, from a personal stance; Jamil is that engaging and seductive human who compels one to follow her and hang on every word. She has an awkwardness and clumsiness that resonates in me – I somehow manage to fall up every staircase I approach – and has a modesty and shyness that bellies someone who is being thrust into the American entertainment mindset right now. Recently, on Twitter, she balked at the daytime songs played on the radio – I am not sure if she was in the U.S. or U.K. at the time. Maybe there was a nod to her alma mater (BBC Radio 1) and the overly-processed, inorganic sounds they spin during the ‘light hours’. I listen to BBC Radio 6 Music where a broader, quality-focused playlist comes to mind. She and I share a love for James Blake and the music he throws out there; she has exceptional taste and, away from presenting/being a D.J., there is a conscientiousness and sense of mortality the industry could benefit from.

Everything about her writing and outpourings impresses me. I have improved as a person and writer since following her (on social media, that is: stalking her would be a rather extreme and creepy measure!) and feel like I am a more rounded and better person…less alone and more understood. Jameela Jamil gave the ever-nefarious Katie Hopkins a two-barrelled fu*k-you when she spewed vitriol and neon vomit into the press – I can’t remember the specific insult but Hopkins ran her mouth off without a thought for other people and their feelings. Right now, Hopkins is in the news because, whilst in South Africa, she stacked it on the pavement as a result of ketamine ingestion (I feel sorry for the pavement, mate!). The reaction on social media has, naturally been sympathetic: by that, I mean there has been justifiable schadenfreude. Rather than mock the idiotic Hopkins; the way Jamil speaks up for people and lets her voice register strikes me. Her website, Diary of a Goon, provides honest and raw investigation about different things – from the recent controversy surrounding Aziz Ansari and the lack of visible disabled persons in the open (she launched Why Not People? that provides better access to gigs for the disabled and raises a very important issue). Her writing is human, memorable and hugely impressive. Music, right now, is afflicted with issues around parity, quality and mortality: areas Jameela Jamil has written about and is determined to change. The lack of mainstream quality means there is an imbalance between the most-played artists and the genuinely good that are getting less airtime and acclaim...



There is ongoing and never-ending sexism; emphasis on looks and sexuality (the way some promote female artists) - all of that needs addressing and counteracting; we have issues around disabled access – in terms of gigs and the lack of media attention on disabled artists – and there is a veritable buffet of potholes and chasms in the industry that are not being filled. My government scheme would, effectively, replicate our Government...with the added advantage of not being evil and staffed by a bunch of cu*ts. Working in the U.K., U.S. and Australia; there would be constructive and regulated departments that would work in every town and city of the nation(s); people assigned to tackle issues and provide a much more balanced, moral and inspiring industry. Many may claim we already have a system like that in place: there are people who are good and do fantastic work but nothing as large-scale and ambitious as this. Jamil, as a natural leader and voice of the industry, would make a perfect ambassador. There would not be a Prime Minister, as such: it would be a cabinet based around the Socratic method/maieutics whereby discussion and democratic dialogue would be opened up: the proletariat, for-the-people representatives actually speaking FOR everyone. I am not saying Jameela Jamil alone could change music and bring about a revolution. My point is she has all the D.N.A., desires and experiences to help enforce progressive change and help people. I will start ‘recruiting’ members/’ministers’ when the proposition gains steam and finance but I have been thinking about Jamil’s career arc how far she has come.


From the hangover-curing siren on T4 with that miles-wide-smile and magnetic personality; to the rising star of U.S. television – the young Londoner has covered a lot of ground and is barely in her thirties right now! This might sound like a passion-piece and long-distance flirtation – the heart does skip when confronted with Jameela Jamil – but my motives and proclamations are much purer and less skeevy than all that (at a time when the greasy and toad-like Harvey Weinsten’s perverted misadventures are finding fierce rebuke by the likes of Uma Thurman; journalists and professionals determined not to descend to his slimy and depraved depths!). I miss seeing Jameela Jamil on our screens and her having a say in the music industry. I hope she finds a gap in her busy acting diary to come back to British radio/T.V. and bring truth and guidance to the people. I can see her fronting a BBC Radio 6 Music show – it seems like her natural radio home! – and presenting a new, quality-rich music T.V. show (one that highlights the best new music and the finest from yesteryear). Her U.S. popularity might see her moored in the nation for a while yet but, looking back at her earliest days; we do not have anyone like her on T.V. and radio. Not only does Jamil have a huge knowledge of the music industry and the need for multifaceted change: her crusade against societal ills and wrongs in the world mean she has the perfect blend of characteristics. I am not sure what side of the Atlantic she is right now but I have to ask this of her: if you get a moment between seasons of The Good Place, would you mind awfully…

Ezra Bartlett.jpg

PHOTO CREDIT: Ezra Bartlett

ADDING your voIce back to the music industry?!