Jameela Jamil: The ‘erasure’ of south Asians made me hate where I was from

Jameela Jamil has said the “erasure” of south Asian people from popular culture previously made her “hate” where she was from.

The actress and activist, 34, made the comments as she delivered the Alternative MacTaggart lecture at the Edinburgh TV Festival.

She said there was a dearth of people from south Asian cultures in the public eye apart from in the comedy Goodness Gracious Me, which she labelled as “one of the funniest shows of all time”, and actors who were cast as terrorists.

“That erasure impacted me and made me hate where I was from for a really long time,” she said.

“I thought, ‘Well, if they never show us as the hero or as the heroine or as the protagonist, if we are always just the caricature of our people, then there must be something wrong with me.”

Jamil, 34, said she therefore tried to align herself with white and black culture “because that’s all I was seeing”.

She added that the problem is not just in showbusiness, saying: “It really permeates our culture.”

Cosmopolitan FashFest fashion show – London
Cosmopolitan FashFest fashion show – London

“You can really see it in the new generation and so I will be damned if I don’t do everything in my power, where I’m so lucky to be on the inside, to make sure that the next generation never suffer the way that I did,” Jamil said.

Jamil, who used to present T4 and has starred in US sitcom The Good Place, said she had “no role models” when she was growing up.

During the conversation with journalist and documentary maker Afua Hirsch, Jamil also discussed her activism.

“The things that I have achieved that have been positive have been because of the fact I am OK with being disapproved of, as long as I know I’m working every day to get better and be better,” she said.

She added that she has “never cared about being popular” and is always happy to “walk away rather than compromise my integrity”.