Opinion

Not all heroes wear capes: Why I stand with Jameela Jamil

British actress and former T4 presenter Jameela Jamil, recently called out a number of famous women on Twitter and urged them to ‘be better allies’ as they continue to promote dangerous ‘laxative’ teas to their young followers on social media. 

Jameela is not the only one to call time on celebrities promoting ‘skinny tea’ products either; Ashley James recently took to Instagram to slam former Kardashian makeup artist, Joyce Bonelli, for promoting Flat Tummy Tea and urging her followers to use it as a meal replacement – worryingly, this post has now garnered over 20,000 likes, most of which from young women.

Jiyce
Credit: Joyce Bonelli, Instagram

Bonelli isn’t alone. In fact, she’s just a ripple in the ocean. Everybody from Khloe Kardashian to Cardi B, Iggy Azealia and the entire cast of Geordie Shore have been seen to promote non-FDA approved weight loss products. Kim Kardashian, a mother of three young children, also came under fire earlier this year for promoting ‘appetite suppressant lollipops’ – this campaign saw huge billboards splayed across Times Square, which would have been seen by millions of potentially impressionable young minds.

What concerns me just as much as the ingredients, is that celebrities are promoting these as their ‘go to’ products, despite the fact they can’t remember the name of them without looking at the packaging. These women orchestrate posts with their washboard abs and attribute the results to these products as effective weight-loss tools – despite having had surgery and access to personal trainers, nutritionists, personal chefs and free meal delivery services.

One particular post continues to stick in my mind. A member of Geordie Shore posted two images alongside each other to promote ‘Skinny Coffee Club’ – in the left image, she looked as she does normally; in the second image, she had completely changed shape – her waist was half the size and she attributed this to just 4 days of Skinny Coffee, even though it was clearly heavily edited. Needless to say, the post didn’t receive a very positive response and was promptly deleted, later being replaced with a video that said she hadn’t even tried the coffee yet.

Holly
Credit: Holly Hagan, Instagram

Twitter users were calling Jameela misogynistic under the guise of feminism – but I have to disagree. This isn’t about tearing other women down, this is about taking a stand against harmful products that find their way into the hands of children. It’s got nothing to do with these celebrities being women – it’s the fact they’re influential people, spreading damaging messages to millions of young people.

Jamil, who runs a campaign called ‘I Weigh’ to promote self-worth over looks, took to Twitter to voice her concerns: “If you tell your fans to be thinner, you don’t love your fans. You don’t give a sh*t about them, or their mental health, or self-worth.” Jameela continued: “I was the teenager who starved herself for years, who spent all her money on these miracle cures and laxatives and tips from celebrities on how to maintain a weight that was lower than what my body wanted it to be. I was sick; I now have digestion and metabolism problems for life”

As a former anorexic and bulimic, I too am a poster girl for how young minds can be inspired by what they read in the media and now, more easily, on social media platforms. At 11 years old, I read an interview with an internationally known model who told her story of bulimia, how she skipped meals, took laxatives, lived on orange juice and wore a ‘snap band’ on her wrist – they published this and a lot more. Totally unaware of the dangers and fed up of being chubbier than my classmates, I just decided, right there and then, to do the same.

Little did I know that spending 5 minutes reading an interview in a magazine that I had picked up from the sweet shop on the way home from school, would change the course of my life forever. Little did I know that skimming the words of those pages would lead to 15 years of crippling insecurity, non-existent self-esteem and an illness that would cause irreparable physical damage.

So when Perez Hilton Tweeted: “If the detox tea people offered me money to promote them, I’m taking that cash!! I got kids!” It really struck a chord.

If you have children, why would you want them to be exposed to harmful ‘weight loss’ products and a society that says we’re not good enough as we are? Why would you want them to teeter at the top of that slippery slope, chasing results that they will never get without appropriating dangerous methods?

As more brands incorporate influencer marketing into their marketing strategies, shouldn’t there be some kind of regulation around the products they promote? Should celebrities not be held accountable for the ‘nutrition’ tips they feed the impressionable young audiences; the ones who are actually buying and consuming these non-FDA approved ‘teas’?

I feel as though we’re one Flat Tummy Tea post away from living in a Black Mirror episode; the world has become a much harder place to be a young person, as celebrities continue to inspire a generation with a warped sense of normality when it comes to self worth and body image – and all for the extortionate price of £22 a pack.

By Tristen Lee

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