“Harlem Shake is the diarrhoea anthem.” An interview with Jameela Jamil (15/02/2013)

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Jameela Jamil is one of the youngest and coolest presenters around, from being a model, to hosting Channel 4’s T4, and currently presenting BBC Radio 1’s chart show. We caught up with her –  dressed in a fur coat (which included a hood, with ears!) – before her DJ gig at The Cube on Friday night.

Jameela Jamil! How’re you?

I’m alright! I know I’m dressed like an idiot, but I’m alright.

I think it’s quite a good look, it looks great.

Thanks! You guys can stay. 

You’re doing a student tour at the moment, do you enjoy doing university gigs?

I am! It’s insane. It’s slightly out of control how many people turn up, I’ve had to learn how to actually DJ. You know, like before I used to go up and get away with just playing tracks, but now I have to scratch, and learn how to mix and everything. It’s really intense.

What do you find is the most popular song that you play?

‘Ignition’ at the moment, by R-Kelly. I play a very old-school set, because I think that there’s something in the fact that a lot of songs were out on the radio when we weren’t old enough to go out and dance to them in clubs, so I like to bring that back. So I bring all the Destiny’s Child out and R-Kelly, and everything like that. So yeah, I want to see you get your ‘Bump n Grind’ on, but you can’t play that in an English club!

Well that’s quite good because Valentine’s Day was yesterday.

Yeah, that’s when I played it, last night, and it was awkward. I just feel like we’re not abrasive enough, kind of as a race, to deal with that. Everyone’s just stood there not knowing what to do, no one was bumping or grinding. It was horrible! But other than that it was great! So ‘Ignition’ by R-Kelly is the one that seems to go a bit mental… and ‘Hot In Herre’ by Nelly.

This is weird isn’t it. Me interviewing YOU.

Why? Because normally I’m interviewing you?

No! You’ve interviewed some huge names! Who’s the best person you’ve ever interviewed? 

Ummm, Jake Gyllenhaal because I wanted to do things to him *laughs*, that was unrequited. Uhh, but Tom Hanks, he was the best, and I got him to sign my DVD of Big. 

…and what about the worst person you’ve interviewed?

Jeremy Renner. What a prick!

Who is that?!

Who is he, well that is the question! He’s on Graham Norton tonight. He’s the guy from The Avengers, The Bourne Legacy… Yeah he’s just a dick. I interviewed him and he was really rude, mean. Not nice when someone doesn’t play ball in an interview, it’s like, you’re getting £20 million for doing this! Shut up and speak! … although that’s a weird contradictory sentence.

You’ve recently taken over as host of the Official Chart Show on Radio 1, how are you feeling about that? Is it going well?

I’ve stopped feeling like I have to wear a nappy to work, so I feel like that’s definitely an improvement. But it’s going really well! They let me be really rude about popstars and I never thought I’d get away with that at the BBC but they’re really supportive of me. Because if you can’t take the piss out of really famous, really attractive, incredibly rich people, who can you take the piss out of? Because they don’t care what I think! 

But do you pretend to like songs that you really hate?

No, no, I just don’t talk about them. I’ll take the piss out of the artist but I’ll never take the piss out of the song because then you’re just insulting someone’s taste, and that’s really rude.

And there’s ‘Harlem Shake’ that’s getting big at the moment.

Oh yeah, that’s a big one. 

What are you thinking of that? Because I don’t really get it, as a ‘thing’.

I said it sounds like the diarrhoea anthem, it sounds like loads of sneaky farts!

What’s the most embarrassing experience you’ve had on the radio?

I’ve had a few. I know that the one that probably got me into the most trouble was when I referred to the Alicia Keys’ song ‘Girl On Fire’ as the cystitis anthem. She is screaming that she’s on fire so she’s just asking for that one. But I’d say probably, when I forgot the name of the number 1, on my first chart show. Minor gripe… I remembered the other 39 songs, but thankfully no one noticed. I said the dumbest thing as well to stye it out. I just panicked because it was such a big deal to be announcing my first ever number 1, so I was like “right, here it is!… Go for it!…”.

You had quite a few different jobs before getting in to TV and radio, what advice would you give to people trying to get in to the industry?

There are a few bits of advice, I’d say be polite, be nice, to everyone, because your current runners are going to be your later producers and directors, and they will not hire you. I’d say really learn to be comfortable with yourself before you go into an industry like this, because it’s full of such terrible, terrible people, so it’s really important to have a good strong sense of yourself before you turn into them. And also I think it’s important not to become too insecure because I think people go insane in this industry because they are so concerned of what everyone else thinks. Develop self esteem for yourself, learn who you are, and then you can be a presenter, because unless you’re an actress or an actor, you’re there being yourself. So until you know who you are, you can’t convincingly do that.

Greg James recently rafted down the Zambezi River for Comic Relief. Would you ever put yourself up for a similar challenge?

Um, I can barely walk, so I feel like that’s not really my thing. I’ve had nine injuries on air, and on television. They’re all over YouTube; me losing my front tooth, breaking my arm, breaking three ribs. I feel like I would die within 10 seconds. I would rather just give the money to charity, than die.

So if someone came up to you and said, “climb this mountain for charity,” would you do it?

No! I wouldn’t climb or like, kill myself or anything, but I WOULD go to Africa and I would live in horrendous circumstances, but anything that involves any actual physical challenge… that’s not going to be fun for anyone, because I’m definitely going to die, and then they’ll have to finish filming. They almost lost Mel C on the first day in that thing [The Zambezi Comic Relief challenge]. Imagine that, no spice!

Check back to the Surge Radio and SUSUtv websites later to day for the full interview to find out more content from the interview, including her opinion on Justin Timberlake’s comeback, what celebrities Jameela think should be the next Pope, and her thoughts on horse meat!

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