July 2, 2020
This week, actor and activist Matt McGorry joins Jameela to talk about how his eyes were opened to the world of activism and need through social media, learning how to be empowered to be a better ally, his journey from bodybuilder to self-acceptance, and leaving dieting behind.
13 — Matt McGorry
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:00:00] Hello and welcome to another episode of “I Weigh” with Jameela Jamil. I hope this episode finds you well. I have loved reading all of your messages. Thank you so much. I’m so happy that you enjoyed Munroe’s episode. She was just incredible, wasn’t she? She’s so inspiring and interesting and honest and eloquent and that voice. Oh, I just love her. And I’m so glad that so many of you do too now. It also really warms my heart when I get so many messages from people telling me that they are taking these episodes, especially Munroe’s episode back to their families to help their families understand their experience. If they too are transitioning or have transitioned or they’re, they’re sending them to their friends and family in order to just help them come onside to support trans and gender nonconforming people. And so I really thank Munroe for coming on to the podcast. And I thank you for sharing the word, because that is how, that is definitely a form of activism and allyship. Just talking to your own so that the people who are marginalized don’t have to. If we take care of that for them, then we are doing our job as allies. This week we are having a slight change of gear. I’m talking to a straight white male. He is an actor and an activist. And what I love so much about this episode is not just the man himself. I’m talking about Matt McGorry. You might know him from “How To Get Away With Murder” or “Orange is the New Black”, but, well, I was so just thankful to him for was how much he opened up to me about his body image issues. And he’s been considered a sex symbol for a large portion of his career and yet has struggled for so long with eating disorders. And now that he is bigger than he was before, he talks me through how that has changed other people’s attitudes towards him, how that’s changed his own relationship with his body, the history of body image obsession and, and how oppressive the system that created it is. And I think that it’s such an important issue because men don’t feel like they are allowed to talk about their body image issues. It’s something that we always naturally associate, more so with women or maybe with some gay men, but with straight men, there is some sort of stigma and taboo about them admitting that they feel self-conscious. I guess there’s a, maybe there’s a fear of being considered vain or feminine for doing so. All the toxic masculinity bullshit. But this is definitely something that’s on the rise. We are seeing a rise in all these weight gain, muscle gain products being sold. By the way, I am currently working on trying to create a bill in Boston that would stop young people from being able to buy these muscle gain products because some of them contain very severely toxic metals and Viagra even, they’re put in Viagra in the bloody things that young people are taking, young men are taking to build up their muscles, which is terrifying. Anyway, we’re also seeing because of social media, more and more men suffer from eating disorder issues and from body image issues. This is real and we can’t ignore it. We definitely, definitely cannot shame men out of being able to talk about it. Talking about the pressure, talking about the expectations. You know, we’ve commodified every single inch of a woman’s body. Now we have to worry, you know, the latest, the latest procedure I heard about was ear lobe plasty, as if women don’t have enough to fucking worry about in the world. We now have to worry about whether or not our ear lobes are attractive enough. Can you even believe someone, probably a man, I don’t know for sure. But come on. Decided that we should monetize women’s fucking ear lobes. So because they’ve run out of space on our bodies, they’ve shifted the focus to men and it’s everywhere, it’s all over social media. So I’m so glad that Matt is talking to me not only about body image, but also about allyship. He sharing with me all of the things that he has educated himself on. We did record this before the pandemic and before this rise up of Black Lives Matter. And so that is why we don’t touch on those subjects, because he’s a fierce advocate for, you know, around both and all things and all marginalized groups, I strongly suggest that you check him out on social media. And I really hope you enjoyed this episode. He’s a really rare human being. And the way he uses his platform is really, really cool. So enjoy the wonderful Matt McGorry. Hello.
MATT MCGORRY [00:04:44] Hello.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:04:45] How are you?
MATT MCGORRY [00:04:46] I’m wonderful. Thank you, Jameela Jamil. Thank you for having me.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:04:48] Thanks for being here. You have to be closer to the mic though.
MATT MCGORRY [00:04:51] OK, I understand.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:04:52] Otherwise, it sounds like I’ve got a big ego and I’m trying to make myself louder.
MATT MCGORRY [00:04:55] I understand. I’m trying to shrink myself.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:04:57] Oh yeah. Sure. Try not to take up space around in a brown woman’s room.
MATT MCGORRY [00:05:01] Exactly.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:05:04] So for those who don’t know, you are an actor. You’re an activist. Within your acting roles, you play problematic white men. “How To Get Away With Murder”. “Orange is the New Black”.
MATT MCGORRY [00:05:13] That’s correct.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:05:14] So has that been part of what has guided you towards your activism? I think 2014 is when you kind of really came out publicly within the space. Was it playing those roles that had any kind of impact on your decision to speak out and be an ally?
MATT MCGORRY [00:05:30] You know, in some ways I wish I could say that it was, but, you know, I did “Orange is the New Black” for a couple of years. And my sort of unawareness of privilege and frankly, the racism and white supremacy in the criminal justice system was so deeply embedded that in these hard times I was on the show, I did not understand the role that, you know, that racism played in our criminal justice and mass incarceration system. So sometimes I say it was despite that, you know, I grew up in New York, very sort of multicultural schools and environments, but never had directly, basically, had been confronted with either the systems themself or conversations about them. I think I kind of skated by in this like kind of quote unquote, “nice guy” area where people like even if he’s problematic, like he’s a nice guy, you don’t have to, you know-.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:06:26] Mmhmm. He’s got some friends of color.
MATT MCGORRY [00:06:28] He’s got some friends of color. That means, that means he’s not racist. And, you know, essentially, actually it was after that, it was really when I, the sort of mass incarceration piece was really when I read “The New Jim Crow”. And then I was like, holy shit. Totally unaware. But that is sort of the power of privilege in many ways.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:06:48] Is that the image that has 8 million views or something?
MATT MCGORRY [00:06:51] I’m not sure how many views. But that was my original, like, book post. Yeah. Was was ‘The New Jim Crow”.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:06:57] Yeah.
MATT MCGORRY [00:06:57] Yeah.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:06:58] That was a big moment or something. I remember that.
MATT MCGORRY [00:07:00] That was a big moment, in all sorts of different ways.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:07:03] What kind of? Good ways and bad ways.
MATT MCGORRY [00:07:05] Good ways and bad ways.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:07:07] K, what were the good ways?
MATT MCGORRY [00:07:08] The good ways is that a lot of people saw it. A lot people saw it, a lot of people, people came up to me and said, you know, oh, I bought the book because, you know, you posted it. And to me, that is, that is a great gift. Books have completely changed my life. And, you know, I’ve been the thing that sort of catapulted me into activism and social justice. So to be able to spread that to other folks is like so awesome to me. Yeah. I mean, that’s that’s really, you know, elevating, elevating the authors and the books that I know that have changed my life is really, I consider a part of, like how I, at least use my, my public platform in terms of social justice.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:07:49] For sure. What were the bad ways?
MATT MCGORRY [00:07:51] The bad ways were, you know, I think basically what had happened was it definitely put me in the middle of sort of this idea of cancel culture and all these other sort of interesting kind of like systems at work.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:08:09] Oh, sorry. I was gonna say, who was trying to cancel you?
MATT MCGORRY [00:08:12] Well, if I can rewind for a sec, I’ll say even-. So, basically what happened was I started to recognize, like from my first social media post that like it got attention, right? Like the moment I understood actually what feminism really meant. I was like, oh, holy shit. Like, yes, I’m a feminist. I post about it, saw that people were very responsive in a positive way, saw that it got even some media traction as well. And so I think I started to essentially, as I was learning, I would, I would kind of also play to the thing that got the media attention, because I thought, oh, this is the thing that’s going to get the word out, essentially. Also not recognizing exactly sort of how my privilege fit into that and how part of the reason that I was elevated is because of my identities as a white man as well. And also because the way that I was talking about things was in a way that was not necessarily super challenging to the system at times too. So it started to become like a self kind of fulfilling thing where I would try to find the thing also that would resonate. Right? That would re-. So I did the free the nipple thing. And I, you know, I was thinking specifically about what would, what would be a thing-.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:09:17] Did you free your nipple?
MATT MCGORRY [00:09:18] I freed my nipple.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:09:19] Okay.
MATT MCGORRY [00:09:20] But then I put-.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:09:21] Your nipples were always been free though. Has it?
MATT MCGORRY [00:09:22] My nipple has always been free.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:09:23] Yeah, sure.
MATT MCGORRY [00:09:23] But I took, I took Miley Cyrus’s and Chrissy Tegan’s nipples that had been banned and I put them on mine, on my old bodybuilding body, trying to use also my, the privilege of the body that I had when I was terribly unhealthy preparing for bodybuilding. And of course, it blew up. Right? And essentially, it became the sort of self reinforcing thing where I would do things that were not necessarily the deepest kind of level of engagement. But then publication, certain publications would praise me. And then that would also opened me up for more sort of sometimes the headlines, you know, like they just didn’t set me up well.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:10:00] You feel like they were, they accused you of virtue signaling?
MATT MCGORRY [00:10:04] Yeah. Or basically it became about like, oh, Matt McGorry, is-, I feels so fucking weird even saying this like, so maybe I’m going to say it, but really putting me up on a pedestal in a certain way.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:10:15] Can you say it? If you hate it afterwards, I promise I’ll take it out.
MATT MCGORRY [00:10:21] Do you promise?
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:10:21] I promise. I’m not as much of an asshole as I look.
MATT MCGORRY [00:10:25] Just anything about me being like, you know, the best, whatever, you know?
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:10:29] Ally,.
MATT MCGORRY [00:10:30] Best ally, best, you know, guy. Any, any of these things that really, they’re part of what I admire about how you use your platform too, is you, you talk about that it’s a journey. Right? And that you are, we have to recognize that we will continue to fuck up in our life. Like that’s just the way it is.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:10:47] Yeah.
MATT MCGORRY [00:10:48] And so being what I needed, what I really needed was the awareness of how, regardless of my intentions, it was elevating me and I was taking up space without realizing it.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:10:55] Yeah.
MATT MCGORRY [00:10:56] And then the truth is, the deeper that I talk about the issues, the less that, like, the typical mainstream liberal press actually wants to cover them. Right? So if I’m talking about how I’m insecure about my body, they’re like, oh, yeah. Thank you. If I’m talking about fat liberation and the intersection of how capitalism perpetuates it and like, oh, haha, that’s good. You know?
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:11:17] Our advertisers aren’t going to love that.
MATT MCGORRY [00:11:18] Exactly. You know, and so, and that’s the thing is like actually now that I feel I’m doing the realest work that I’ve ever been doing, there’s less and I’m okay with that. But I just I have to recognize that difference. And I think when I was playing into that, it was playing away from even like sort of the deeper conversation too.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:11:33] For sure. For sure. I am, when it comes to taking up space, like I, I frequently asked to have different nationalities or people with different disabilities or people of different sizes on the covers with me and they’re like, oh, sorry, we can’t do that. So it’s either you don’t do it or you do it on your own. And so the conundrum there is, do I walk away with the full integrity? But then the conversation never gets had? Or do I just have to do that, that taking up space in order to bring the conversation to the magazine.
MATT MCGORRY [00:12:06] Absolutely.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:12:06] So it’s a constant battle. How do you, how do you avoid taking up space?
MATT MCGORRY [00:12:12] It’s interesting. You know, I think as a response to all that, all that had happened, and then basically it got to the point where it’s like if I was in a photo of, like a bunch of women and I was in the middle, like people would just be like, oh, of course, he’s in the middle of the photo. And then. And then, and then it really it it started to affect me. And-.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:12:31] Emotionally.
MATT MCGORRY [00:12:32] Emotionally, yeah. And for a long time it was about really amplification is an, is an important, is an important part of allyship. And so for me, like being to-.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:12:41] Signal boosting.
MATT MCGORRY [00:12:42] Signal boosting. Exactly. Yeah. Virtue signaling. I’m just kidding, you know, really being able to like, elevate the folks whose ideas have impacted me, you know. And so, you know, the ideas I’m expressing, they’ve come, they’ve been shaped by, you know, primarily women of color and black women, women, folks like Bell hooks, you know. And-
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:13:05] Roxane Gay.
MATT MCGORRY [00:13:06] Exactly. Yeah. Adrienne Maree Brown. So many amazing folks. And so part of it is elevating, at least in the platform in that way. And then really, I actually I started showing up in person and organizing because basically I hit a point where I was like, I don’t know what I can even talk about on social media and that was sort of the primary way of my making sort of way to that point.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:13:26] Well, suddenly, when you become an inflammatory person, everything you say.
MATT MCGORRY [00:13:28] Yeah.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:13:30] It’s because people at home, they don’t know you. They’ve never met you. And so they are projecting onto you their most sometimes, their most sinister inflection, I guess, as to what your tone is.
MATT MCGORRY [00:13:43] Yeah.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:13:43] What your motivation is. And so it becomes like a funny meme culture.
MATT MCGORRY [00:13:47] Yeah.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:13:47] Almost to rip you down.
MATT MCGORRY [00:13:49] Exactly.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:13:49] Yeah.
MATT MCGORRY [00:13:50] And it just. Yeah. It just continues and continues.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:13:53] I got called the Rachel Dolezal of the fat community which I thought was fucking hilarious. And people for a while start to think that I just so desperately wanted to be, I was trying to act like I was a fat woman and that was never what I was doing.
MATT MCGORRY [00:14:07] Yeah.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:14:07] But that’s, that’s the way that the Internet can, can, you know, run away with itself.
MATT MCGORRY [00:14:11] Right.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:14:12] Which you just can’t take seriously. If you are an activist, it just has to not be about you. And I guess that’s probably the journey you’ve been through, which is taking the ego battering of, of being like included, included, pull back in and then thrown out until no fuck you, we don’t trust your motivation. We’re gonna punish you now for any mistake that you make because you’ve dared stick your neck out and now we’re going to chop your head off.
MATT MCGORRY [00:14:35] Yeah.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:14:35] And so now where are you with it? Have you found more peace?
MATT MCGORRY [00:14:39] Much more peace. Yeah. So essentially at that point, I basically I, I had to pull back, and so I started just showing up to, I showed up to Black Lives Matter Los Angeles protests. And they also directed me to a group called White People for Black Lives in L.A. that is like, does incredible work. And they’re part of showing for racial justice, which is the national chapter. And so I was really in community for the first time. Right? And as, as quote unquote, “celebrities”, you understand that like having people in your life who can, like, tell you when you’re wrong and like call you on your shit, like the more famous you are, the less that happens.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:15:12] Yeah.
MATT MCGORRY [00:15:12] And that is actually detrimental to us.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:15:15] To everything.
MATT MCGORRY [00:15:15] And yeah, exactly. And to the folks who were attempting to be an allyship with and solidarity with, so showing up in those spaces and actually sort of and being, working and organizing actually gave me a very different perspective where I could even actually have these conversations with other white folks who could actually explain to me the tropes that I was falling into.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:15:34] Right.
MATT MCGORRY [00:15:34] Right. Without even realizing it. And then from there, actually a big part for me has been sort of rebuilding this thing rather than I think for so long, that fear and that perfectionism, that shame and knowing, you know, this sort of lifetime of doing harm, you know, as a man, as a white person and only having been an activist.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:15:54] And just benefiting from a system.
MATT MCGORRY [00:15:56] Exactly.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:15:56] Of racism. Yeah.
MATT MCGORRY [00:15:57] Yeah. And to make, to heal, to be able to heal parts of that so that I actually can step into my power and show up as a full human being rather than consistently being like, OK, I’m just always erring on the side of like shrinking myself.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:16:10] And tiptoeing. And therefore not being effective.
MATT MCGORRY [00:16:12] Exactly. You know, that has been a big part of my sort of personal journey in the last year and a half. And a big part of that has been, the coaching that I get to do with my mentor, JLove Calderon, who I formed, Inspired Justice, this company with and, and really tapping into sort of those deeper kind of, those elements of shame and the core limiting beliefs and actually working to shift that rather than just being like, well, it’s good enough that I’m doing the work. Right? To actually say this has to also, the idea of mutual liberation is it is also about me. You know, I actually do have to be guiding my activism based on the needs and solidarity of, like folks of color and the people that I’m seeking to be in allyship with. But at the end of the day actually I do need to like deciding that it doesn’t matter if I’m happy or not or that the more miserable I make myself, the better was an idea that was forcing me to a corner that felt like basically I was unsure if I would ever be able to continue be an actor, essentially.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:17:13] Yeah.
MATT MCGORRY [00:17:13] To be in integrity with myself. Because, as you know, this industry is incredibly toxic.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:17:17] Oh, yeah. Disgusting.
MATT MCGORRY [00:17:19] Yeah.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:17:19] Filthy.
MATT MCGORRY [00:17:20] Dripping with toxicity.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:17:22] Drippings. You went too far.
MATT MCGORRY [00:17:24] I’m sorry. My shame is-.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:17:28] No, I completely agree. So something that I like about your activism in particular, is that you spend a lot of time specifically talking to white people about what white people can do better. And I feel like that is truly the greatest allyship is not just to tell brown people how much you as one singular white person knows or a straight person or a cis or a male. It’s the fact that you are talking to your own. And it’s the thing that I most tried to encourage other people to do when they’re like, you know, how do I get into activism? It’s like you don’t have to be a loud social media nut job like me. You can also just do the micro-activism, which is so effective because it does bleed out. It does change people’s minds, to talk to your own about what’s going on. So you, you talk a lot to white people about white supremacy, about the history of it, about the impact you’re having on other people. Do you ever get called out by white people? Who don’t want to hear it?
MATT MCGORRY [00:18:22] Online, in person?
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:18:23] Online.
MATT MCGORRY [00:18:24] Sometimes. I mean, I think I’m, I’m at the point now where most white folks who-.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:18:31] Who follow you.
MATT MCGORRY [00:18:32] Who follow me or, or at the very least not like identified as people who maybe voted for this, this current president. But, you know, I think so. I think a lot of times what it is more so is white folks thinking that my message is not applying to them. So thinking that we’re like, quote unquote, “on the same side”.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:18:54] They’re the “I’m a good guy, I’m a nice guy”.
MATT MCGORRY [00:18:54] Exactly. Exactly.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:18:56] I don’t need to learn this from you.
MATT MCGORRY [00:18:57] Right.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:18:58] Because I’m already, you know.
MATT MCGORRY [00:18:58] Exactly. So, for example, a conversation I had over the holidays with, with a family friend who’s a middle-aged white woman. I noticed that there’s this like this idea around this, the president, that people are just so angry. It almost becomes like a competing victimization of like, how angry can we be? Right? Like, I broke, I broke a molar because I’m so angry when I was sleeping and I just, and I’m just so shocked, like, how could this happen? And I really-.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:19:25] Angry about what?
MATT MCGORRY [00:19:27] Oh, about the State of the Union. The State of the World.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:19:30] Oh sure, sure.
MATT MCGORRY [00:19:30] About the president. Yeah. About the president specifically. And in my mind, in my mind, I came from my mind, but I started to really push that conversation of like, we can’t like, this conversation doesn’t actually interest me. Right? Like, this conversation is like we’re stuck in this thing of this anger and this and this shock and actually watching the news the way that this person does and the way that I know some other folks do, that is literally about like trying to keep vigilant about what’s happening without actually being necessarily engaged or understanding how our own whiteness plays into and is a part of the same whiteness that got [beep]-. I wish I didn’t say his name. That this guy got, got him elected. Like, to me, that’s again, it’s, it’s sort of, it’s, it’s creating a binary. Is saying, like, this person is racist. And yes, I agree. He’s a terrible, terrible person. But if we’re not also as white people understanding how we are, benefit from the same systems.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:20:29] Can you break that down? For people who don’t know, how do white people benefit from the systems?
MATT MCGORRY [00:20:33] Sure, yeah. So this, you know, these systems of white supremacy. Some folks call them systemic racism. I think the term white supremacy, you know, oftentimes when we hear the words white supremacy, we’re thinking-.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:20:47] KKK.
MATT MCGORRY [00:20:47] White supremacists. Exactly. But actually, what we’re talking about is a system in which whiteness is valued above all else. And that takes place in every aspect of our life. And it disproportionately harms people of color. And it also harms white folks as well. And most, the same way that patriarchy, you know, male domination primarily harms women, fems and gender nonconforming people, but it actually is very harmful to men as well. And so this takes place everywhere. Right? Like, no matter how, quote unquote, “good” of an activist or an ally, I try to be, I will always benefit from my white privilege even as I am being an activist. Right? Is what we were talking about before, like being elevated in certain ways or in conversations around fat liberation, even understanding that my body is still, the size of my body is still very privileged in the space of fat activism, is something that I have to understand, because also, again, just by doing what I want to do, that I can end up taking up more space, actually, than I realized and co-opting and becoming the face of a movement that is actually not my movement. And so for me, you know, what I realized was it was not my place to be the face of feminism, but it was my place to be, try and be the face of or a vocal voice in male anti-sexism. Right? Or men as feminists, right? Not my, not my place to be the face of Black Lives Matter. But is my place to be, you know-.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:22:18] White People For Black Lives.
MATT MCGORRY [00:22:20] Exactly.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:22:20] Yeah.
MATT MCGORRY [00:22:21] And that’s a very distinct, different role. Right? Like when you’re advocating for, for yourself and folks that are directly targeted by the systems of oppression, it’s a very different role than when you are acting in allyship. And so that, that is where that, that kind of conversation of white supremacy comes in. And so if we’re, for example, so many white folks were shocked when this guy was elected president. But folks, many folks of color were like, no, we’ve been telling you this country is racist as fuck. And you kept saying that we had a black president so that it was all over. And the reason that we actually got someone as bad as we did is because the issues have continued to get worse, primarily because as white folks, we’ve been, we’ve been comfortable. We’ve been, we’ve, it’s been good enough for that we’ve-.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:23:00] In our echo chamber.
MATT MCGORRY [00:23:02] Exactly. And that is where we have to have those conversations. And like you said, the, the important work and sometimes the more difficult work is not just in. And I have had these conversations very recently, actually, with some friends, who I’ve been having conversations with for many years. But I realize the framing needed to shift. Right? The framing can’t just be about how do I understand these issues better? It’s about how do I be a better ally? And one of my friends was like well I like to think that, you know, my, my, my mother and my sister and folks think that I’m a good feminist. So I’m like, okay, but what are the conversations you’re having with other men in your life? Right? It’s easy to have the conversation with someone who already is agreeing with you and is going to give you those sorts of, those affirmations for doing that work. But the real work is actually, first of all, interpersonally. Right? Like in ourselves, like unlearning these, the ways of being that we don’t even necessarily easily understand. And then really bring that conversation to other spaces and not just with folks who are like across the political spectrum, like who voted for this president, but even with your other sort of liberal kind of friends. Right? And really challenging that, when it’s only guys, being the one is about, who’s going to bring up feminism when it’s only men there. You know?
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:24:11] Agreed. All right. We’re going to talk about liberals and how problematic they can be.
MATT MCGORRY [00:24:14] Let’s do it.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:24:14] In a minute. And we’re back. So. Ok. I want to talk to you about liberals being a bit of an issue sometimes because as one, I recognized the problems amongst my own, that there is still a lot of ableism, a lot of racism, a lot of colorism, a lot of homophobia, a lot of transphobia amongst liberals. Do you find this in your work and do you find that you have to actually spend a lot more time than expected actually educating your own?
MATT MCGORRY [00:24:49] Yeah, I do. I do find this now. I’m, personally, I don’t identify as a liberal.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:24:56] Oh right. What do you identify as? May I ask?
MATT MCGORRY [00:24:57] Yeah. I mean, it’s a, there seems like there’s no perfect definition, but a leftist, I think is as what I would sort of say. I mean, I know there’s obviously all different ways of defining, I think a lot of folks tend to define liberal as sort of anything left of center, you know, and yeah, and I think that from, there was, I’m trying to remember the book now. It was called “Unapologetic”. I don’t reference it if I can’t fully remember, but this talk about this idea of like that liberalism at times can mean saying we believe in things, but without actually like doing anything about them.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:25:38] Right.
MATT MCGORRY [00:25:39] Right. And I think that we we tend to want to hang our hats, like on the ideas that we have rather than like sort of the conviction that we have.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:25:48] Action.
MATT MCGORRY [00:25:49] Exactly. So that is kind of what I see as the, the, the main part of the issue in, in the conversations I’m having, it did surprise me a lot in the beginning and now it doesn’t really anymore. But again, wanting to see things as a binary, wanting to say, oh, this person is a racist or this person is a sexist or that, you know, rather than actually understanding that like, what that typically, I think serves to do is to distance ourselves from that person.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:26:16] And to make any conversation around it impossible.
MATT MCGORRY [00:26:20] Exactly.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:26:20] Which is just stupid. Like, I don’t, I don’t tend to have a sweeping judgment over all people who elected the current president. Like I do think it is unideal to vote for someone who allows for children in cages and, you know, abortion rights being rolled back, etc. But I do also understand that I can’t relate to all of their frustrations or all of their experiences, and I’m never going to if I just shut them out altogether.
MATT MCGORRY [00:26:46] Right.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:26:47] That’s provided they don’t actively try and abuse other people. Those people I draw the line with where I’m like, I’m not going to talk to you until you are actually ready to behave like a human being.
MATT MCGORRY [00:26:55] Right.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:26:56] But generally, I think if someone just doesn’t know any better and is open to understanding, they are worth the conversation. And I think that them shitting on liberals or leftists and leftists shitting on them is just no, never gonna get us anywhere.
MATT MCGORRY [00:27:10] Yeah. And I think, you know, it is white folks, particularly responsibility to have those conversations. Right? Like, this is even something that I’ve been learning in a, I don’t want to diminish it, I don’t want to say in a small way, but in a very different way. I have, you know, I’m sort of the maximum of privilege in most ways. But having relinquished diet culture like two years ago, I have gained weight in the way where I identify as chubby. I’m not sure of small fat would actually even be sort of the the word to accurately describe that. But my own sort of lifelong experiences and trauma and what I’m now experiencing in my body, even especially in our very oppressive industry in Hollywood, means that I’m recognizing that my ability to have these conversations around fatphobia are very different than my ability to have conversations around white supremacy and patriarchy. In the latter, I tend not to be personally triggered and the conversation around fatphobia, I am recognizing that actually when I have these conversations, I am vying for my own humanity. And that has a different cost and a different toll. But as white folks, you know, for example, or when we’re acting and out in the capacity’s simply of allyship, it is important that we actually, right? Like as white folks un-, like get out of that binary of like, oh, this person’s a racist so that we can have a conversation. Right? Because actually, I believe it is healing for us to be able to understand how we play a part in these systems. And we have to be able to come to the table and say, no, I understand where you got this idea from, because my ideas were based in the same thing, because it’s true.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:28:43] Can you talk to me a bit about your body image journey?
MATT MCGORRY [00:28:46] Yeah.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:28:46] So when did it start? When did you first become aware of your body?
MATT MCGORRY [00:28:50] I probably-.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:28:51] I mean your body image, obviously.
MATT MCGORRY [00:28:53] Yeah, well, I first, you know, obviously there’s the different sort of points in that journey. But I first became aware of, I think shame and my body probably around 14, maybe, no, actually probably earlier than that. I was a kind of chubby kid growing up. And I’m a very sensitive person. And so the, the bullying, you know, which is so normalized but is still very traumatic for most of us, started very young and continued for a long time until I started seeing a personal trainer when I was 14.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:29:30] You started seeing a personal trainer at 14.
MATT MCGORRY [00:29:33] I did.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:29:33] Wow.
MATT MCGORRY [00:29:33] I did. And and, then I saw how my social status and social power changed when my body changed. And so obviously, that was a fulfilling prophecy. And, you know, the typical kind of idea is that, that’s why it’s so great. Right? Like, it can change your life as oppose-.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:29:51] Is the slogan of “The Biggest Loser”, isn’t it?
MATT MCGORRY [00:29:53] Yes. It is.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:29:54] I fucking hate that show.
MATT MCGORRY [00:29:55] I know.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:29:55] Fuck that show.
MATT MCGORRY [00:29:55] Fuckin fucks.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:29:56] Yeah. So wait. So you, OK. So you got a personal trainer, you noticed you were getting more attention from, when it comes to sex, vibes? Not actual sex, but I mean, people that you are attracted to maybe were more attracted to you now. You were getting invited to more parties.
MATT MCGORRY [00:30:14] Absolutely. All of it. Right. My, my friend Jesse Nealon pointed out also as a man that having a traditionally acceptable body, part of the power that it grants you with other men is that it is assumed that you have access to women’s bodies who are closer to that ideal of privilege as well.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:30:31] Wow. I did not know that.
MATT MCGORRY [00:30:32] Yeah. So essentially, if I look quote unquote, “lean and muscular”, then I have access to the bodies of women who are the most popular or the most attractive women, and that also elevates my status even among men.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:30:43] So what? They can have your leftovers? Is that what it is? Like vultures?
MATT MCGORRY [00:30:47] God knows I was not eating them all, so. That was a, that was a joke about dieting.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:30:53] I get it.
MATT MCGORRY [00:30:57] I just want to be clear.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:30:57] OK. So, were you also, you weren’t just working out, you were also dieting?
MATT MCGORRY [00:31:01] Yeah, I, I believe that at some point I probably would have had the diagnosis of orthorexia. I’m not entirely sure. I remember when I was-.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:31:11] It’s a fear of food. Right? Is that a fear of food? Was it?
MATT MCGORRY [00:31:14] It’s essentially this. It’s a, it’s a quote unquote “health based” idea. It’s a “health based”, quote unquote, like eating disorder.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:31:22] Right.
MATT MCGORRY [00:31:22] Body image disorder. So for me, like so there can be an obsession around organic, for example, or an obsession around, quote unquote, “clean eating” that is not necessarily explicitly about diet, but is obsessive in ways that is really detrimental. So, for example, when I was looking at colleges, I remember thinking, I can’t, I don’t know if I can go to this college because I, there’s not, like, access to, like an organic food store right here. And going into the Whole Foods and reading the nutrition labels for two hours, you know. And then so essentially, you know, obviously, you know, I became a competitive power lifter. Bodybuilding was like the peak of like the terrible things I did to my body and the deprivation and also the peak of, of course, as you probably know too, the acclaim for what I was putting myself through. Right? Like this idea of the discipline that I that I had and how quote unquote “good” I was.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:32:14] Versus lazy when you were fat.
MATT MCGORRY [00:32:17] Exactly.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:32:17] Or sort of uncaring about your appearance.
MATT MCGORRY [00:32:20] Exactly.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:32:21] Low self-esteem. Yeah.
MATT MCGORRY [00:32:22] Yeah. And, you know, and this, and then, of course, this became used as part of the press for me, even when I became, you know, when I started being on “Orange is the New Black”, it was like the talk about me as the old bodybuilder. And I would joke about, oh yeah, it was the most miserable experience of my life, but we’re still normalizing this idea of like, wow, how impressive that you just-, and my body was basically shutting down.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:32:42] In what way?
MATT MCGORRY [00:32:44] Let’s see, so many ways. I mean, I couldn’t stay warm, you know, and also content warning for folks who, you know, have dealt with eating disorders and and whatnot. But, you know, like, my body couldn’t stay warm. Like I was constantly obsessing about food, looking up food online and all these different things, like literally bodily functions of mine were like shutting down.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:33:06] Got it.
MATT MCGORRY [00:33:08] And then after that, of course, you know, you binge and you think that that’s like, you know, after everyone is praised you for all this, for all this discipline, and then you simply can’t control yourself because physiologically your body is doing the right thing by trying to return you to homeostasis.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:33:22] Were you bingeing and starving around the same time? As in like so you would train, train, train, starve, starve, starve and then binge?
MATT MCGORRY [00:33:29] No, I mean, essentially, it was, basically for the bodybuilding preparation was four months of measuring, weighing every piece of food that went in my mouth. And then I basically had two meals that were planned where I could essentially go off plan for a limited amount of time.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:33:46] Oh, the cheat meal.
MATT MCGORRY [00:33:46] Exactly. And then so after that, I decided that, that I was going to give up competing and really pursue acting because of the amount of time and energy that it took up in my life, I realized this cannot happen simultaneously.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:33:59] Surely I could make more money for this much stress.
MATT MCGORRY [00:34:01] Right, exactly.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:34:03] I used to have some incredible binges. Yeah, that was a, I was a definite binge-starver.
MATT MCGORRY [00:34:08] Yeah.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:34:08] From the age of about 11 onwards because I weaponized food so much against myself. Where I was like, food is love. Food is comfort. Food is rebellion against my family. Food is, it’s just, it was anything but fuel.
MATT MCGORRY [00:34:19] Yeah.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:34:19] And so I would starve, starve, starve. And then eventually I would crack because I was a kid and I was human and I was growing.
MATT MCGORRY [00:34:24] Right.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:34:25] And I would just just tear through an unbeliev-, like in human amount of calories. And to the point where I would, way through to my 20s while I was famous and everything I would eat to the point where I had to sit on all fours because that was the only way I could physically breathe, because my stomach was so like had expanded so much.
MATT MCGORRY [00:34:45] Yeah.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:34:45] In my skinny little body that it was pressing against my windpipe.
MATT MCGORRY [00:34:48] Yeah. Damn.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:34:49] And so I would have to sometimes Skype my boyfriend at the time on all fours covering pancake batter.
MATT MCGORRY [00:34:54] Yeah.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:34:55] And you know, but again, because I was slender and I looked, you know, what society deemed to be “good”, people would just think my binges were funny.
MATT MCGORRY [00:35:03] Exactly.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:35:05] And, you know, also a lot of them were private, as we all do. But when I do it, they’d be like, god, you’re so crazy. You eat so much. And that was the weirdest fucking brag of the 90s and the 00s was the fact that the more you could eat and the slimmer you are, you are somehow superior to all other people. And I totally fucking bought into that. And everyone around me did. All the famous women I knew they would all order like three dinners. Did you ever see this? A very thin actresses who would order like three massive plates of food and they’d be like, God, I’m such a pig.
MATT MCGORRY [00:35:33] Yeah.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:35:33] And then just have one bite of each plate and then keep being, saying to everyone else, hey, you should try this. You should try this, and the food disappears.
MATT MCGORRY [00:35:40] Yeah.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:35:40] It’s like, it’s very theatrical and I would totally participate in that sort of culture.
MATT MCGORRY [00:35:45] Totally.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:35:45] No one ever called me out on the fact that, you ok?
MATT MCGORRY [00:35:47] No.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:35:48] Did they with you? Or they just congratulated you really for your body?
MATT MCGORRY [00:35:50] No. They just congratulated me. I mean, this, this is what the fitness industry is built on. And again, it gave me access to, being in that body as a personal trainer, you know, I was already writing for fitness magazines and stuff, but it gave me a different layer of like essentially street cred, right? Where I could do this to my body. And it elevated me socially again, like so it makes perfect sense why we want to do this. Right? And then we do get stuck in these, it seems like these self-deprecating jokes that we think are like ways that, you know, I see all the time now and people after the holidays they’re like, Oh, I’m so fat today. You know, it’s like these things are, as I coined the term that I thought was funny at the time, but is actually fucked up like of being “blackout full”, basically, because of binges.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:36:31] Oh right, yeah.
MATT MCGORRY [00:36:31] You know, and at the time-.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:36:33] It’s so hyper-normalized.
MATT MCGORRY [00:36:34] Exactly. It’s so hyper-normalized. And then essentially trying to be an actor and to cut a lot of it out of, out of it. Two years ago, I stopped dieting entirely and using more of a health at every size and-.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:36:46] Before you do that, can I just ask? Sorry, when you were on, I mean, you would definitely an immediate sex symbol when you stepped onto the screen in “Orange is the New Black”, did that as someone who themselves has received attention for the way that I look in my career, especially as Tahani, where she’s considered the sort of, this, the the one that everyone finds attractive.
MATT MCGORRY [00:37:06] Right.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:37:06] Yeah. Massively triggered me and made me very afraid of letting people down.
MATT MCGORRY [00:37:13] Exactly.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:37:14] With my appearance. Did that happen with you?
MATT MCGORRY [00:37:15] Oh, 100 percent. Yeah. I mean, just for people to know what went into those also experiences too is you know, every time I was going to be shirtless on camera, I would crash diet for two weeks and severely dehydrate myself and basically-.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:37:32] Tread.
MATT MCGORRY [00:37:33] Time it all out. Yeah. And, you know, and that was terrible. And it put strain on my relationship at the time. You know, my libido just like disappeared. I was irritable.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:37:43] That’s the, that’s the-. Oh, I’m so glad you brought that up. It’s something that I need to talk about more. But it’s, it’s amazing how, like, the more, the harder we try to fit in to society’s idea of like, what will make more people want to have sex with us, the less we have the energy to have sex.
MATT MCGORRY [00:37:59] Exactly.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:37:59] My estrogen levels plummeted. I did not shag. I don’t think I orgasmed between the age of 24 and 27. Because I didn’t have the energy. It seemed like a lot of work.
MATT MCGORRY [00:38:08] That’s real.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:38:09] Like, I don’t have, got it in me.
MATT MCGORRY [00:38:11] Yeah.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:38:12] It was a lot for my heart to go through. You don’t have any, any libido.
MATT MCGORRY [00:38:16] No.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:38:16] I, I. No one tells you this.
MATT MCGORRY [00:38:18] No. No one tells you this.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:38:19] And so it’s almost worse because now more people want to have sex with you. You can’t be fucked. It’s just bizarre. So-.
MATT MCGORRY [00:38:26] It’s real.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:38:26] Thank you for being open about that.
MATT MCGORRY [00:38:28] Yeah.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:38:28] It was affecting your libido. No one thinks about this. We don’t talk about it.
MATT MCGORRY [00:38:32] Absolutely. And that’s-, yeah. I mean, during the bodybuilding, the most, obviously, the more deprivation, the worse that is. Right? Like actually-. Yeah. And at that point, you know, you’re, so basically doing the show and then, and then doing this whole process and stuff. And then I went into ADR, which for folks that don’t know, that’s like when you do sound, after you shoot the scene, you’re basically trying to layer sound in case, you know, in editing process, so I get to see the first glimpse of it. And I saw myself shirtless and I thought, wow, I, I fucked up this opportunity. Like, I did not do what I should have done and, and get as lean as basically I should have been. And then of course the show came out and pretty much no one except for the guy who owned the gym who’d known me since I was 14. No one else had said, no one else said anything negative about it. And that of-.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:39:20] What did he say?
MATT MCGORRY [00:39:21] He said to me, he was like, if you really want to get lean next time, you should come see me. And-.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:39:28] Can I call him a prick?
MATT MCGORRY [00:39:31] You can absolutely call him a prick.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:39:32] What a prick.
MATT MCGORRY [00:39:32] Thank you. You can call him a prick. You can absolutely call him a prick. But, right? Because it’s so interesting. Because it’s like that, that is like the far end of it. But then in all the rest is just everyone else who understands what I went through and what I put myself through and just praises it. Right? Which was all part of upholding that. And so, you know, I continued to do that again. And I know I feel like most actors that I know do some version of that, actually. And I think it’s men sort of also too, like the way that like this idea of patriarchy, kind of like overlaps with that is that it’s not that bad, like they’re just doing, they’re just doing their thing, you know, like this is just like-.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:40:09] It’s part of the job, isn’t it?
MATT MCGORRY [00:40:11] Exactly. Women do it for every single photo shoot, for every event. I know some of the most famous actresses in the world have been telling me recently ’cause when I see them at things, they just start confessing that they have to lose a certain amount of weight because of samples. ‘Cause sample sizes are so small and they will not be made bigger for anyone, no matter how famous you are. So you have to start starving yourself for awards season so that you’ll just be able to wear the clothes or be in the magazines, because if you can’t fit into the samples, you can’t get into magazines, or you can’t get onto the red carpet and then you can’t get a campaign. And you also don’t get much, you don’t get much press. And if you don’t get much press, you get cast in the next film ’cause that impacts your bankability. It’s a fucking loop.
MATT MCGORRY [00:40:49] Exactly.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:40:50] Of Hell.
MATT MCGORRY [00:40:50] It really is.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:40:51] And it is the same. You’re right. For when, especially when men have topless scenes.
MATT MCGORRY [00:40:55] Yeah. And obviously the impact on women, you know, and fems is, is so much har-, is so much more severe. I think that-.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:41:02] But it is changing. It’s getting worse for men. I will say.
MATT MCGORRY [00:41:04] It’s getting worse for me.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:41:05] I agree it is worse for women. But I would say that I think they’ve literally run out of space on a woman’s body to monetize and to change. I mean, I saw the-, just last year. I think it was Kris Jenner, someone who was promoting earlobe plastic to fix your fucking earlobes.
MATT MCGORRY [00:41:23] Oh my god.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:41:23] They’re going after our earlobes, Matt.
MATT MCGORRY [00:41:25] Yeah.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:41:26] That’s it. They went after our labias. Now they’re coming for our lobes. There’s not a piece of a woman’s body that you cannot try to change. And because I think that there’s nowhere else now, like what we’re going to do the inside of our nostrils?
MATT MCGORRY [00:41:37] Right.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:41:38] Honestly. So I think that’s why they’ve moved in on men is because they are trying to, well they’ve run out of space. They’ve run out of real estate.
MATT MCGORRY [00:41:46] I’m worried you gave them an idea now, that there’s going to be teas for the inside your nostril.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:41:50] It’s so insane. But there is definitely a giant spark when it comes to how much men are now being body shamed, especially with the rise of social media. I’m gonna talk to you about it in a minute.
MATT MCGORRY [00:42:07] Great.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:42:07] So two years ago, you decided to put diet culture in the fuck-it bucket. Was part of that the pressure of social media? Had that been making things worse? What, had you just been? We you at like a crescendo of just hell?
MATT MCGORRY [00:42:21] You know, it was my Hell definitely peaked around the bodybuilding stuff. And, you know, for a long time, I thought that, oh, the most that you can do is like talk about it.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:42:33] Mmhmm.
MATT MCGORRY [00:42:35] And so for me, actually, it was really about when I started to read, for example, this book, “Health at Every Size” by Dr. Linda Bacon. I started to really understand how deep my internalized fatphobia went. And, and also to understand fatphobia as a system of oppression as well, not just something that exists sort of separately from, from everything else in terms of just like insecurity, but like the sort of the political nature of that insecurity, you know, the source of it and how it permeates basically all areas of how we think about food.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:43:08] Would you elaborate on that a little bit?
MATT MCGORRY [00:43:09] Mmhmm. So, for example, fatphobia, the hatred of fat people or fat. Obviously, it impacts most, mostly, or most horrendously the folks in larger bodies. But even for thin people, very often the fear of getting fat is so great that it can be, you know, life destroying, as you know and as we’re talking about with so many actresses even who are almost at the very peak of privilege. You know, in terms of their bodies, in terms of how they’re viewed in positions socially. So, you know, everything from moralizing about foods to when we talk about, oh, like you’re so bad or, you know, oh, you’re being so good today or, you know, it’s even when you sort of, been reading this other book called “Fearing the Black Body” by Sabrina Strings, about the the racial origins of fatphobia has been so interesting, the origins being in racism, the transatlantic slave trade and also in Protestantism and this language of like good and bad and moralizing around food. You still see it. You see like-.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:44:12] Is that because the bodies of black people were more curvaceous, naturally, than the bodies of the white women? I imagine more so with the women. Is that where some of that-.
MATT MCGORRY [00:44:23] Essentially the-.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:44:24] Comes from?
MATT MCGORRY [00:44:24] Yeah. Initially the body that the slave trade at first when, it before it blew up, in particular before was in America, it became seen in a little while, it was a fetishized thing that was seen as attractive in a fetishized way, at some points. But essentially, when more enslaved African folks begin to be a part of the countries where that was happening, it began to be associated with all the other sort of racial connotations or racial biases and racist assumptions about black folks. Right? That they were greedy or that they were, lacked willpower, all these ideas.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:45:03] Lazy.
MATT MCGORRY [00:45:04] Yeah, all these ideas that were based on race science at the time. And so in that, part of it, it became a class, also a class demarcate as well. To be able to be as far away from that meant to be, to be depriving oneself. Right? This asceticism that is baked until like Protestantism. And this idea of like saviorism, you know, the more that we can sort of deprive ourselves is seen as a moral thing. And we still see that. Right? If you look at-.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:45:31] Jesus. Went on a big ol’ diet, didn’t he?
MATT MCGORRY [00:45:33] Right. Right. He sure did. He sure did.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:45:36] That’s why he’s got such sick abs on every cross that you see.
MATT MCGORRY [00:45:38] That’s right.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:45:38] When did like? I never heard about him exercising, doing sit ups in the Bible.
MATT MCGORRY [00:45:43] You know?
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:45:43] He’s got fucking insane abs.
MATT MCGORRY [00:45:45] He does.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:45:45] He’s like Brad Pitt in “Fight Club”.
MATT MCGORRY [00:45:46] Right. We’re gonna cut to like 2025 version of him. And it’s going to be, he’s just gonna have, like, vascularity all just down his abs. It’s just gonna continue with body image over time. That’s a really depressing thought.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:45:57] Hairless, completely hairless.
MATT MCGORRY [00:46:02] Exactly. Oh man.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:46:02] Move on. Move on quickly.
MATT MCGORRY [00:46:07] But we still see this like even unlike our foo-, you know, like on LaCroix at the bottom, it says zero calories, zero sugar, innocent. And it’s like, what the fuck does that even mean? Like, it’s so weird.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:46:16] Oh yeah.
MATT MCGORRY [00:46:16] Or these foods, that are like, you know, clean eating or good-, like, you know, be bad, but also be good. You know, it’s just so weird when you see the connection, you’re like, what the fuck is-?
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:46:28] So moralized. It’s weird because where I come from, they give the girls like extra ghee to fatten them up, because if you’re thin you look poor and then no one wants to marry you, because they presume you don’t have money for food. Same thing with my friends who come from certain parts of Africa.
MATT MCGORRY [00:46:39] Yeah.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:46:40] Their mothers try to give them chicken fat pills, chicken hormones, in order to fatten them up.
MATT MCGORRY [00:46:46] Yeah.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:46:46] So they’ll look more marriageable. So it’s really, I mean, it’s so perfectly illustrates how this is not a universal standard. This is not a truth. This is just a very segregated part of the West or certain other cultures, I suppose, around the world.
MATT MCGORRY [00:47:01] Right.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:47:01] That just choose to find a way to oppress people and also, make them feel like shit so that they’ll go out and buy stuff.
MATT MCGORRY [00:47:08] Right.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:47:08] You know, people consume more when they’re unhappy.
MATT MCGORRY [00:47:11] Exactly. Exactly. And it seems like the only universal aspect is essentially that, you know, that there are certain ideals in which people, in particularly women and fems, need to fit into. Right? And that they, and then shame will result in not measuring up to that or even when they do measure up as much as one can. Usually there’s some sort of shame associated with that as well.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:47:32] Yeah. With us, every 10 years we get a new look. So first it was like starve yourself until you can only fit into Gap Kids. And if you’re more than a size double zero, then you’re a big fat pig. And then you had, now you have be very, very, very skinny everywhere, but to have big tits and have a big ass, but no thighs and no upper arms, no waist and have a face that is eternally youthful, but also very thin at the same time. Which makes no sense because really a chubby face is one that’s going to look younger for longer. That’s just, that’s just science.
MATT MCGORRY [00:48:04] That’s true.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:48:05] What did Coco Chanel say after the age of 30? You have to choose between your ass and your face.
MATT MCGORRY [00:48:09] Oh, man.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:48:10] She’s like, that’s it. Either get chubby and stay youthful. Or get thin and look old. Either way-.
MATT MCGORRY [00:48:15] Can’t win.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:48:16] Yeah. You can’t win. It’s so peculiar. So, OK, so two years ago, you decide after all of this reading and realizing that you are imprisoned in diet culture and fatphobia, you make a decision? Overnight, kind of?
MATT MCGORRY [00:48:29] Yeah. I’m trying to remember how quickly it happened, but essentially, it was, it was a process. Right? I never, I didn’t quite say, I wasn’t willing to immediately relinquish. Right? And-.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:48:40] You just started to toy with the freedom.
MATT MCGORRY [00:48:42] Exactly.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:48:42] Great.
MATT MCGORRY [00:48:42] And I think that’s the way it goes with all these things. Right? Like even, for example, my first time understanding sexism or racism, even if I wanted to say I will never be sexist or racist again-.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:48:51] Stop telling women suddenly to get back in the kitchen.
MATT MCGORRY [00:48:54] Right. Right. That would be a great start.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:48:57] Sure.
MATT MCGORRY [00:48:57] And, but at the end of the day, it’s like these things, you know, as you know, it’s a constant process of unlearning that will, that will happen forever.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:49:05] Yeah.
MATT MCGORRY [00:49:05] So there was no switch to flip. You know, I could start that process. I could be intentional about it. But for me, the real sort of, the rubber hit the road when in this conversation with myself around, ok, so am I just-? Am I doing things, am I organizing my eating in ways to remain a certain body type? And if I’m doing that, then I’m dieting. And that realization was very large for me because I realized that that did cover still a lot of my, and even as a trainer, look, I never use the word diet, right? Because even, and this is, this is the sneaky way of diet culture. Right? Is that this idea that, like I knew diets don’t work. What I consider a diet doesn’t work. Crash dieting doesn’t work. But if you make it a “lifestyle”, quote unquote, and even obviously now Weight Watchers is using that language too.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:49:52] Wellness Watchers.
MATT MCGORRY [00:49:54] Exactly, oh is that what they’re calling it?
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:49:55] Mmhmm.
MATT MCGORRY [00:49:58] Jesus. Lean Jesus.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:50:00] Lean, hairless Jesus. Nom move on. Move on.
MATT MCGORRY [00:50:05] Ok, ok. That, that basically this you know, that even if you’re not calling it a diet, if, if you’re restricting your eating in order to maintain a certain body, a certain level of leanness, as we called it, in the fitness world, it is a diet. So slowly I would release that. And I basically I told myself is like, look, I can always go back if I, if I decide to. Right? But like, I have to try to be able to sort of understand this. And I also started kind of un-normalizing these, all these different, like, thought patterns, behaviors, the obsessively checking the mirror, you know, touching my body to see if I’d lost weight. You know, trying to trick myself into not being hungry. All this stuff. I almost think of it like in terms of like an abusive relationship. It’s like when you were in that relationship, it’s hard to recognize all the things that are so fucked up. Right? That you’ve normalized. Right? Like the gaslighting and all this stuff. But after leaving and having some distance from it, you know, it is possible to have more perspective often. And so I realized that I had to basically make, you know, make some choices and step back and so that I could always go back into it. And then over time, I kind of kept releasing different layers. And as I educated myself, I’d be able to understand where those things were, you know, where my own limitations were, where I was trying to trick myself into various different ways of maintaining the body that I thought that I had. And also the thing about intuitive eating and health at every size, it doesn’t, it’s not really health at every size and intuitive eating. If you’re saying I’m going to stop dieting as long as I exist in this range, I mean, it’s still on the process. But you’re, when you’re still kind of like having that end goal rather than saying, like I’m, I’m going to allow myself, my body, to be how it is by doing this. We’re still actually hedging our bets. And, and so I really, I did that. And, you know-.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:51:58] You gained weight.
MATT MCGORRY [00:51:59] I gained weight. Yeah.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:52:00] How did that feel? Was it scary at first?
MATT MCGORRY [00:52:02] Terrifying. Yeah, it’s terrifying. And again, also recognizing that even like the privileges that I have. Right? Like as a, as a famous person, for example, the social positioning of being a famous person already gives me a lot of privilege in that way, you know, and, and so to even imagine doing that without that would be even more scary.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:52:23] Yeah. But do you feel like you lost any of your privilege by getting bigger?
MATT MCGORRY [00:52:28] I definitely do. Yeah.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:52:30] Are you getting different roles?
MATT MCGORRY [00:52:31] Yeah.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:52:32] In films. I don’t mean physically.
MATT MCGORRY [00:52:34] Right. But yes, I am too.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:52:37] Lovely.
MATT MCGORRY [00:52:37] Right. Gluten free ones.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:52:39] I think you look fucking great. Honestly.
MATT MCGORRY [00:52:40] Thank you. I appreciate that.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:52:42] And I’ve never liked abs anyway. You look brilliant.
MATT MCGORRY [00:52:44] Thank you.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:52:44] Anyway, go on. What are you gonna say?
MATT MCGORRY [00:52:48] Yeah, I mean I had a conversation so I’d basically decided to relinquish it and the-, relinquish the control. And, you know, I had a conversation about eight months ago with someone in the industry who basically told me that, you know my, that I would no longer be able to play leading man roles.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:53:09] Fuck.
MATT MCGORRY [00:53:10] Yeah. Which is significant for a number of reasons. One which like relati-, you know, understanding that even where I’m at now, I’m, I still have so much body privilege in terms of, in terms of the spectrum of what it means to be a fat person. And if I can’t even be in like a role or if I’m being told that I can’t even be in a role where people believe that I’m like loveable.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:53:33] Loveable. Yeah.
MATT MCGORRY [00:53:33] Yhen of course, that, that is why I’ve internalized this shit in that, in that how profoundly that affects other folks in larger bodies as well.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:53:41] Isn’t it amazing when someone fucking goes and confirms your biggest fear?
MATT MCGORRY [00:53:45] Yeah.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:53:46] That has imprisoned you all this time?
MATT MCGORRY [00:53:47] Yeah.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:53:47] I gained about 75 pounds, about five stone, when I was on the radio and it got massive amounts of press. I mean, for six months, I had paparazzi parked outside my house, it was a whole thing and they would publish like very fat photographs of me next to very, very thin photographs of me. ‘Cause I’d been on medications so it happened very, very quickly. And what was so upsetting about that was the fact that I was now being bullied and humiliated nationwide for this appearance, which is the exact fear you have, as like a teenager.
MATT MCGORRY [00:54:19] Exactly.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:54:20] It’ll be so embarrassing, everyone, will make fun of me. And when it actually happens, you just, this is why I guess you and I now both rally so hard to change the culture so that that truth no longer exists.
MATT MCGORRY [00:54:30] Exactly.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:54:30] And so well done for not being triggered back into everything from hearing that statement. Because a lot of people might have.
MATT MCGORRY [00:54:38] To be honest, I was, I was actually for three days.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:54:43] That makes complete sense.
MATT MCGORRY [00:54:45] Yeah.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:54:45] But all I mean is not jumping straight back into-.
MATT MCGORRY [00:54:46] Exactly.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:54:47] You haven’t turned up here today like you know, skeletal or anything like that.
MATT MCGORRY [00:54:51] Exactly. I think because I’ve had enough distance from it, basically, I, I, I was triggered in a way where I almost was wanted to, I feel like I wanted to punish in a way where I wanted to say, I’m going to, I’m going to fuckin’ do this and I’m going to show you how miserable it makes me, which is just to, you know.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:55:10] Oh sure. I’ve done that
MATT MCGORRY [00:55:10] Fucked up line of rationing. But, but I did it and I was so miserable and I could see, I could finally, because I’d, because I released it for so long, I could see how miserable I was in a way where, you know, my, my spiritual connection that I had felt that I had really worked hard to develop with the universe was gone. My, my energy levels, my concentration, my ability to have, like, higher levels of thinking was totally gone because I just immediately started thinking about being hungry again and think about not being hungry. I mean, being, our hunger is one of our most primal-.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:55:44] Signs of vitality.
MATT MCGORRY [00:55:45] Signs of vitality, internal mechanisms. And to deny that and to try to be in touch with my truest self, whether it’s, you know, sexually or emotionally or spiritually. It doesn’t work because we’re actually trying to deny one of the most fundamental parts of ourselves. So after about three days of it, I had a call with my coach and she asked me to stop and I, and I, and I did. And I was glad that she asked me. But even in that it was is this thing were then going to explain it to people. Right? Like, you know, I see this analogy sort of I think it’s useful for me because I, my entry point was in other forms of activism to see analogies with different kinds of oppression. Right? So I think of diet culture is like analogous to rape culture. Right? In terms of like this sort of ever present, like way of viewing women and women’s sexuality that is uphold, upheld by everything from the smallest sort of microaggression to the larger things. And then obviously in rape culture too, explaining assault, you know, in particularly as a woman to men, obviously, one of the main fears and something that comes true very often is that people are either not believed or diminished in some way and not to, of course, create a one to one. But what my experience was, is in explaining to people how I was triggered into this, and and my being upset from all this stuff was that people would then minimize without even consciously realizing it.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:57:06] Especially because you’re a man.
MATT MCGORRY [00:57:07] Especially as a man.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:57:08] Men don’t have body issues.
MATT MCGORRY [00:57:09] Right. And even if it was the smallest things. Right? Because my sort of understanding and analysis of how these systems work and because I was so triggered and because I’m so new in the journey of like, you know, making peace with all this, that I’d find myself triggered in other ways again. So whether someone was like, oh, look, I think it’s great as, you know, as long as you’re healthy and like all these different sort of assumptions.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:57:30] Codes.
MATT MCGORRY [00:57:30] Exactly. These codes that people aren’t even realizing or like, well, I guess, you know, the person’s just expressing how the industry is, right? But like, if you took an analogy with that in any other way and you’re like, if you’re telling a woman that she you know, that there’s just not that many, you know, leading roles for her and therefore you can’t take her as a client because she’s a woman, we would understand that like, yes, it’s ok to express the truth. But with that, you also have to express that like-.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:57:56] You want to help change the system.
MATT MCGORRY [00:57:56] You want to help change the system.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:57:58] For sure.
MATT MCGORRY [00:57:59] Exactly.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:58:00] Yeah. I mean, I’m lucky that I have that with the agents who, you know, there isn’t very much South Asian representation in Hollywood. And I’ve agents who see that as a challenge, not a pitfall.
MATT MCGORRY [00:58:09] Exactly.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:58:09] And a hurdle. So have you had therapy over the last two years? How do you, how does one who wants to step out of this, you know, prison? How does one do that? Did, did you have therapy or coaching or anything like that?
MATT MCGORRY [00:58:22] Yeah. I mean, I’ve been in therapy for 18 years now, which I’m, I consider myself extremely privileged and lucky to have experienced. I think that is a great step for, for many folks in that way. I think, you know, there are people who do coaching, health at every size coaching, intuitive eating coaching, as a way to step out of that is a great thing. I think being a part of a community like “I Weigh” or “The Body is Not An Apology”, Sonya Renee Taylor’s community. Being in community so you can really sort of have people that are supporting you in that journey, even if it’s virtually, right? It’s so important because most of the folks in your life, for most of us, are not necessarily going to understand why. And, and we need to be able to sort of go and refill and refuel ourselves in terms of our reasoning and become grounded in sort of the, the truth of what we’re doing and reminded of why we’re doing it. So I think that sort of community aspect is really important. And for me it was the coaching that I’ve been doing and continuing to educate myself. Right? Like reading these books, like “You Have the Right to Remain Fat” by Virgie Tovar. It was amazing. “Anti-Diet” is a new book that just came out that I love and just really able to identify when I’m having these thoughts. OK. How does this fit into the broader narrative?
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:59:41] Spotting the inner bully.
MATT MCGORRY [00:59:43] Yes.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:59:43] I think that’s great.
MATT MCGORRY [00:59:44] Yeah.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:59:44] Well, that’s fantastic. I’m so happy that you’ve managed to separate yourself from that or you’re on that journey currently. And I’m sure it’s, it’s a continual journey.
MATT MCGORRY [00:59:52] Absolutely. It is.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:59:54] As someone who is like in recovery for maybe five or six years now.
MATT MCGORRY [00:59:56] Yeah.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:59:56] It still just goes on and on and you find new ways in.
MATT MCGORRY [00:59:58] Absolutely.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:59:59] I had a moment where I couldn’t fit into a designer dress at a photo shoot recently and it wouldn’t go up past my knees. And I, for the first time ever, thought, oh not shame on me, shame on you. You got my fuckin sizes a month ago. Like why would you order a size zero dress just to make me feel like shit? It’s very intense.
MATT MCGORRY [01:00:17] Yeah.
JAMEELA JAMIL [01:00:17] And I was wondering if you would mind telling me what you weigh. And in an “I Weigh”. I’m going to fuckin introduce again. Basically we’re going to do an “I Weigh” I’m not gonna like, yeah, Matt, can you? Yeah, we’ve got a weighing scale here. Roll out the weighing scale. Bring out the measuring tape. I was gonna ask you what you weigh.
MATT MCGORRY [01:00:39] I weigh bold compassion for myself and others. I weigh healing myself and others. I weigh fiercely fighting against systems of oppression. And I weigh prioritizing my inner joy and peace.
JAMEELA JAMIL [01:01:06] Great. Thanks for coming on.
MATT MCGORRY [01:01:07] Thank you for having me.
JAMEELA JAMIL [01:01:08] This has been so informative and illuminating.
MATT MCGORRY [01:01:11] It’s been really wonderful. I appreciate it.
JAMEELA JAMIL [01:01:13] Thank you so much for listening to this podcast. I just want to give an extra massive thank you to people who helped me make this, Sophia Jennings, my producer and researcher. Kimmie Lucas, my producer. Andrew Carson, my editor. James Blake, my boyfriend, who made the beautiful music for this show. And now I’d like to leave you by passing the mic to a member of our community, sharing their “I Weigh”.
I WEIGH COMMUNITY MEMBER [01:01:36] I weigh my openness and my fucking loud mouth and my love of my sister and I weigh, weigh my relationship with my kids and my society, as much as I can’t stand it half the time. And I weigh my rebellious attitude and protesting nature. Thank you for doing this.
February 3, 2023
Actress, LGBTQ+ advocate, and legend Laverne Cox joins Jameela this week to discuss her journey to who she is now, how spending time with trans women changed her mind on who she herself could be, the birth of #transisbeautiful, the problem with trans politics today, reaching across the aisle, the real problems facing Americans today, and more.