June 19, 2020
Stand-up Comedian, Host, Actor, and Author Nicole Byer joins Jameela this week to discuss a no-shame life, exercising for fulfillment not weight loss, quarantine dating, how to laugh while mourning, and Nicole’s new book – #VERYFAT #VERYBRAVE: The Fat Girl’s Guide to Being #Brave and Not a Dejected, Melancholy, Down-in-the-Dumps Weeping Fat Girl in a Bikini.
11 — Nicole Byer
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:00:00] Hello and welcome to another episode of “I Weigh” with Jameela Jamal. I hope this episode finds you well. I do want to quickly say thank you so much for how many messages you sent us last week after Alok’s episode. We had something like 10,000 messages of love and support and all of you telling me how much you had learned, how much it changed your minds or your family’s minds about certain issues. For those who don’t know, we discussed the binary of genders and trans issues. The history of trans, so much history of racism and and gender nonconforming existence and lifestyle and issues. And it was such an informative hour where Alok just broke everything down at such a clear and concise and memorable and beautiful way. So I highly recommend it for those who haven’t listened. But thank you again to those who do. Those things, those messages don’t just mean something to me. They also mean a lot to the activists who come on the show and they put themselves, they put their lives and their, you know, their own mental health on the line by coming onto big platforms like this and talking about these incredibly difficult issues. And the reason that they have to do what they do is because they live such a marginalized existence. And so these people have hard lives and their timelines are sometimes really, really awful and abusive and traumatic and exhausting. And so please, please carry on sending messages of love and support and thanks to people who do that for a living. Because I heard personally from Alok that they were really, really moved and touched by all of the messages that you sent. And, you know, moments like that reaffirm their sometimes what feels like thankless work. So continue to show all of that love to any activist that you see or follow online. And remember that you are contributing to drowning out all the negativity that they receive constantly just for bloody existing. Today’s episode is a little bit different. We are talking to superstar comedian, Nicole Byer. You will know her from our hit podcast, “Why Won’t You Date Me?” And also her super hit Netflix baking show, “Nailed It”. She also has a coffee table book that is now out called “Very Fat, Very Brave”. It’s sort of a, it’s sort of like a hybrid between a coffee table book and a self-help guide that she will be telling us all about in this episode. And we just get very real about a lot of things that are dirty and funny, but also very sad and traumatic. We talk about racial inequality. We talk about the body positivity movement and, and fat phobia and the kind of existence that she is forced to live within by society and yet rejects so joyously and boldly. We talk about what it’s like to lose your parents really young, which is what happened to Nicole. And so this is a slight trigger warning for anyone who maybe isn’t ready to hear that or could have lost someone recently this year. She talks about using humor to overcome her grief and how important it is to make the most of life while you are living it. So I hope you enjoy this ray of sunshine of an episode. I think it’s what we all need this week. She’s a true, true icon. And I’m so lucky that she came on to talk to me. And this was an incredibly fun hour of my life. Enjoy. This is Nicole Byer. Nicole Byer. You are a stand up comedian, an actor, a writer, you’ve appeared in “A Black Lady Sketch Show”, “Nailed It” and “Loosely, Exactly Nicole”, a show that you wrote based on your own life experiences, you are the host of numerous hit podcasts, including “Why Would You Date Me?”, which I’ve been a guest on, and “The Best Friends” podcast with Sasheer Zamata. And as of June 2nd, you are officially now a published author with the publication of your self-help slash coffee table book, “Very Fat, Very Brave: the Fat Girl’s Guide to Being Brave and Not a Dejected Melancholy Down in the Dumps, Weeping Fat Girl in a Bikini”. You are truly one of my favorite people, one of my favorite comedians. And I am so thankful to have you on my podcast. Hello and welcome.
NICOLE BYER [00:04:07] Hello. Hello. Hello. Thank you so much for having me. I have not heard someone say the full title of the book out loud. And it honestly, I’m like my own biggest fan. I think I’m very funny. But like having someone read it out loud is so funny to me. Jameela, thank you so much for having me.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:04:28] Oh, God, it’s such a pleasure. So you and I met because you were on “The Good Place”.
NICOLE BYER [00:04:34] I was. It was such a delightful week. I think I was there for three days. And what a delight. Like it was like a well oiled machine because it was the second to last season and everybody was so kind and nice and, yeah. It was just like really cool to have a job with, like people I respect.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:04:55] Yeah. Well, it was a joy for me to discover you. I was not yet familiar with your work and then instantly became a Stan. Started listening to your podcast. Then you invited me on your podcast and I, I have chosen you as one of my favorite Twitter followers of the last couple of years. You are-.
NICOLE BYER [00:05:12] Oh, thank you.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:05:12] Twitter follows, not Twitter followers. You are my favorite fan.
NICOLE BYER [00:05:17] I have to tell you, people still reach out to me about your episode of “Why Won’t You Date Me?” People truly loved it. And I told you after we were done, you’re like, I don’t know if that was good. No, no, no. You said a lot of things that people need to hear. And a year and a half, two years later, people still comment on it to me.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:05:35] Well, I mean, is that? That was one of my first ever podcast appearances. So I was very, very unsure about what I was doing or how I was coming across. And I hadn’t been allowed by publicists to do such a free interview ever. So I didn’t know if I’d just gotten myself canceled, but I think I told, I think I told a very personal story about a date I went on in-.
NICOLE BYER [00:05:56] Yes.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:05:56] L.A., right? With a man who left my house with no teeth bleeding, his chin split open with an erection. So if you want to hear more about that story, go and listen to my episode on Nicole’s show, “Why Won’t You Date Me?” It’s filthy as fuck. So there are so many reasons I wanted you to come today, not only because I just wanted to be able to chat to you and look at your beautiful face, but also because this podcast is about mental health and it’s about self-worth, but it’s also about shame. And to me, you are someone who exhibits a person who is bankrupt of fucks to give. And that’s, that’s the messaging that I take from your work. And I wanted to kind of dig in to how one can get to that level of bankruptcy, because I aspire to be more like you.
NICOLE BYER [00:06:50] Thank you. I mean, I, it’s, it’s interesting. It’s an interesting thing because yes, I don’t give a fuck. I truly, I understand that some people will like me. Some people won’t like me. You know, one piece of pizza is not for everybody. You know what I’m saying? Like, a cup of tea is not for everybody. So, like, I fully understand that. So, like, when people are like, I don’t think you’re funny, then I’m truly like, that’s cool. I really hope you telling me that made you feel better. And I hope you actually find somebody that you find funny. Like, I hope you find joy somewhere. And like, I guess when do I care about what people think? A friend. I care about what my friends think. I never want to, like, hurt somebody. I used to be a very petty person. And I’ve tried in my old age to be less petty. And that’s help me not-.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:07:45] I love pettiness.
NICOLE BYER [00:07:46] But it helps you not give a fuck, because when you’re petty, you’re thinking about somebody. Somebody, somebody’s name is in your, it’s, it’s on your tongue. It’s in brain.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:07:55] What do they say? Someone’s, someone’s living in your head rent free?
NICOLE BYER [00:07:57] Yep. Uh huh. And it’s like, why are you giving them that space? Clean up that studio, put some artwork up in there, create something.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:08:05] So are there things that you have ever experience shame around?
NICOLE BYER [00:08:14] Shame is like we-, where you? How are you defining shame? I feel like everyone defines it in a different way.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:08:22] Yeah. To me, shame is something that you. It’s a, it’s a belief system you have around yourself, a set of expectations that you aren’t meeting perhaps as a human being. Well, via what you put out to the world, what other people think about you, the way you look, etc., it’s, it’s sort of, it to me. It’s like this siege that’s put on us from the outside that we grow and water ourselves until it grows into a giant tree of shame inside of us. That starts to shift our decision process and creates a dialog of us being not very kind and supportive to ourselves sometimes.
NICOLE BYER [00:08:54] Yeah, I would say like food was always like a shameful thing. Growing up, my mom, I like talked about this, I think, on my podcast. But my mom was always on some sort of diet. She was always on Weight Watchers. She was always taking walks around the neighborhood with her best friend. She to-, she talked a lot about weight, like my dad is from Barbados, that’s where his people are from and I always wanted to go. I was like because I love swimming. I love being at the beach or whatever when I was a lot younger. Now I do too. But I was like, Mommy, let’s go to Barbados. And she’s like, we’ll go to Barbados when I’m thin enough to be in a bikini. And then she died. So we never went ’cause she never got thin enough. Well now she’s thin enough but that’s a different story.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:09:42] Jesus. Yeah. Oh my god. Oh my fucking christ.
NICOLE BYER [00:09:47] The best part was it took you just a half a second.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:09:53] God. My brain was in denial.
NICOLE BYER [00:09:56] I said it.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:09:57] I love you.
NICOLE BYER [00:09:58] So I guess I held in my body. I was like, I don’t have-.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:10:03] Actually, by the way, I do think that that’s a great point about the fact that do not wait until you are that perfect bikini weight.
NICOLE BYER [00:10:08] Yes. Don’t wait.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:10:09] ‘Cause you have no idea what’s gonna happen.
NICOLE BYER [00:10:11] Yes. You don’t know what’s going to happen. I’m sure my mother would have loved to have had a beautiful vacation in Barbados at her size and then dying, as opposed to not having this wonderful vacation and, you know?
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:10:22] Take those vacations that you can.
NICOLE BYER [00:10:24] Yes.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:10:24] Sorry. Go on.
NICOLE BYER [00:10:25] Oh, no, no, it’s fine, but. Yeah. So I watched my mom and internalized everything she did. So when I would restrict myself and then, like, be like, it’s a treat. It was like a shameful treat. And then as I got older, I was like, oh, why why do you care so much about being what everybody else looks like? You’ve never been like that with your hair. You’ve never been like that with your clothes. You’ve worn the weirdest shit. Like I leave my house looking real wild, like I’m wearing a weird Kathy shirt right now because I love Kathy, but-.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:11:03] It’s great.
NICOLE BYER [00:11:03] Like, I just wear whatever I want. I was like, why do I, why do I care about my body looking at certain type of way? So it took a while, but I got to a place where I was like, honestly, I don’t care what, like if somebody is upset about this big body having a great time, then like, I’m so sorry that you have nothing interesting in your life. You know? Like I started like being like you’re just projecting what you think I should look like on to me as opposed to just being like everybody’s different, this person’s different. Maybe I don’t want to be fat, but like they are and that’s their life and who cares? So, yeah. Food used to be shameful. I used to like be like, I guess this piece of cake is a treat and it’s like now if I want cake I’m just gonna eat cake.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:11:50] Great. And I think that that’s something that a lot of people are struggling with right now. You know, we’re all locked inside with all of our feelings.
NICOLE BYER [00:11:57] Yes.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:11:57] And with a lot of sort of long lasting foods which are normally salty and sugary carbs.
NICOLE BYER [00:12:03] Yes.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:12:04] And so I think a lot of people are having to confront that fear that they have and the way that these fuckin’ social media apps are just doubling down on fasting apps and weight loss and an all these like fat loss injections. And it’s just becoming mad. I’ve never seen so many adverts as I’m seeing now because they know we’re all at home online.
NICOLE BYER [00:12:24] Yes, we’re at home, we’re online. And then eventually we’re gonna be able to leave our homes. And people don’t want to be like I gained the quarantine 15 or whatever. But I think you can be, it’s okay to be fearful of your body changing because anything new is kind of scary. But like that being said, there’s nothing wrong with, like, moving your body in a joyful way. So like growing up, I wish someone had said to me, and this is like in my book a little bit, but like I wish a doctor said to me, like, you don’t have baby fat, you have actual fat. And there is a way that you can lose that actual fat or you can keep actual fat in a healthy way. Yoga. Do you want to learn about? Like yoga is a beautiful thing that any, not anybody, most people can do. And yoga is a beautiful way to keep. Your body mobile, keep your body limber, and it’s like pretty intense sometimes, but it, like I feel joyful after it. And it’s like running on a treadmill doesn’t bring me joy. So I’m not going to forced myself to do that. And then, like, fat loss injections. Why? Why are you looking for like a quick way to get the body that you deem necessary?
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:13:33] Because we’re fucking panicked about it. Because, as in people are panicking us about it.
NICOLE BYER [00:13:37] Yeah.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:13:37] That’s why it’s like, well, you can’t go to the beach, so, you know, because normally this is our beach body ready. You better be beach body ready.
NICOLE BYER [00:13:44] Yes.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:13:45] And so now it’s just like you better be Covid ready. You better come out of Covid looking like Jessica Alba in the 90s.
NICOLE BYER [00:13:51] And it’s so insane because it’s like not everybody’s built to do that.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:13:56] No.
NICOLE BYER [00:13:57] Like I encourage people to look at, like fat athletes because it’s a thing. There’s this woman named Roz, the Diva, I think is what she goes by. Hold on, sorry. She is a black female plus size poler, and she’s one of the strongest fucking people I’ve ever seen. And people might go, oh, but she can do every trick that a skinny girl can do. I’m like, no, but she pulls that fat ass up that pole. Can homegirl who is thin or do that? Can she wear a 200 pound weight vest and climb up a pole? Probably not. She’s strong. Also, like Olympic shot putters are like thick, sturdy women like-.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:14:37] Look at Lizzo.
NICOLE BYER [00:14:38] Yes.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:14:38] I love that video that she put out this week. She was like, I workout because I’m a performer and I’m keeping up my own personal athletic goals. I’m not trying to get the body type that you want me to have.
NICOLE BYER [00:14:49] With Lizzo, it blows my mind that anyone can look at like a 10 minute long video because you can go on YouTube, you don’t have to see her live, you can go on YouTube, look at her perform, not stop moving for 20 minutes and then go, she’s unhealthy. I’m like, you do it. You try to do what she just did.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:15:09] I can’t even have sex on top because I get cramp in the side. Do you ever get like? You know like when you swim too soon after a snack. Yeah, reverse cowgirl three pumps and then I’m out the game. I tap out. That’s it. I could never do any of the things that Lizzo does.
NICOLE BYER [00:15:28] I mean.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:15:28] We-. Yeah. She’s just like bolted upstairs and not been out of breath as I Mr. Burns my way up. No one knows what the hell am I talking about. Do you receive a lot of you know, I talked about this with Roxane Gay on this podcast, do you receive a lot of concern trolling yourself or because of being a comedian people not fuck with you in that way?
NICOLE BYER [00:15:47] I think I just respond to people in a way that it’s not fun for them. I don’t argue with them. I’ll just like repost it with a bunch of hearts. And then people who want to fight can go battle at my defense if that’s what they need to do. But I just like kind of repost to be like, I hear you. I see you. Thank you. But also, I don’t mind. If you feel the need to take the five minutes out of your day to hop on your phone. Figure out my Twitter or my Instagram. Get in the comments or tweet at me to go, you’re fat. Guess what? I know. I know. You’re not telling me anything. The only comment that’s ever gotten to me is this woman was like, you seem happy. I appreciate your happiness, but I wonder if you’re really happy. And I was like, am I really happy? Like, that’s the only type of comment that shakes me when someone’s like, I’m worried about your soul. Like I don’t give a shit about being fat. What are you going to tell me next? I’m black and I have two eyes. These are things that I see and that I know like, it’s yeah, it doesn’t bother me. People come at Roxane Gay, like, in the meanest ways.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:17:00] Yes. Hyper cruel. It’s bizarre.
NICOLE BYER [00:17:01] Because I follow her on Twitter. I love her so much. She was at a standup show that I was doing and she was sitting in the back and I don’t fangirl really. Like I got to work with Ted Danson and I kept my cool, but I saw Roxane Gay.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:17:14] You did. I was there.
NICOLE BYER [00:17:18] And I, it was it was very hard. But Roxane Gay wrote this book “Hunger” that I loved so much because she was literally talking like for me, about me and to me all the same time. And it’s a beautiful book. It’s a rough book. And I loved it. And I had just finished it when she was at this show. And I saw her and I was like. I started shaking in a way that I’ve never shook before. And then after my set said I was like, I love you so much. She’s like, you’re so funny. No, I was so excited. I love her dearly. She’s great.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:17:50] I’m so glad. Have you actually had a chance to? You should have her on your podcast.
NICOLE BYER [00:17:54] I would like to. I think I’m gonna reach out shortly. I think she just got engaged, which is a real treat.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:17:59] I. I also read “Hunger”. And that was the moment that I fell madly in love. That and “Bad Feminist”. Those two books of Roxane Gay’s that really meant a lot to me. And, and “Hunger” really identified for me how I weaponized food against my body and how I used, you know, to deal with. You and I both been through a lot of shit when we were younger. And you lost both your parents before the age of 21 years old. I went through a bunch of my own stuff that we don’t need to go in to right now, because everyone’s heard me fucking go on about it. But i.e. my body manifested all of my trauma. I used it as a way to kind of like build up a defense against the world or against things that I would-. And I also used to, like, push my feelings down with food. Was that something that you ever did?
NICOLE BYER [00:18:43] Sometimes I push my feelings down with food. I’m a compulsive eater, which is a fun thing I’ve discovered about myself. I also have ADD. So the way my ADD manifests is I can’t really do mundane tasks without my medication. So like my, I would open my mail every six months. I would only pay bills once like utilities were shut off and then eating was like a thing that I was like. I know how to eat. That’s, I can do that. That’s a thing I know how to do. I can finish this task and it’s not like I felt better after finishing the task. But it was like something I could just do. And that compounded into like years and years of people like in high school or whatever, being like, like you don’t want to, like, move your body when you’re a fat body because people stare at you. So like as an adult, I like I don’t like taking walks. I don’t, like I don’t like getting lost. I don’t like walking around meandering with, like, no intention. And I was like, I feel like I should move my body more. So then I got a personal trainer who is a dear friend of mine still, I love him a lot. And he, he like wasn’t, he wasn’t one of those trainers where he was like, we have a goal, blah, blah, blah. He just like asked me what my goal was. And I was like, OK. And then we will, like, start working. And then he’d be like, have you lost weight? And I would be like, no. And he’d be like, okay. And then we, you know. We had a goal, but he never, like, held me to it. And then like at like a couple months in, he’s like, Hey Nicole. I’m just happy you’re like moving your body and you seem excited when you like can do one more like rep of something. And I was like, yeah, that feels good. It feels like I accomplished something. Then I was like, oh, is that why people exercise because they feel accomplished and not to lose weight? So then like I started moving my body a lot more because I, it was a task that I could do before I started taking medication if that makes sense.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:20:35] I also wish more people would look at exercise in that way. I feel like we would live in a completely different world. I think our mental health would be completely different.
NICOLE BYER [00:20:42] Yes.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:20:42] I think if people it’s been so commodified and like, bastardized by vanity exercisers. Exercise is something that we just need to do. We need it for our lymphatic system. And it can be something like gentle walking. I can’t exercise for shit like I, I’m just I, I’m like one of those balloon type people, men, that you see outside of car sales.
NICOLE BYER [00:21:04] Yes.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:21:07] The ones that are like shhhhh shhhhhhh. That’s my sort of genetic makeup. I don’t have any muscles but I want and I realized that part of why, because I, my eating disorder was compulsive eating and starving myself. And so I just sort of binge, purge, binge purge. And so when I used to exercise as a teenager, it was so obsessive that I have stayed away from it my whole life. I’m totally traumatized by exercise. But I realize now if I could reprogram myself to not look at it as a means to a Victoria’s Secret body, if I could look at it as the instant goals of the fact that you feel, like you feel happy afterwards, you feel in control of your body, I’m projecting onto you what you feel, Nicole, I hope you’re enjoying it. I think that people know that they are improving their circulation, maybe strengthening many joints. It shouldn’t be about the way that we look. We’re not taught about the fact that it’s so exciting when you become a little bit stronger.
NICOLE BYER [00:21:54] Yes.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:21:54] Or you are able to lift a new way and you’ll be able to go and do more rounds and more reps. I think that the idea of looking at little gains, we’re so obsessed with the big quick fix.
NICOLE BYER [00:22:04] Yeah. And it’s like you’re not-.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:22:05] We don’t know how to process it.
NICOLE BYER [00:22:06] Fixing anything. Like I for the longest time, like my friend started taking, I don’t know. Something happens. You’d hit like 28 and everyone’s like, I do barre method. I take a lot of classes and I was like, oh, maybe I’ll take a class. So I took this Zumba class and the teacher was very belittling and not welcoming. And she kept talking about like getting your body ready for the su-, like a summer beach body or whatever. And then-.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:22:33] Yeah, I hate that shit.
NICOLE BYER [00:22:33] I like wasn’t getting the moves. So she was like like this, like screaming at me, like, do it like th-. And I was like, lady, this is not it for me. I don’t like, this is bad. And then I like just fi-.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:22:44] You also haven’t come there to become an Instagram dancer.
NICOLE BYER [00:22:46] No.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:22:47] You were there to fucking move.
NICOLE BYER [00:22:48] Just move my body in a joyful way. And it wasn’t joyful. But like I. So then I started pole dancing. And pole is like kind of already stigmatized because I guess women doing anything where they’re showing their skin is bad. And like Instagram kind of shadow bans a lot of dancers. And so, like, it was already like a, like a place of not misfits, but like people who do a very specific thing. So I started taking classes at this place in west, North Hollywood and nobody ever said anything about my weight. Nobody looked at me funny. No, everyone. Because it’s a very singular journey. And then one of the teachers there, this woman, Veronica, has been, like, really instrumental and like, she’ll teach us a move and then if I, like, physically can’t do it just because, like, you know, bodies have limitations. Mine has limitation. And she would go, oh, okay. So she can’t do it like that. So she would just give me an adjustment as opposed to just like being like, whatever. You can’t do it. You know what I mean? So I just think more fitness people can truly take a page from that to go, okay. I have a client who’s different than me.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:23:58] Who needs a modification. Yeah.
NICOLE BYER [00:23:59] Who needs a modification. It’s not a big fucking deal. And then guess what? After doing the modification for a week or two, I can do the other move. You know what I mean? Because it’s like sometimes people need a little, like one more step before the next step.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:24:12] I really, I really enjoy your pole dancing videos.
NICOLE BYER [00:24:15] Thank you. Honestly.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:24:16] I’m really glad that they aren’t shadow banned.
NICOLE BYER [00:24:19] I-.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:24:19] I watch all of that. Is that weird?
NICOLE BYER [00:24:22] No, I love it because honestly it brings me joy. Like I like doing it. It’s-.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:24:29] I also don’t understand why we don’t look at pole dancers as Olympians.
NICOLE BYER [00:24:33] I don’t know either. If literally-.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:24:34] The shit they can do is unbelievable. Gravity is not a thing.
NICOLE BYER [00:24:38] No. And there’s this woman. Fuck. Her name is like Feline something. She’s from Australia. Hold on. I’m gonna find her Instagram, but she is one of the most incredible. Okay. Fe-. Felix Cane. She’s on Instagram, she’s like a champion fucking pole dancer. She’s also, like, very blessed in the flexibility department, like her knees go backwards. So she, like, invented this insane move. Like she’s like, you gotta watch her. Like, just-.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:25:06] I will.
NICOLE BYER [00:25:06] And then you’ll like, just like look at the hashtag like, like just like pole dancing, or like exotic pole.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:25:14] My boyfriend makes music that pole dancers love. I mean, it’s, it’s wild. When you go into the people, the things that he’s tagged in, it’s all pole dancers and people love his song “Retrograde” where there’s a moment he’s like, “Suddenly I’m hip”, which every single time in every single pole dancer scene that’s the spread eagle moment.
NICOLE BYER [00:25:33] I love it.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:25:33] I love it. I live for it. I show all of them to him. He’s just very pole-able. So-.
NICOLE BYER [00:25:41] I love it, that’s great.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:25:42] At some point, if you ever end up making that video, send it to me.
NICOLE BYER [00:25:45] I will.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:25:54] Talk to me about your book. “Very Fat, Very Brave”. Tell me everything.
NICOLE BYER [00:25:59] “Very Fat, Very Brave” came along. So in the book, I talk about my journey to wearing a bikini because it was like years in the making.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:26:10] Tell me why.
NICOLE BYER [00:26:11] Because, so when I was younger, I was, quote, unquote, a normal size. I wasn’t super overweight. I just had, like, baby fat or whatever. And then as I got older, I, my baby fat didn’t go away. It morphed into people fat. And my friends were going through puberty and they were getting hips and they were thin and they’d walk around in bikinis. And I would look at them and I would go, hmm, they look really great. They looked like what I see on TV and in magazines. Nobody wants to see what I have, which is fully a thing that I made up in my brain. Not one of my friends ever said to me, ew Nicole, gross, your body’s disgusting, go back inside.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:26:51] But that’s a side effect of erasure, isn’t it?
NICOLE BYER [00:26:53] Yeah.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:26:54] That’s what it does. It makes you think, well, if I can’t see it, then I’m not allowed to be it.
NICOLE BYER [00:26:58] And so then I started wearing like a T-shirt in the pool and then shorts in the pool. And then like a full fucking like pants and shirt in the pool. And then I just decided-.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:27:09] A three piece suit in the pool.
NICOLE BYER [00:27:11] Yep. Like a wedding dress in the pool, being like, guys, am I covered enough?But then I just decided I was like, I don’t like swimming. I don’t like the beach. I don’t like being outside, which is a fucking lie. I fucking love swimming. I love the beach and I love being outside. But I stopped doing things I loved because I was afraid that people didn’t want it and that they might say something to me. But then I went to like Forever 21, this was maybe five years ago, and they had bikinis that went up to three XL. So I went in the fitting room, tried on two of them. I was like, this will fit me in like a couple months. I’ll get it, but I like, I’ll, I have like a fitness goal to look good in it. So then I, like, kept it, kept it, kept it for like a year or two. And then long story short, I went to Palm Springs, my friend Marcy and I was like, Marcy, I only brought bikinis because nobody fucking knows me up here. And I’m just gonna take pictures and hashtag it, VeryFatVeryBrave. And she was like, we’re brave because she’s a bigger woman as well. And yeah, I, then I just started taking pictures and then I never looked back and I will say, while I was in Palm Springs. This like weird French man with his family kept staring at me. So I looked to him and I was like, “Daddy, do you like what you see”? And then that man never looked at me again.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:28:30] Thing is, I bet he did.
NICOLE BYER [00:28:32] Yes. And I mean-.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:28:33] I bet he fucking did.
NICOLE BYER [00:28:35] And that’s like another thing. It’s like, no, I don’t dress for other people. I truly dress for myself. But I do love a compliment. But that being said, like everyone is attractive to somebody. Do you know what I’m saying? Like-.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:28:47] Yeah.
NICOLE BYER [00:28:48] You can literally look like Jabba the Hutt and someone will find you attractive. Someone will go, let me stick my dick in your rolls. Like somebody will-.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:28:56] But also you make it sound like a like a more like kind of left field fetish, whereas we know that it’s one of the biggest categories in porn. Big beautiful women.
NICOLE BYER [00:29:04] Yes. And I think Whitney Cummings told me that when she was building her robot that the number one complaint from men was they wanted them bigger. Like men, every man I’ve ever fucked has enjoyed my body. And they say it audibly, I have never had a silent fuck where somebody wasn’t like, man, that ass is fun, but like, it’s fun, it’s big. It’s a fun thing for you to hang on to. There’s literature back there I got butt tattoos.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:29:33] Literature.
NICOLE BYER [00:29:35] You know, in case you get a little bored, in case a little too overwhelming, you can go, what does this say? But that being said, like-.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:29:45] I love the idea that you have a graphic novel across your ass.
NICOLE BYER [00:29:49] I just don’t want people to get bored. Trying to keep the engagement up.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:29:51] No, that’s very considerate. I love the idea of learning something while you fuck someone.
NICOLE BYER [00:29:59] Right?
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:30:00] That’s brilliant.
NICOLE BYER [00:30:00] That being said, like who cares if anyone finds you attractive. You look in the mirror and go, oh, this is me. This is who I am. I love this.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:30:07] I might put inspirational Instagram quotes on my ass.
NICOLE BYER [00:30:14] Honestly, I might put “Live, laugh, love” on my butt because I think it’s really funny, but-.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:30:19] And what was it? “Dance like nobody’s watching”.
NICOLE BYER [00:30:21] Dance like nobody’s watching. I would love, that’s so funny.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:30:27] And, it’s so true that when, when a bigger woman will post a picture of herself in a revealing outfit or God forbid, a bikini, there are, there is a kind of, there are three lanes of comments. One is just you look great, girl. And then the next one is, how dare you? You’re going to die of diabetes. You’re promoting and selling obesity to other people. You’re a danger to society. But we’ve never said this to Biggie Smalls or to James Corden. Or any of the other or Kevin James.
NICOLE BYER [00:30:57] Yeah.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:30:58] We only think women are at danger. Bigger women are a danger to society. And then the third lane is you’re so brave.
NICOLE BYER [00:31:05] Yeah. Yeah.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:31:08] And so I love the fact that you call that out in a loving and affectionate way in the title of your book. What does that make you feel like when people are like, so brave? As if you’re a war veteran.
NICOLE BYER [00:31:18] Yeah, it makes me feel fully insane. I’m like, you think it’s brave that I wore a bathing suit to go swimming and then took a picture of the fun I was having. If anything, it’s the most mediocre thing one can do. And then the people being like, you’re promoting obesity. I was like, I am? I, through my picture, you heard me say, eat the contents of your fridge. Like you heard that? And also, I’m not promoting obesity. If you are sick, please see a doctor. Please. Also I talk about moving your body like there’s, it’s health at every size is a thing that people truly don’t understand.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:32:00] Yeah.
NICOLE BYER [00:32:01] Like you can be, you can be 300 pounds and be very healthy. Have you never watched football? Like these men are huge and they move very quickly. But also, football has its problems. But like-.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:32:16] Yeah.
NICOLE BYER [00:32:16] It’s just so wild that, like, women don’t get the same treatment as men when it comes to, like you said, like Biggie Smalls. Sure. Maybe people were like all this fat, ugly fuck. And he’s, you know, he’ll mentioned it in a song, but like, he’s like, I may be ugly, but I’ll fuck all of your, all your women.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:32:34] Fat Joe. No one said anything to him.
NICOLE BYER [00:32:36] Yeah. It’s just so, it’s a, it sucks. It does suck.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:32:40] I don’t think people don’t comment on their size. What I’m saying is that, because people did, of course, people commented on all, you know, people, all different genders.
NICOLE BYER [00:32:45] Yeah. But nobody’s like you’re promoting obesity.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:32:47] Yeah. No one’s like you’re a danger to my children see this or a danger to me. It’s like they’re so afraid that it could happen to them that they’re somehow blaming women, specifically.
NICOLE BYER [00:32:58] Yeah, it’s so wild.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:32:59] Wild. Where-? I’ve had you talk before about where you think that comes from. But I want you to expand on that now. That, that in, that obsess-, obsession with policing women’s body, where do you feel like that comes from?
NICOLE BYER [00:33:10] I think it’s because women historically were told to be seen, not heard. But the, when they say be seen, not heard. They still don’t want to actually see you. They want you to like I think society would like women to stand on the line. And you be like, aah, they all, they’re just women who all look alike. There’s no discernible qualities between these women who fucking cares? And then when you’re a fat woman, you’re being very seen, but also you’re being heard because you’re taking up space. And I think that’s like the main issue. Like they don’t want us to take up too much space.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:33:48] Yeah, and also I guess, like as a, as a black woman, it must be a particularly strange 20 years to have been alive through where you, you and I are roughly the same age. I think I’m a bit older than you. But you remember heroin chic. You heard about it. When we were trying to emulate famine. That was actually happening in the world as a as a type of look.
NICOLE BYER [00:34:08] Yeah. Isn’t that wild? That somebody was like, oh, look at those addicts, let’s not help them. Wow, let’s emaciate models and put them on a runway so they look like them. It’s, it’s fully insane and weird.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:34:21] I know. And then, you know, 10 years later it became the super athletic look and it was like Britney Spears. No hips, all abs, like muscles in her thumbs. Just everywhere. I don’t know why I said that, muscles in her thumbs. I think that’s because in my head I have the fact that my thumbs have abs from tweeting so much. And then now we have entered a moment where, you know, women who aren’t black in particular are trying to emulate predominantly black features. So whether that comes to their lips but also their hips. Their buttocks.
NICOLE BYER [00:34:55] Yes.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:34:56] I don’t think the Kardashians are the only ones. I think they maybe were the first people to get mass attention for it. But we’ve seen it in everyone else.
NICOLE BYER [00:35:03] Yeah.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:35:04] Now it’s a, it’s a, it’s an interesting trend to suddenly watch take over.
NICOLE BYER [00:35:08] It’s weird that bodies have trends. One.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:35:11] Yeah.
NICOLE BYER [00:35:11] Two.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:35:11] Women’s bodies.
NICOLE BYER [00:35:12] Yeah. Women’s bodies have trends like Wendy Williams, her body is like from the 90s, like big titties, no butt. And now the trend is big titties, big butt, tiny waist. And that’s traditionally how black women tend to look. And I believe in a cul-, like cultural appropriation, like I know there’s been so many discussions about it where it’s like, well, why can’t women tan or white women tan? Why can’t white women wear braids? And I’m like, nobody’s saying you can’t do these things. What I’m saying is when black women are hired at the same ri-, rate as white women, great. We can all tan. We can all do whatever the fuck we want. When black women aren’t fired for wearing cornrows. Yes, white women, you can wear cornrows all fucking day long. As soon as black things aren’t like ostracized and called ghetto or called unprofessional, then like once it’s like the norm. Like black women can just do whatever the fuck they want. White women have at it. But like, for now, if you wear braids and people like, that’s so cool. Just know, probably a couple of years ago somebody called a black girl ghetto or wouldn’t hire her because she looked like that.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:36:26] The crown act is still going on. Like we’re still trying to pass legislation for the US not be allowed to fire or discriminate against people based on their hair.
NICOLE BYER [00:36:33] Also, if you Google professional hair styles, you will only see white people. If you Google unprofessional hair styles, you basically only see black people.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:36:41] Wow.
NICOLE BYER [00:36:42] And it is, it’s part of systemic racism. It’s part of implicit bias. Like people are like, oh, dreads are dirty, I’m like peo-, no, no. My friend has had dreads the entire time I’ve known her. I’ve never seen a fleck of dandruff in her hair. I’m sure she over, you know, washes her hair. So people aren’t like you’re dirty or whatever. It’s just it’s so insane to me that people don’t understand that aspect. Like, I’m, I’m not saying it’s wrong for white women to do anything. I’m just saying when you have, like the Rachel Dolezal of the world who want to be black so badly that they do everything that black people do. But what she can do is rub off her fake tan and take out her braids. And guess what? She’s a white woman. She doesn’t have to live-.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:37:31] She can enjoy white privilege.
NICOLE BYER [00:37:31] In the body. And, yeah, it’s just it’s, it’s a tough thing to explain to people who don’t want to hear it.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:37:38] For sure. I think I’ve brought up a similar argument before when I’ve been talking about, you know, we have a couple of trans roles, a couple of disabled roles in Hollywood. Right? Why do we always have to get them to very, very privileged cis or able bodied actors?
NICOLE BYER [00:37:53] Yes.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:37:54] And it’s like the-, and then they are fighting being like, I should not be. You know, I should not be held back. I should be able to, to play this pary, any role I want. And it’s like, yeah, you should be able to suspend disbelief. But do that when there are so many roles that trans people are able to fill cis roles, maybe.
NICOLE BYER [00:38:13] Yes, I say it this way.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:38:14] Wait until there’s more to go around.
NICOLE BYER [00:38:15] You wouldn’t, like, we could just call her out by name. Scarlett Johansson.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:38:19] Yeah.
NICOLE BYER [00:38:20] Has said on record, if I want to play a tree, I could play a tree, which means she’s equating people different than her to inanimate objects, which I don’t think is very nice. And I don’t think we should fucking forget about it. I think you equate it this way. Scarlett, would you, would you do blackface for a role? Would you play a black woman? Where like, there’s no comedy in it. It’s just a black, a story of a black woman. Would you take that part? No, you wouldn’t. So why would you take a part of a trans woman? Why would you take a part of a trans man? You are not trans. Why would you take a part of a disabled person? You’re not disabled. And that being said, yeah, you’re right. Once, like for like 20 years, people in wheelchairs are played by people who are actually in chairs. Then we can go back to, like, able bodied people being like, but like until there’s representation.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:39:13] Yeah. When there aren’t just three stories a year about disabled people or about trans people. When there are loads of stories, when it, when a disabled person is just the love interest.
NICOLE BYER [00:39:20] Yes. And-.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:39:21] You know what I mean? Where that’s just, it’s not a big deal. We have a short man with a tall woman. All these different things like let’s just start-.
NICOLE BYER [00:39:27] Yes. Just fucking shake it up. And then like I’ve been on, like, casting sides of things. And I’ve you know, I’ve, I had a manager for a very long time that I was close to. And you hear stories about people going, we would like to hire a person of color, but like, we can’t find a good one. All the good ones are already cast. And I was like, get them an acting coach. If this is their first job, guess what? Their fee is pretty low. And you have a budget. So get them an acting coach to give them a fucking shot. Like, how do you get experience? By getting the job. Give us jobs and we can learn. It’s not like the first movie ever made was the most amazing fucking movie ever made. They got better over time because white people have been allowed to have access to practice. You know how many bad white movies are out there? So many.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:40:15] I know. What did Chris Rock say? He said that, like, he believes equality will truly exist when black people are allowed to be mediocre.
NICOLE BYER [00:40:23] Yes. We’re not allowed to be mediocre. I was at a, I perform at a comedy theater and I worked my ass off to be able to perform on that stage. And I don’t know of many people who perform on the stage could say that they put in the amount of time and effort that, like me and other people of color have put in. People of color. We work, like my mom used to say to me, Nicole. You just have to be undeniably good and you have to be the best. You have to. That’s how, you have to. And that was like beaten so hard into me. And then my dad was also like, if, once money’s gone, it’s gone. So, like, they were trying to train me to, like, be in a world where it’s like you’re not going to get handouts. You have to work for everything that you’re gonna get. And you have to keep working.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:41:14] Asian parents the same. They lovingly panic you.
NICOLE BYER [00:41:17] Yes. I think that it’s immigrant mentality.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:41:20] Yeah, for sure. But also it like, that stems from reality. Our parents aren’t mad. It stems from-.
NICOLE BYER [00:41:26] No.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:41:26] Their reality in particular. It’s still our reality. Look at the fucking uprising that’s happening in the world because we haven’t moved the needle forward very far in 50 years.
NICOLE BYER [00:41:34] It’s so crazy. Like I am a child of affirmative action and people have come out, not come out, they’ve been saying that it’s not fair. They’re hiring mediocre black people. They’re taking the spots for white people who should have been hired or whatever. And I was like, no, my dad had two degrees and my dad worked really hard. And the reason why he was hired. He worked at AT&T. The reason why he worked at AT&T is because they had a diversity hiring initiative called Affirmative Action to hire minorities. And it’s, it wasn’t just to give him a job. He was fully maybe, overqualified for the job, but it’s like if you don’t clear a seat at the table, how can someone sit? So my dad got to sit at the table, worked really fucking hard to the point when he died so many people from the company reached out to be like, your dad was amazing. He worked so hard. He was so whatever, whatever, whatever this, that or the other. But he created, he got a chance to create general wealth for me and my sister. So, like, he owned a house. So when he died, I got to sell the house. And, you know, I got to not be destitute because I didn’t have, you know, parents to fall back on. He had a pension from this job that he excelled at. And me and my sister got to use that. And that’s important. Do you know what I’m saying? Like a black person who’s, like, loses both parents who didn’t own anything, who weren’t allowed to sit at the table. Now they start again at zero. So it’s like they started at zero because their parents couldn’t do very much. They’re gone. Now they have no support and they’re starting at zero. So to me, affirmative action is a beautiful thing because white people don’t seem to understand that they already kind of have affirmative action. Do you know what I’m saying? Like if you-.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:43:20] It’s a system of affirmative action.
NICOLE BYER [00:43:22] Yes. If you control it and say you’re the CEO of a company, you hire five white people. You’ve created generational wealth for those five white people, especially if your company succeeds and you’ve not given a thing to people of color. And people are like people of color want handouts. I’m like now we-. It’s not a handout. It’s just helping me on a step. It’s helping you get up the steps so that you can continue climbing.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:43:47] It’s just, it’s just giving us the keys.
NICOLE BYER [00:43:49] Yeah.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:43:49] To the room. That’s all it is.
NICOLE BYER [00:43:51] Yeah. You can’t start a car without the fucking key.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:43:54] No, exactly. There we go. We got there in the end. We found it together.
NICOLE BYER [00:43:58] You know? ‘Cause you can turn on the car, but if you go, that’s your prerogative. But you got to get in the car first.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:44:05] I want to talk to you about more things like this just after this quick break. And we’re back and I’m going to ask something very personal, and you can tell me just to fuck off if it’s too personal, but I’ve we’re in this moment where during this pandemic. And, you know, also during this moment where there’s an uprising with Black Lives Matter. A lot of people are dealing with pain and loss. And that is something that you have had to experience, as you’ve referenced in this podcast, losing both your parents and the grief, I imagine, that came from that. Do you have any advice for people who have lost someone and how you’ve been able to work through that to become this joyous, empowering vixen from heaven?
NICOLE BYER [00:44:55] I think my advice so like when people die, people love to say they’re in a better place. Time heals all. You’ll feel better. If you need anything, let me know. But I will say this time doesn’t heal anything. Time just creates distance and then time makes you go, did I forget what my mom said about this? Did I forget what my dad said? And like all those feelings, they’re OK to have, it is OK to wake up one morning and go, man, I wish I could call my mom right now. I’m sad and it’s OK to feel those feelings. You don’t have to get over it. You don’t have to be strong for anybody. You can live in your grief. It is OK to have grief. And it’s also OK to talk to someone about that grief who has no stakes in your life like a therapist. And it’s OK to feel guilty that you’re still alive and they’re not. But what you can’t do is sit in it for too long. You’ve got to accept that you have these feelings and not move on. But, like, let it-.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:45:55] Move through.
NICOLE BYER [00:45:55] Yes. Let it move through you, because grief is it’s tough. It’s really hard. And nobody teaches you how to grieve. And then when people die, nobody tells you that, like, you’re going to be really sad. And then you got to get to business. You got to talk to a funeral home. You got to pick out a coffin. You got to pick the place where the funeral. You got to figure out if you want to cremate them. You got to figure out if you want to bury. It’s like a whole thing. And my dad didn’t do any of that when my mom died. So when my dad died and we were like closing his accounts or whatever, we had to be like. Also. They’re like, oh, next to kin is Bon- or Lily, his wife. And you’d be like, no, no, she’s dead too. They’re like, oh, my. Yeah. It’s death is a messy thing. And I think it’s OK to find the humor in it. I constantly make jokes about it because if I didn’t laugh about it, I just would be so sad all the time.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:46:45] I think that’s really great. And I think it’s because there’s so little conversation around out there that I dared to ask you something so personal. But I think in this moment where a lot of people have lost someone or they know someone or whatever, or they were in fear of losing people, maybe they’ve got parents who aren’t very well. Or grandparents, for example, you know, we’re in a situation where the fucking world is opening back up when the numbers are just not, not right. Like we have flattened the curve at all.
NICOLE BYER [00:47:10] No.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:47:11] Like it’s going up. And then after all, the haircut protests and now these protests, which will actually had to happen. These numbers are going to continue to rise and everyone’s opening up. Some places never closed down. They never close the borders. So you’re like I’m fucking afraid for all of the grandparents out there.
NICOLE BYER [00:47:26] It’s sucks.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:47:27] You know.
NICOLE BYER [00:47:28] It sucks. And I truly hope people don’t blame the protests and the marches-.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:47:32] No, no, no.
NICOLE BYER [00:47:33] On the spike. I think the spike came from the haircut protest.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:47:36] That’s what I’m talking about. That’s why I mentioned that first.
NICOLE BYER [00:47:38] No one was wearing a mask.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:47:40] No, exactly. There were spitting in the faces of police officers who quietly ignored them.
NICOLE BYER [00:47:46] It’s so nuts.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:47:46] Yeah, fucking mad.
NICOLE BYER [00:47:48] And then Memorial Day. I mean, it’s-.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:47:50] I loved the protesters for the Black Lives Matter marches and the George Floyd protests. I’m really glad to see that so many people, almost everyone was wearing masks.
NICOLE BYER [00:47:58] Well, on all the fliers, it was like mask required. And like there were some people out without masks, but like that was like one in a thousand. Do you know what I’m saying? Like.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:48:06] Yeah.
NICOLE BYER [00:48:06] Everybody-.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:48:07] They’re surrounded by people who are wearing masks, it’s fine.
NICOLE BYER [00:48:08] Like masked up. And it’s also like we don’t know much about this virus. So, like, everyone needs to, like, just chill the fuck out. I know I’m not chill out, but like, I don’t know,our government-.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:48:20] I don’t know, just not die. Let’s just not go out and genocide our generation with fucking pneumonia, this flying pneumonia.
NICOLE BYER [00:48:28] It’s nuts.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:48:28] So yeah. So I, so it’s something that I wanted to know. And because you are such an open book in such a wonderful way. I was just wondering that. And I was wondering how long it took you to get to a place where you are able to laugh and you were able to kind of come to terms with things.
NICOLE BYER [00:48:43] I mean, specifically with my parents dying. It was almost immediate. I’ve, I haven’t really I’ve always been a comedian, but I’ve always been like a funny person who can turn a frown upside down, if you will. But like, one specific thing was when my dad died, when I was 21, living on my own and had experienced the world a little bit more than when my mom died. But we cremated my dad and we went to Sandy Hook, which is a, had a bike path that my dad went on a lot. That like, I’d pick him up near when he’d blow a tire out or whatever. So you’re not supposed to scatter ashes in public, but don’t tell anybody. But we had him in this Tupperware container and we were arguing over something I can’t remember why. It was me, my sister, my grandmother. And I was like, I’ll just do it. And I snatched it out of my sister’s hand, opened the top, threw the ashes, and then a gust of wind came and blew them back in my face with my mouth wide open. And there was like silence. You could hear a penny drop. And then my grandmother laughed the hardest I had heard her laugh in a really long time. And then my sister started laughing. And then they were like, he’s on you. And like, they’re dusting bits of him off of my shirt. And it was like that was so fucking funny in the moment. And also horrific, what awful thing to happen. But it was just like you have to find some sort of levity. That’s why, like, you see these plays about like like “August Osage County” is about something very serious. But there’s such funny moments in it. And it’s because tragedy in comedy there, it’s just a very, very fine line between it.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:50:25] Have you? I mean, sorry, if this is super cynical, but you should start a movie off with that scene. That is un-fucking-believable. What a way to break the tension.
NICOLE BYER [00:50:39] Truly.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:50:40] Jesus, my word. Well, I really appreciate you telling me that. I can’t get the image out of my head. Oh, my God. OK. Talk to me about dating. You have a podcast.
NICOLE BYER [00:50:55] I do.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:50:55] It’s all about dating. It’s called “Why Won’t You Date Me?” Where you bring your guests on and ask them about their own dating lives, dating experiences. But also at the very end, you ask them why they think that you are still single. How long have you been single?
NICOLE BYER [00:51:11] I mean, I’ve been, I’ve never had an actual relationship where, like, the other person is like, this is a relationship. I’ve had relationships where I’m like I think he’s going to be my boyfriends soon. And it’s like, no, he’s not, he don’t even like you. But. Oh wait. What was your question?
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:51:31] No, I don’t think I asked a specific question.
NICOLE BYER [00:51:32] Oh how long have I been single? My whole dang life.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:51:34] Yeah. So and, and what advice? I mean, you’ve done so many episodes now have, do you feel like you’ve gotten to-? First of all, I mean, do you want to be in a fucking relationship?
NICOLE BYER [00:51:44] Theoretically, yes. But oftentimes before bed or like before I go to sleep, I like, look around my room and be like, I don’t know where the fuck someone would put anything because I’m not getting rid of my clothing for this person. But it’s like I don’t know where I fit someone in my life, but I would love to be in a relationship. It would be nice to, like, go on adventures with somebody who, like, I got to fuck later. Yeah.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:52:07] Fair, fair. I mean, during lockdown, I think a lot of people wish they were single. Right now. This is a good time to be with you best friend, yourself.
NICOLE BYER [00:52:15] Yep.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:52:16] Yeah. I’ve been, I’ve been very lucky. I think “Call of Duty” saved my relationship. I don’t wanna give them any press though. So will bleep that out. It’s a video game.
NICOLE BYER [00:52:26] That’s so funny.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:52:26] But yeah, I, I think it’s, this is a very interesting time for people in relationships.
NICOLE BYER [00:52:34] Yeah.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:52:34] Yeah. So I was wondering, do you feel like you’ve gotten any closer to discovering what that might be, or is it also just living in L.A. where people, the fact that you were constantly on the move comedian who’s never in one place for very long. And then when you come back to somewhere stable, it’s Los Angeles. The sort of cemetery of love.
NICOLE BYER [00:52:56] Yeah, I think it’s a huge combination of like I’m always traveling. When I’m in L.A. I’m usually working. And then also, like, I am a fat black woman. And that is a choice. Like, do you, is that, is that what you want to wake up to every day? Is that what you’re okay showing to your friends? So I think-.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:53:17] Do you feel, have you found that people have had an issue with that?
NICOLE BYER [00:53:20] I mean, not to my face. No one has ever been like you’re fat, and that’s why we can’t date. But I’ll fuck you. But you just kind of can’t help but wonder if that might be it. And it might be. I, I truly I don’t know, because there’s other people who look like me who are in relationships. So I think it might just be I haven’t been at the right place at the right time with my heart open for somebody. And that’s okay. I’m okay being single. I just like every now and again I’m like, it’d be nice to have somebody.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:53:55] Mmhmm. No, I get it. I totally get it. I think that also I don’t, I say, maybe 98% of my female friends currently are single because I also think that women are coming into this moment where we are just more educated on what we deserve than ever before, which I think also scares the shit out of some people. I’m not just going to say men, but all genders. I think that we are more emotionally, we have more vocabulary around our emotions. We are more emotionally intelligent. At least most of us are. And we know more about ourselves. More of us are in therapy. More of us read the kind of books that help us understand what it is that we need. What we’re lacking. What isn’t acceptable. The shit that the last generation tolerated from their other halves, are stuff that I don’t see many of us.
NICOLE BYER [00:54:43] Yeah.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:54:44] We just have the, we have the language now to actually call it out, understand it and stay away from it. And I also think that there is less stigma around a single woman now, which means that we feel entitled to own our own shit. And so I wonder if that’s also part of it is the fact that we’re, we’re not going to settle in desperation the way that our parents were told to.
NICOLE BYER [00:55:05] Theoretically, yes. But then sometimes I catch myself being like, I will da-, text that boy who has no interest in me, who is an alcoholic and wasn’t the nicest, with a tiny dick. I will text him.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:55:24] Yeah.
NICOLE BYER [00:55:25] ‘Cause you’re just like-.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:55:26] We’ve all been there, Nicole. OK. We’ve all been there.
NICOLE BYER [00:55:28] Just a moment of weakness being like, I can settle for this.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:55:31] Yeah. Oh God. I went three years once without even touching another person’s hand. That was between the age of like 24 and 27. And then just went out with a string of inappropriate people after that.
NICOLE BYER [00:55:44] Yeah.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:55:44] Because I was like-.
NICOLE BYER [00:55:45] Sometimes you get so horny.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:55:46] I really believed, I was like it’s going to close back up. My hymen’s going to regrow. You know, I just wanted to believe. You know the fact that we use the expression cobwebs around a woman’s vagina. You know, I’ve never heard that around a man.
NICOLE BYER [00:55:59] No. Yeah. No one’s ever like you got cobwebs around your dick.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:56:05] No.
NICOLE BYER [00:56:05] So it’s just women.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:56:09] What an image. Tell me some big takeaways that you want people to have from your book, “Very Fat. Very Brave”.
NICOLE BYER [00:56:14] I think the biggest takeaway is if you have a body, and you do because you’re reading the book, unless you’re a ghost. But also ghosts. You can wear a bikini. It doesn’t matter what you look like now. Doesn’t, it doesn’t matter what you look like 10 years ago. It doesn’t matter what you look like tomorrow. Now. Now, if you want to go to a beach and you want to swim or go in a pool and swim, you know, social distance, please. Do it. Do it now, don’t wait for a body that you may never have. Enjoy the life and body that you’re in. Move yourself in joyful ways if you think you’re too fat to roller skate. Guess what? You’re not. If you think you’re too fat to pole dance, guess what? You’re not. If you think you’re too fat to play tennis, you’re not.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:57:03] Or do yoga.
NICOLE BYER [00:57:04] Or do yoga. You’re not too fat to do anything. And you don’t have to move your body with the sole goal to lose weight and post your body. Like, why not post about your body? There’s a lot of people who like who follow me who will comment like, oh, boy, you give me inspiration to do X, Y and Z. And then sometimes I’ll hop on their profile and look at them like there’s only pictures of your face. Of course you have a beautiful face. But why not share your body with people? Why? Like we should just, I just want people to celebrate all bodies. That’s it.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:57:35] Yeah. And if ever we were in a moment to realize our mortality and how out of control we are at the situation and how many people have died during this time unexpectedly and how many people have been locked in and can’t go to that beach now.
NICOLE BYER [00:57:48] Yeah. Honestly-.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:57:49] I think more people realize that you can’t predict what’s gonna happen.
NICOLE BYER [00:57:52] You can’t.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:57:52] You can’t plan anything. You have no control, all you can control is your behavior and the moment.
NICOLE BYER [00:57:58] And if I died tomorrow, I’d be so happy that, like I tried to roller skate, I tried to ride a motorcycle. I’ve tried to pole. I have tried to do everything I’ve ever wanted to try to do. And if I get an idea in my head tomorrow, I’m going to try to do that too. People like we don’t try new things. We stay in this very like lane where you feel safe. And I feel like when people talk about injustice, like, you know, how you see a microaggression happen and then you go, whoo, ouch. That was bad. Or you mentioned it to someone later. But in the moment, you don’t know how to be like that was wrong. It’s because you’re comfortable and you’re now uncomfortable and you want to get back to being comfortable. Get uncomfortable, make other people fucking uncomfortable. Like me as a fat black woman showing my body. It’s not brave. It’s an act of defiance and rebellion. It’s not brave. It’s saying, fuck you, I’ll live the way I want to fucking live. And everybody should be doing that. You know, if you’re in a wheelchair and you got nubs, show off your nubs. I don’t know if that was rude, but-.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:59:10] I think it was meant very lovingly and affectionate.
NICOLE BYER [00:59:11] Yes, like I saw an Instagram video of this woman, she has, her hands are small, I think they really cut somehow or something. But she was like making comedy videos about like how her nails grow. And I was like, yeah, this is something I’ve never seen. I don’t know your experience. I enjoyed watching it. I watched several more videos. Embrace your body, embrace the things that are different. The differences make us unique and the uniqueness makes you great.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:59:39] I agree. It’s interesting you bring up that sort of discomfort. I mean, first of all, I have two things to say about that. One, is I talk about this a lot, which is that we stigmatize failure so much in a way that I just find so toxic and devastating that we think that failure is anything other than the fact that you’re such a boss for being willing to try when success wasn’t guaranteed. To me, I think failure is a sign that you are so much, so cool, so brave, so open, so interesting. Like-.
NICOLE BYER [01:00:03] Yeah.
JAMEELA JAMIL [01:00:03] That that’s, my failure has been where I found all of my character, none of my character came from the very few things I actually got right. All of it has come from all the shit that I got wrong. It’s how, it’s how I learn. The other thing I was going to say is that it’s interesting that you bring up the uncomfortable moments, uncomfortable conversations, because look at this unprecedented scenario we find ourselves right now in history where we are hearing more about police brutality and the privilege system and how it is built to hurt black lives. We’re hearing more about history of African-Americans in particular right now, although it’s happening all over the world, these protests are taking up 200,000 people in Germany.
NICOLE BYER [01:00:42] Yeah, it says a lot.
JAMEELA JAMIL [01:00:42] It’s wild. What’s it like? What’s it like to witness it?
NICOLE BYER [01:00:47] I mean, it’s beautiful that all 50 states had some sort of protest or march. I think it’s really incredible that the rest of the world has been like, yeah, this is fucked up. Can you guys stop it? And it’s like, it happens in other countries. Like black people are just historically people don’t like us or think much of us. And I think it’s a really beautiful thing that people have come together to be like this has to stop. And I’ll say this to white people take a step further and black people, because I learned about shit like this late. Look up Juneteenth, Look up the Tulsa race riots, Look up, I think it’s Seneca Valley, which is it was a black owned neighborhood that New York City then eminent domain, and took land away from black people to create Central Park. It’s just like, look at-.
JAMEELA JAMIL [01:01:39] Jesus.
NICOLE BYER [01:01:39] All the old shit that you like looking at and realize that was built by black hands. Things are still being built by, like, you know, when New York was like we now have hand sanitizer made by the state. It was made in jail by people who probably don’t fucking belong in jail. Think about the marijuana business, how it’s legal in some states. But if you have a felony, you cannot get into the marijuana business. That is another way to prohibit black people from creating their own wealth at a game they fucking created. Marijuana was made illegal because black people smoked weed and that was a way to incarcerate them more. Like it is, and then now white women get to smoke weed and go to yoga classes.
JAMEELA JAMIL [01:02:20] We don’t release them, by the way, in states.
NICOLE BYER [01:02:21] Yeah, we’re not releasing them in states where shit has been made legal. This is not, we’re not done. One. I’m so glad you went to a protest. Two. But three, get loud. Call your representatives. Make sure you talk to other people about, like, racial injustices and realize that it’s more than just police brutality. It’s systemic.
JAMEELA JAMIL [01:02:43] It’s everything. Yeah.
NICOLE BYER [01:02:44] It’s, it’s, it’s, it’s implicit. It’s, it sucks. It really fucking sucks. And like, if you like Chris Rock, like watch his stand up, but listen. Michael Che. Listen. Like listen to black com-. We all talk about it. All of us. You like rap music? Listen, we’re all, we’re screaming it. We’ve been, we’ve made it into art that you consume. But nobody is listening and nobody is retaining. And I think it’s, I think it will get better. I think my generation, at least the people I know who have kids are raising, are trying to raise their kids to be racially or anti-racist and racially aware of biases. And when, whenever people are like, I’m colorblind, it’s like go fuck yourself. How? How are you gonna erase my color? That’s not an ally. Celebrate my fucking color. I’ll celebrate yours. And I’m not saying you can’t have pride in being a white person. Sure. Be prideful, but also pride and supremacy. There is, that’s also a fine line. You know? So think about it. If someone says Black Lives Matter and then you go, “But”. Why are you saying but? My friend. If, if like someone, this is not my wording, I saw this online, but someone equated it to if your child was murdered. And at the funeral, someone stood up and went, “All children matter”. You would be so devastated because someone is negating your feelings and telling you that your child is part of this bigger thing when you are trying to mourn your child. Black people are trying to mourn the racial injustices that happen to us every fucking day. And you’re saying “No”. That’s insane.
JAMEELA JAMIL [01:04:32] Yeah.
NICOLE BYER [01:04:33] But also I’m like preaching to the choir because I’m sure people who listen to this podcast aren’t, you know, out there burning crosses and put it on a hood.
JAMEELA JAMIL [01:04:40] No. God, can you imagine if that was my demographic?
NICOLE BYER [01:04:44] Honestly, it would be really funny to see someone in a truck finish up this podcast, turn off the radio, put on their hood and go, “I’m ready”. It would be very funny.
JAMEELA JAMIL [01:04:58] Oh, my God. No, I believe that a lot of the people who listen to this podcast, similarly to me, are people who are learning, who are trying to figure out how to be more useful and less feckless, less complicit. And, you know, people who know that we don’t all know everything about every single different type of marginalized experience. But what we can do is fucking learn. So, you know, that’s what this is. And so therefore, that’s why it’s great to come on here and spread all of your bloody joy and wisdom.
NICOLE BYER [01:05:25] Thank you.
JAMEELA JAMIL [01:05:25] Before you go, will you quickly tell me, Nicole Byer, what do you weigh?
NICOLE BYER [01:05:30] Well, I. Roughly two-, maybe three-.
JAMEELA JAMIL [01:05:33] No, no.
NICOLE BYER [01:05:34] No, I’m kidding. I’m kidding. Is that a joke that other people have done? Of course.
JAMEELA JAMIL [01:05:36] Yes.
NICOLE BYER [01:05:38] It’s the easiest low hanging fruit.
JAMEELA JAMIL [01:05:40] No, no, it’s great.
NICOLE BYER [01:05:42] Well, I guess I weigh in joy. Laughter. Beauty. Strength. Yeah, I think. Yeah. Laughter, Beauty, joy, strength. Yeah, I think those are the things.
JAMEELA JAMIL [01:06:05] And one of the greatest pinned tweets of all time.
NICOLE BYER [01:06:09] Oh thank you.
JAMEELA JAMIL [01:06:10] Will you remind me what your pinned tweet says? Do you want me to pull it up?
NICOLE BYER [01:06:13] Oh, I think I know what it is by heart. My greatest fear, “my greatest fear is getting too fat, that I’ll have to use a selfie stick to help myself masturbate”. And it came from-. It’s like not a legitimate fear. I figure out something. But it was just, I don’t even know how the thought popped in my brain. I was like, well, I guess if I got too big and I couldn’t reach it, I guess a selfie stick would have a long enough arm that I could angle it in. You know, you-.
JAMEELA JAMIL [01:06:43] Tape a vibrator to it.
NICOLE BYER [01:06:44] Yeah. You just start thinking of and then you’re like, that’s wild.
JAMEELA JAMIL [01:06:48] Well, that is a perfect note to end this on. Thank you so much. Everyone, Nicole’s book, “Very Fat, Very Brave”, is out now. You can order it. I highly suggest it. Not only does she look wonderful, she is wonderful as you learned during this podcast. Nicole Byer, thank you so much for making time for me. I love you.
NICOLE BYER [01:07:04] Jameela, thank you so much. I love you.
JAMEELA JAMIL [01:07:06] Thank you so much for listening to this podcast. I just want to give an extra massive thank you to the 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 [01:07:28] My name is Inza and I’m 15 years old, and I weigh so much more than my appearance. I weigh standing up for my friends when they need it. I weigh standing up for my enemies when they need it. I weigh standing up for all minorities I can because I know our world needs to change. I weigh standing up for myself because I know I will be a great person someday, no matter what position I take in this world. And I weigh so much more than who I am now. I weigh my future. Love you, Jameela.
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.