August 13, 2020
Stand-up, actress, and best-selling author Phoebe Robinson joins Jameela this week to discuss dealing with debt in your 20s, how Sex In The City lied to us about living in NY, performative activism, appreciating and supporting issues that you haven’t experienced, and her new podcast, Black Frasier, which is out now!
19 — Phoebe Robinson
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:00:00] Hello and welcome to another episode of “I Weigh” with Jameela Jamil. I hope you’re well. I’m fine. I’m really excited for today’s episode because I have a friend, a real life friend on the show. Her name is Phoebe Robinson. You might know her from “Two Dope Queens” or her other podcast, “So Many White Guys” or her new podcast that is just coming out called “Black Frasier”. She’s also the author of “You Can’t Touch My Hair” and “Everything is Trash, But it’s OK”, which is truly one of the funniest books you will ever read. And she’s just one of the most relatable and interesting voices on the Internet and in standup. She’s also a great actress. She’s infuriatingly talented and charismatic and interesting and cool. And I, I’m thrilled to know her. We fell in love over Instagram and I got to talk to her today, so frankly about so many important things to her. Things like race and the experience of being a black woman in America today, the, performative activism of friends around her and how that feels. And also, we spoke about money, which is something that so few people talk about nowadays, especially women. And yet women are the ones who most need to talk about money, considering that we are 80 percent of the people who are targeted to buy, to consume. And so it feels fucking ridiculous that that is not one of the first conversations that we start having in our households and at schools. How are we still not taught how to budget, how to understand credit, how to understand mortgages, how to understand taxes? It’s almost as if it’s deliberate. I’m not saying it is. I’m just saying that it’s very, very suspicious. And so we talked all about money and the shame of not being able to handle your money, how to build your way out of debt. And she and I have both got a history of being absolutely shit with our cash because we were both not armed with the vital information of how to protect ourselves. And while money is the root of a lot of evil, money is currently, as things stand, the road to independence and freedom for many of us, especially women, especially women of color. So I think that that was a conversation that I was dying to have with someone on this podcast. And it’s not the last time that we’ll talk about it, but I really think you’ll enjoy this. And she just removes all of the stigma and shame from all of the things around money that I think we need to talk about. So please join me in Loving the phenomenal and funny and wonderful and effervescent and smells really good, Phoebe Robinson. So I am thrilled to announce that I am here with on my all time faves. I can’t believe she’s on my podcast. Hello, Phoebe Robinson. How are you?
PHOEBE ROBINSON [00:03:00] I’m OK. I’m, I’m swell. If you can be swell during these times.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:03:05] Oh, God. You’ve spent too much time with your English boyfriend, using “swell”. Go on, do your English accent. Just get it, get it off your chest, for fuck’s sake. We, I have to deal with this every time I speak to her on the phone. She has to morph into the world’s stupidest fucking English accent.
PHOEBE ROBINSON [00:03:21] What do you mean? This is how I normally speak. I don’t know what your problem is. What? What’s the issue, mate?
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:03:29] You are actually getting a bit better, but it’s still fucking horrifying. It’s like you’re talking in English with marbles in your mouth. It reminds me of Rebel Wilson’s horrifying English accent where she’s supposed to be playing Matt Lucas’s sister in “Bridesmaids”. Just so offensive. But my American accent isn’t great either, so I’ll give you that. How are you doing during lockdown? You all right?
PHOEBE ROBINSON [00:03:57] I’m doing OK. So I feel like I’m in really good spirits because my boyfriend and I just celebrated our three year anniversary, two-, three days ago. So we’re feeling like all lovey dovey and really like the world’s not a horrible place, but I think it’s sort of like I’m getting used to being inside all the time, which I’m, I’m thinking is not the best sort of thing to be getting used to. But, you know, it’s just day-by-day-.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:04:21] Getting used to as in preferring?
PHOEBE ROBINSON [00:04:25] Not preferring but sort of like, yeah, I’m not going to go outside for like five days in a row, and that’s just like, like it is what it is. Is kind of how I’m feeling, you know?
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:04:36] Yeah.
PHOEBE ROBINSON [00:04:37] Yeah. It’s not great. What about you?
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:04:39] I’m, I’ve been talking about this a bit on the podcast. I’m preferring being inside and I’m hating going outside. I’m going fully, I’m, the pendulum has swung all the other way. And while I’m glad to not be longing to go outside anymore. We aren’t in full lockdown anymore. So I’ve now just chosen, my, I’ve elected myself into lockdown and I’m refusing to leave and I’ve lost all my social skills. I don’t know how to talk to people, don’t how to talk to strangers. I’m fucking relieved as hell to have the masks because no one recognizes me. And then they don’t have to find out how socially inept I have become. How much further socially inept I’ve become. So I’m preferring it. You have been busy as shit during lockdown. Will you tell me what you’ve been up to?
PHOEBE ROBINSON [00:05:24] Yeah. Oh, you know, just catching up on “Ozark” and living single and nothing else. No, seriously, I’ve been, so I am starting a podcast called “Black Frasier”.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:05:36] What is that?
PHOEBE ROBINSON [00:05:38] I’ve never seen this show, but I saw the still shots, I’m like OK. Kelsey Grammer is wearing a lot of beige suits and he’s giving out advice, I’m like, I can do that and wear some like Fenty beauty lipstick instead. But yeah, no, like a lot of my friends like to say that I tend to give advice, whether solicited or unsolicited. And I think just because of the time that we’re in right now, me doing these IG Lives I was doing with certain people. I felt like people are naturally like asking questions anyway. So I thought this would be the perfect time to sort of kind of birth this baby of an idea that I had in my head for a while. So each episode I just sit down with like a different celeb, you’re included. Ah, I can’t wait for people to listen to our episode and then it’s all based on one theme. So like Whitney Cummings, it is money, you know. So we talk about that for maybe, I don’t know, 40 minutes and then 20 minutes of submitted, submitted questions from audience members. And it’s a mix of like we can be funny and silly and goofy, but it’s also OK to just sort of have like a real, like, conversation and just like get into the nitty gritty. And I hope that people will feel uplifted at the end of the hour and have like a bigger sense of hope about the world. So we’ll see. It comes out August 11th. So we’ll see.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:06:56] And I can’t remember your answer, but am I allowed to ask you about your imprint?
PHOEBE ROBINSON [00:07:00] Yes, you, you are.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:07:02] Yay, tell me about your imprint.
PHOEBE ROBINSON [00:07:07] Smashing. So my imprint is called “Tiny Reparations Books”. It is. We’ve been around for three weeks now. Hold on to your butt. And we’re looking for essay collections, literary fiction and nonfiction. Just I want it to be very voice driven. I want it to be super inclusive, to have women, queer people, people of color, be the authors that I’m, like, supporting for the most part. Like, I’m not going to be like, you’re white, so you can’t be published here. But like, my goal is really to be like, you know, when I look back too fi-, yeah, five years ago when I was selling my book and I was told that an essay collection by a black woman is too niche. Nobody wants to read that. That’s like not interesting. Yeah. Like flat out like, my only, the only one person wanted my book and that’s my current publisher. And everyone else is like, this isn’t relatable. And so like to be five years later now in a position where I have my own imprint and like I can make sure, like, OK, are we going to have, you know, a diverse hiring and marketing, publicity? It can’t just be like we publish, you know, people of color or queer people. But then everyone behind-the-scenes are just like cis straight white men, because then things aren’t really shifting. So I’m really trying to have it behind-the-scenes and with the books that are being published as well. So I’m really excited. But it is like, it is like a lot of work in a way that, I remember, I want to do something bigger than just writing books for myself. Even when I started writing them five years ago, I was like the goal is always the imprint because I will always think about Toni Morrison and she would, she used to edit books as well as when she was writing novels. And so I was like, that seems like a lot of work. And five years ago I was like, that seems like a lot of work. I bet, like running an imprint would be easier. So I was like-.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:08:58] Big mistake.
PHOEBE ROBINSON [00:09:00] Yeah. It’s like you ding dong. No, it’s not easier, but I’m really excited.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:09:04] That’s nice. Something I love about you as a writer. And this is why I am really also excited to see what you’re going to be publishing through your own imprint is how unbelievably personal you are, how much of yourself you share with people through your book. I learned so much about you, we hadn’t met until I read your book because we met because you asked me to moderate your book launch for “Everything is Trash, But it’s OK”, and I, and I fell in love with you through the book before the moment I got to see you, to the point where I felt shy when I first walked into the room. Being able to meet someone who I felt was already my best friend. So not at all creepy. Not at all beg friendy. But there are so many things I want to dig into you that you have been so inspirationally open about. And I feel as though so, whenever I bring you up on social media, you are someone who people freak out about over the fact that you are, you have helped them through a really personal matter where they didn’t have a parent or school to talk about that issue with. So we talk a lot about shame and mental health on this podcast. Where would you say? What would you identify as the biggest sources of shame throughout your life that you’ve had to kind of navigate your way through?
PHOEBE ROBINSON [00:10:15] Gosh, I think probably money would be like the biggest thing, I think, you know, no one teaches you about money. Like, let me back up. So you know, my parents are very mindful about money and would teach us, my brother and I, and talk to us about the value of savings and like what a dollar truly means. But I think like, you know, you go to college, you get like your unpaid internship for a semester, and I worked at like a, you know, production company, like a film production company. And that’s fine and dandy. And I got to like, you know, see Paul Rudd in person before he became the Paul Rudd. And all that stuff is cool, but like what I really would have appreciated when I was 21 years old and I was in my senior year of college is a semester on like this is how you don’t fuck up your 20s financially. And I, so there was a lot that I just didn’t know. And I just was sort of in this like, oh, everything will like kind of work out. And then I just was amassing debt and I had like my student loan debts. Like when I graduated, I had 45 grand in student loan debt. When my brother graduated from college, he had 100 grand in student loan debt.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:11:29] Jesus.
PHOEBE ROBINSON [00:11:29] And it was just, yeah. It’s just this thing where we were both kind of like, all right, part of being an adult in your 20s is that you’re gonna be saddled with a ton of debt. And I was just like, well, I guess I won’t pay this off until I’m like 45 or 50. And that sense of, like, you’re automatically in the red for decades is just sort of, I think, permeated other aspects of my life, which led me to overall have around like a little over 60,000 dollars in debt because I have like, the rest of it was credit card debt. I think I just wasn’t able to sort of really completely understand money and like understand like a paycheck, like what that means in terms of, like taxes being taken out. You’re like not-. All these things where I just was living above my means and I wasn’t saving well. And I was just like putting things on credit card because I’m like, oh, it’s fine. Like, I could deal with that later. And it just snowballed in a way that I’m like if someone has sat me down in a school setting in college and really been like this is how you should move about the world financially. I think it would have saved me a decade or maybe a little more than a decade of just sort of like scrambling and making really stupid mistakes.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:12:44] Also, like we came up kind of, you know, we became adults just after the recession. Right? That’s when we fully stepped into our 20s and post that, it feels like this kind of materialist frenzy happened because everyone was trying to kind of rebuild the economy. And so we were kind of taught very much so about the must have bag or the must have thing. And we were just taught to spend and spend and spend and spend. And also something that we don’t talk about enough in society is the fact that women are 80 percent of the market. So we are the ones being targeted the most for consumption of the, there’s a new lipstick out. You must have it. There’s a new brand. Here, there and everywhere. So we are consistently expected to spend our money, and yet we are the ones who are least informed as to how to protect ourselves. And while money is not everything, money is definitely a really important part of independence and freedom and, and our own power within the current climate.
PHOEBE ROBINSON [00:13:39] Absolutely.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:13:39] So I think it’s really important that we talk about this because I massively relate to this. I lost all of my money at 30, which was so shocking to me because I just thought I would be OK. And I, but I just didn’t, I actually didn’t want to look at my bank accounts like I never used to look at my, my weekly sort of I don’t know, what do you call it? Like statements. I never used to want to look, I didn’t want to know what I had. I used to just think I could keep going, keep going. And eventually I would figure it out. And also, I don’t know about you, but it was just so hyper normalized to my generation to be in loads of debt. And it seemed like a cool scheme to be able to use one credit card to pay something off, and then use another credit card to take out that and then maybe take out a little loan. We were encouraged to do so. Did you have that experience?
PHOEBE ROBINSON [00:14:24] Yeah. I mean, I think of all my group of friends, maybe there was like one or two who, like, didn’t have student loan debt, who wasn’t, like, dealing with credit cards or wasn’t like sort of just living off of credit cards. And so, you know, I was the same, like I didn’t look at my bank statements. I would constantly get overdraft fees and like I had to go to housing court. How old was I? Housing court was 24 because I was like three months behind on rent, like it was just things that were truly so ignorant and like insane and like, of course, I wasn’t going to tell my family this was going on, so I was really sort of like trying to figure out like OK, if I, if I pay like half my rent, then I have money where I can, like, make sure my electricity is not cut off and then I can, like, buy enough groceries that’ll, like, last me. It was all this stuff where I was just constantly bouncing around just like sort of like massively in debt. No one knew and it wasn’t like I was going on trips or anything, but I was def-, I definitely seemed like I have my shit together financially.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:15:33] Yeah.
PHOEBE ROBINSON [00:15:33] And I just totally didn’t. And I think it’s one of those things where, like, not only just are you, are we conditioned to have debt. But I think this sense of, your, not like your identity, but the way that you “express yourself”, I’m using air quotes, is through consumerism.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:15:53] Yeah.
PHOEBE ROBINSON [00:15:53] It’s through being sort of materialistic. And I remember when I, fast forward to, like, I don’t know, my 30-, 32 when I paid off all my student loans. And I remember I would be getting interviewed about stuff like from then to now and people be like, what? With your first, like your biggest paycheck, like what did you spend it on? Like what was your biggest splurge? And I was like my, paying off my student loans. And I could tell people will be sort of like disappointed. Like it’s not like a fun juicy answer, it’s not like, oh I bought myself a Gucci bag. Or oh, I like went on this trip to Palm Springs. It was literally like I had to get myself out of debt and like start back at zero at 32 and hope that I can get on track again. Yeah.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:16:39] We, yeah, we do kind of have this opinion throughout society that looking after your finances makes you boring. And actually, it’s the smartest, most fun thing to do because you know what isn’t fun? Is being terrified of debt all the time. I spent a decade just panicking about money and it definitely impacted my mental health. And also especially, and I want to talk to you about this, but especially when you lie to your family about it and you lie to your friends about it because you carry the deep shame of not being able to keep your head above water. It makes you feel so isolated.
PHOEBE ROBINSON [00:17:13] I just, A, I didn’t know. And B, I work so hard. I’m such a type A person. I just feel like, well, if I work this hard, then I should be able to play this hard. And then I had to really sort of like understand like, you know, what’s actually cool? Is like not being like, OK, I’m going to charge like going on this trip and then spending seven months paying off a trip. Like that makes no sense. Like, you know, what’s cooler? Like not going on the trip and then being able to just, like, enjoy your life and like go out to dinner maybe once a week or like-.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:17:49] Not have to hide from your landlord.
PHOEBE ROBINSON [00:17:51] Yeah. Not have to hide from your landlord or even like the fact that my boyfriend and I are starting this podcast in our apartment because I wasn’t blowing my money, like we had money to, like, get equipment and do things that are like actually going to benefit us and are experiential as opposed to a tangible thing because like buying like, like I love Fenty beauty. Right? And I love when I get my, my order online, I get like my new lipsticks. And that’s really fun for like 36 hours, you know what I mean? But I still think about, like I went on this girl’s trip to New Zealand to see U2. Of course, I did. Don’t judge me.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:18:32] She has an obsession. For anyone who doesn’t know and isn’t familiar with Phoebe and her wild obsession with Bono from U2. Please investigate as soon as possible. It’s like nothing you’ve ever seen. It’s how she met her fucking boyfriend. He is-.
PHOEBE ROBINSON [00:18:46] Yeah.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:18:47] At times like this Phoebe sidepiece because of Phoebe’s innate and unexplainable obsession with Bono.
PHOEBE ROBINSON [00:18:58] It’s a lot.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:18:59] On a podcast about shame. I’m not going to shame you but you love, or just have to agree to disagree.
PHOEBE ROBINSON [00:19:08] Yes. My, my obsession with U2 is probably, I think 10 percent too much, but here we are. But the fact that I was able to, like, go on this girl’s trip, especially because now we’re all quarantined, I can’t see my friends anymore. But like one of my friends, she was pregnant. So it was like my last time to see her before she, like, had her baby, like, all that stuff, even though that happened 9, 10 months ago, like, I think about that trip all the time. And I’m like it was so cool that we got to, like, walk around the park and we got to eat, like, really cool food. And like do all this stuff in Auckland, like that matters more than me, like blowing money on a bag, on shoes, on clothes and all the things that women are told to spend their money on, that isn’t actually enriching our lives. And so to me, I think like, I was like, oh, well, having cool clothes is enriching my life. Is it, though? Like, it’s great and I love fashion, I love all those things, but I think I was just so, I was so chill with being like, well, if I have this, these cool, like, pants, then like people will see that I’m cool.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:20:17] Also, we are kind of told to fake it till you make it. And it’s like if you already project wealth and success and power than other people, my producer is shaking her head in utter disapproval, utter fucking disapproval. OK, Kimmie, you’re better than all of us. You knew this younger. Fuck you. She’s sending me a kiss.
PHOEBE ROBINSON [00:20:38] Well like I remember in college I would like get a box of like cinnamon buns and I would sit down with my best friend Karen and we will watch “Sex in the City” and we’re like, this is what New York is gonna be like when we graduate from college.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:20:55] Oh, my God. So many people fell into that trap.
PHOEBE ROBINSON [00:20:58] You know, right?
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:20:59] As if a columnist with one fucking column a week for “The Times” could afford an apartment in Greenwich and Louboutin shoes.
PHOEBE ROBINSON [00:21:07] Yeah, but I was like, oh-.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:21:08] Fucked us all up.
PHOEBE ROBINSON [00:21:08] Yeah, that will be what life is. It really screwed us up. And it made us think that like, and I love the show. And I love SJP and I’m not like, begrudging it, but I think that’s sort of like mentality, that like every day is just like another like you’re just, the world is your runway. You’re just walking along. You have the coolest things and you go out to the coolest places. You date the most interesting people. And you never have to worry about money because you always just land on your own two feet. I think is something that people in their 20s are just told, like it’s totally fine, like it’ll all work out. And that is like, no, no, no, no, no. We can’t just, like, set people up for failure by being like, it’ll all work out. You don’t need to think about anything, you’re young. Like that is precisely the wrong way to go about it. I think that’s why so many young people in particular have so much debt.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:21:59] Agreed, and there’s just no education around it. I’ve only, in truly, in the last four years started to understand exactly how my taxes were, exactly where every penny, and now as soon as I get a paycheck, my, I do instant math as to how much of that I will actually be able to hold on to, because-.
PHOEBE ROBINSON [00:22:17] Yeah.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:22:17] That is the one thing I never understood. You’d earn a certain amount of money, I’d be like, oh, I have that whole chunk now and I can spend as if I do. And it’s like no, you’re keeping 30 percent of that, at best.
PHOEBE ROBINSON [00:22:27] Yeah.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:22:28] I think this has been a really interesting moment in our generation. I mean, considering what our culture has been like since 2008, since the recession where we were kind of in that kind of get the bad culture and also spend, spend, spend, spend, acquire, acquire, acquire. I think us not being able to go out and not being able to go shopping and also having to conserve our income because A, we’re not buying stuff because we have no one to show it to. So what are you going to do? Fucking show off to a cat, who’s gonna eat all of it anyway, but we have nothing to show up for. But also we are having to conserve all of our income because we don’t know when the world will return and what state is going to return into. It’s likely that we’re entering into not just a recession, but a depression. And so everyone is kind of hoarding a little bit, which is the right thing to do. And I, I feel as though for me personally, I have just stopped online shopping. I’ve stopped feeling that need to consume. And it has just really shown me, it’s made me like go back through my wardrobe and do spring cleaning, to b, like, oh, I forgot about this, but do you feel as though you’ve even had a shift in realizing that, what was I doing? Why was I buying all this shit, why was I eating out so often? I think we’ve all become a bit more sensible.
PHOEBE ROBINSON [00:23:41] Yeah. And it was just sort of like, OK, if you want-. I think when I was in my 20s, I was like, oh, I can indulge in it all because, you know, the universe, like, loves us. And money is like a free flowing thing. And it comes and it goes. And so, like, I’ll take the cabs home, I’ll eat out. I’ll do like a million different things. And now I’m like, OK, what are like my indulgences? A, books. So I allow myself to buy as many books as I want to.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:24:09] Yes. Lots of impressive books in the background. Yes. Good.
PHOEBE ROBINSON [00:24:12] I have read 32 books this year so I feel like it is justifiable.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:24:18] Shit.
PHOEBE ROBINSON [00:24:18] I mean, I’m, I’m a big old nerd, so I just love to sit around and read. But like, I’m like, OK, if I’m going to like indulge in buying books, then it means I’m not going to buy clothes. Like I haven’t bought, outside of a couple of T-shirts from like Black owned companies when it was like by black, that few weeks, I haven’t really bought clothes in like six months.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:24:40] No.
PHOEBE ROBINSON [00:24:40] And I have-, and I haven’t missed it. I was like, yeah, it’s fine. Like, I don’t. I didn’t need it.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:24:46] That’s I think, that’s what I think everyone’s realizing. We don’t, we don’t need this.
PHOEBE ROBINSON [00:24:51] Yeah.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:24:52] And what does it feel like when you finally get your way out of debt? What does that feel like? What did that feel like when you knew you were finally out of the red? Emotionally?
PHOEBE ROBINSON [00:25:01] Well, yeah. I mean, first I was like, bitch, you can’t do that shit again. That was so, like eight years is a really long time to live paycheck-to-paycheck. It’s a really long time to be like. I hope I get this standup college gig, otherwise I can’t pay my rent this month. And then I’m fucked. Like don’t let this happen again, where you’re living in a shitty apartment that has a mouse problem, like it was all these things where I was like my quality of life was like so crappy. Like my first apartment where, the apartment where I had to go to housing court, had like a giant like mold problem in my bathroom. And at one point the ceiling actually collapsed into my bathtub.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:25:43] God.
PHOEBE ROBINSON [00:25:44] Like it was just all the things where it was like I should not be living like this. And, you know, like, yes, doing standup doesn’t pay. Yes. Like being an admin assistant doesn’t pay. But I had to also reach a point where I took responsibility for my part in the debt.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:26:02] Yeah.
PHOEBE ROBINSON [00:26:02] And I think that’s the hardest thing, is because society wants everyone to feel guilty and shame for not having money. I’m like, no, no, no. We, society should just want to educate us.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:26:14] Yes.
PHOEBE ROBINSON [00:26:14] So that way we don’t have those feelings. And then we can be able to live within our means. And I think that was the biggest thing I learned was like live in your means, like this apartment that I bought, we live in, baé and I’ve been living here for two years. I could have afforded an apartment that, where my mortgage would have been maybe twice as what I’m paying. But I’m like, if I just pay half of that-.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:26:39] Yeah, to live.
PHOEBE ROBINSON [00:26:39] Then I don’t have, it’s fine. It’s fine.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:26:41] My lowest point was living with a, moving in with a crackhead because he was the only person I could live with and the two of us lived in a shithole that became a crack den. I was not doing crack, but I would sit there eating my Fruit Loops in the morning with people next to me. I’ll be in the kitchen with people next to me at the cooker heating up crack. So that was my existence. Like this guy used to get high and move all of my furniture from the house onto our roof. And he would also, if the toilet was occupied, he would piss out of the window. And we lived on the second floor of a pedestrian street. So that is fully illegal. And it looked like something out of those documentaries about hoarders. By the time that we left, like, I can’t believe it didn’t just incinerate it. Nevermind, give us any deposit back.
PHOEBE ROBINSON [00:27:33] Yeah, wow.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:27:33] They should have just burned that shit to the ground. It was insane. So, yeah, that was a, that was for me, like one of the kind of low points of realizing, OK, I need to, I need to get out of here and away from this man before he pisses on me at some point.
PHOEBE ROBINSON [00:27:51] Yeah.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:27:52] I also, I also just want to stress to anyone out there who’s listening that one of the things that I most want you to think about when you are, when you have excess funds, the thing, the decision I made when I was 30 and it was the best decision I ever made was any money I had that I had saved, I made sure to put first into my mental health. That is something no one ever encourages you to do, the outside is never gonna fix the inside. The smartest thing I ever did was make the clear decision that I am 100 percent going to save up for enough therapy. That then ended up fulfilling the hole that I was trying to fill with shoes and bags and dresses. It definitely, it’s not say that it’s always a sign that something’s missing in your life. I, sometimes we just want that great halter neck. But I definitely think some of the best advice is if you have any extra money left over during this wild moment in time, put that towards all the therapy that you will probably need after 2020. But that’s just a thought I had,
PHOEBE ROBINSON [00:28:50] Yeah, and it’s like, but I think it’s also if you do have like spare money and like, I really had to sort of like build myself back up and really teach myself about money. It’s like, you don’t always have, A, you don’t always have to spend it. Like, it’s OK to just like let it sit and like, just keep working and save. And then also, like, just treat yourself to one thing that you enjoy instead of 10. So like I said before, books is like my one thing that I’m doing right now, like as far as everything else, I’m really not like spending money on much of anything. Like, I’m doing my own hair. Like I just watch YouTube videos and I’m doing my hair. And it takes like maybe twice as long as if I were to go to my hair stylist. But it’s like I’m also saving a few hundred bucks by not having to pay someone to do my hair right now. And like, it’s OK. It’s OK. I know. Here’s the thing. I think this is very specifically an American thing where you’re sort of like, well, I work hard, so I am entitled to have, like, anything that will make my life easier. And I understand that instinct because, yes, some days it would be nice to have someone do my hair because black women’s hair can be a little tricky sometimes. But I’m not entitled to that. And it’s OK.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:30:10] I agree. I agree.
PHOEBE ROBINSON [00:30:12] You know what I mean?
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:30:13] Yeah. I also think everyone’s gone through that big shift this year as well of realizing, oh, maybe I don’t need, like for example, I wear, I already didn’t wear that much makeup, but now I wear the barest of minimum because I’ve just have finally become accustomed to, you know, after being in this industry, like we get fucking caked, you and I.
PHOEBE ROBINSON [00:30:31] Yeah.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:30:32] Sometimes when we’re on set and now being able to, thank God I’ve been doing my makeup for the last couple of years, and I know you are too. And you look fabulous today, but I-.
PHOEBE ROBINSON [00:30:41] Thanks.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:30:41] But I think it’s been really good for a lot of my friends who suddenly realized, oh, I don’t actually have to have a manicure, I don’t need a manicure. I’m not ugly without a manicure. Or I don’t need to get this, that and the other done. And they’re learning how to dye their hair and becoming, we’re becoming more self-sufficient. I mean, it must be a terrifying nightmare for the beauty industry and the preening industry and the cosmetic surgery industry. Like no one’s been able to get their fillers redone and they’re realizing, some people, oh, I actually prefer how I look without the fillers because some people, the fillers age them. Some people, they don’t. But I think that we are, we are going through, while this year is utter trash, we are going through so many giant realizations about where our priorities lied and how much we got sucked into all of the lies of commercialism. And so it’s gonna be a really interesting time when we come out of this. I really think that we are learning to accept ourselves, accept our bodies, accept like our bodies getting a little bit bigger during lockdown. I think we’re just starting to realize that we are not these hideous animals that we’ve been taught we were, as women, without having a team of 25 people to do kind of just like pluck and tweeze and wax and pull and stretch, etc.
PHOEBE ROBINSON [00:31:48] Totally.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:31:48] So I’m hoping that will be, I’m hoping that that stays, because right now I see my friends in the healthiest place around consumerism and around their looks than I’ve ever seen them. Do you feel the same way?
PHOEBE ROBINSON [00:31:58] Yeah, and I think just things like and I really do respect the wellness industry, but things of like, OK, instead of like paying 30 bucks to go to a yoga class. I’ll just, we could just take a walk outside our neighborhood for like 45 minutes. And that’s just as good and it’s just as beneficial. And it’s sort of for me, like I think we’re now looking at wellness in particular as something that’s not tied to spending money, because I think wildness was sort of like you had to be able to afford it to be well. And now it’s like, well, I could do yoga at my apartment. I can go for a walk. People are doing Zoom therapy sessions. Like you’re doing all these things that don’t require you to have, to have some fancy water bottle or like athleisure from Lululemon. Like Lululemon’s great, but do you need a 110 dollar leggings? No. Can you just go to Target and get 10 dollar leggings and be able to like stretch out? Great.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:32:58] Oh, no one can tell the difference. I’ve already fancy-.
PHOEBE ROBINSON [00:33:00] Yeah.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:33:00] Fancy boyfriend and I buy him stuff from Target all the time and he doesn’t know and I cut the labels off so then he just thinks, that it could be Margiela. It could be.
PHOEBE ROBINSON [00:33:08] Yeah.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:33:08] It could be some brand that is so cool that they don’t even have a label. You should just know.
PHOEBE ROBINSON [00:33:13] Yeah.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:33:13] So I’ll give him that. All from Target. All of it. I love Target.
PHOEBE ROBINSON [00:33:15] It’s great.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:33:19] But they should pay me as well for this advert. Actually.
PHOEBE ROBINSON [00:33:23] Yeah.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:33:23] So let’s hope that by the time this goes out, this whole podcast is sponsored by Target. And we’re back. So I, that was my Fraiser impression. So I, I want to talk to you a bit about performative activism. We sort of touched on it a minute ago. But how, how? What are your thoughts and feelings on that? My great social commentator, friend.
PHOEBE ROBINSON [00:33:51] Oh, gosh, that’s way too much pressure. There are people who-
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:33:53] No, I know. What has been your personal experience of being on the receiving end of, you know, performative activism? And while, of course, like one of the biggest topics of the year has been the movement for Black Lives and against police brutality and abolition, etc., I think a lot of people from lots of different groups can also identify with this. I think a lot of trans people this year have learned a lot about their “cis ally friends”, quote unquote. And, you know, and I think lots of communities would probably be able to relate.
PHOEBE ROBINSON [00:34:25] It’s a lot. I mean, I just feel like this, this conversation itself can last several hours. But I do think that there is, one of the things it’s been very interesting about, you know, non-black people sort of like getting in the mix and like wanting change to happen, especially if it’s someone whose white, I’m just gonna say it, like white people. But, you know, it’s interesting, where it’s like they decide that for three weeks they’re really going to be active in their way, that they feel that they’re being active. And then, like when things like defunding the police didn’t happen. It’s like, can-, I can not believe it. It has been three weeks. And you’re like, you, you thought just nationally the police was going to be defunded in three weeks? Like the people who’ve been on the front lines doing this for weeks and months and years and decades, they just, they just didn’t know what they were doing.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:35:30] Yeah.
PHOEBE ROBINSON [00:35:31] But Connie. Connie, you figured it out because you just complained for three weeks. So it’s sort of this kind of like, A, sort of just, I mean, I think that’s just part of, part of the problem is that we, we live in a world where it’s like if you complain enough, things change. But it’s like, like complaining on Twitter about like Delta running out of pretzels and getting like, you know, a credit for that is not the same as like dismantling systemic racism and not understanding that the work is not just like outward, but it’s also inward. And it’s not the N word, but inward. Sorry. That, you know, I know. I’m sorry, I couldn’t resist.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:36:26] Such a great moment. I don’t know why that got me. God, I love you. Sorry. As you were saying.
PHOEBE ROBINSON [00:36:45] I love you too. Yeah, but I think people need to understand it’s not just the government. It’s like we all are playing a part in sort of white supremacy being allowed to, to run rampant, not only here, but globally. So it’s like if you want to buy black for a week. OK, you can also just buy stuff made by black people all year. Like, you don’t need, like a social media movement to buy, to instead of buying like Marc Jacobs, you’ll just buy like an indie black designer shirt. Like you don’t need to be like, oh, I’ll buy James Baldwin, as if that’s the only black author who’s ever written anything. You can buy like a rom com, written by a black author, you could buy Octavia Butler, like-.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:37:31] You could buy Phoebe Robinson. She’s a great writer.
PHOEBE ROBINSON [00:37:34] Yeah. You could buy me, my books, not me as a person. But I think people go like, OK, I’m going to show up for this moment or I’m going to show for Black History Month or I’m going to show up for Pride. And they’re not interested-.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:37:46] Otherwise I’ll get into trouble.
PHOEBE ROBINSON [00:37:48] Yeah.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:37:48] They’re doing it from a place of fear rather than a place of actual motivation, right?
PHOEBE ROBINSON [00:37:52] Yeah. And having it be a part of your life. And it’s like, who, who are your teachers at your kid’s school? What’s the curriculum? Like what grocery stores do you shop at? Like all these places. Like florists. Do you, do you go, do you just go to like some white chick like named, I don’t know, Julie’s Florist. Have you looked at any like sort of like South Asian people in your community who like have a flower shop? So it’s just sort of like looking at it like, what are you doing specifically to show up for these groups day in and day out? This is a lifelong journey, not just-.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:38:31] Yeah.
PHOEBE ROBINSON [00:38:31] Two weeks, not a month. It’s like this is forever. And I think-.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:38:34] Yeah.
PHOEBE ROBINSON [00:38:35] People aren’t ready for that level of commitment and that level of work they need to do.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:38:40] I think the goal is diversify your day, not just your feed. Really.
PHOEBE ROBINSON [00:38:44] Yes.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:38:44] I think that’s the way that we would probably most easily and simply put it. And I think that that’s a really important thing to deal with as a, and also, you don’t have to answer this question if it’s too triggering. But like, one of the things that I think has finally become very plain to everyone on a mainstream scale, especially, I think, you know, we can look at the reaction to Ahmaud Arbery and George Floyd and then versus Breonna Taylor, who still hasn’t received any justice. And I think there are, you know, with the way that Meg Thee Stallion has been mocked after having been shot, there has been the most blatant and even though I’ve actually found it quite blatant for a long time, but I think everyone is realizing now that the way in which black women experience America is truly different to anyone else, even within their own community. And as a black woman, what does that feel like to you right now? I mean, this isn’t something that’s new to you, but.
PHOEBE ROBINSON [00:39:40] Yeah, I mean, if you look at Black Lives Matter like that was started by black women. And like, I really feel like. I just feel like, A, they haven’t gotten their flowers, I think. B, hasn’t, just wasn’t taken as seriously as if it was started by like black men, like even the fact that George Floyd and like, of course, like all these black men who were like hunted down and murdered.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:40:06] Yeah.
PHOEBE ROBINSON [00:40:06] Like it’s all terrible and it’s all horrible and it’s horrific. But the way that they are rallied around is starkly different from the way that when a black woman or a black trans woman is murdered is, is not really like trending as long. People aren’t really trying to, like, get, seek justice in that way. And it’s really sort of disheartening because I think black women in general tend to be the heart beats of a lot of movements. And we tend to participate in and sort of like culture in a way where we really help shape it. But when it’s time for people to show up for us, it doesn’t always happen. But the expectation is that we are, we are the caretakers. We are the teachers. We are the ones who are like the fun girls. We’re like the strong people. We’re like funny, we’re all these things, but we’re not seen as human. And I think that’s why a lot of times when a black woman or a black trans woman is murdered, people don’t care because they don’t care about black women. We are, in general, black kids are seen as adults sooner than white kids.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:41:19] I mean, a 10 year old got charged this year with adult felony assault because like a kids playground game went wrong.
PHOEBE ROBINSON [00:41:27] Yeah.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:41:28] Turned into a fight.
PHOEBE ROBINSON [00:41:28] And so-. Yeah. And so I think this notion that, like black women don’t need to be protected. Black women don’t need to be supported. Black women don’t need to be fought for. I think just really dates back to, we have to go all the way back to slavery.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:41:43] Yeah.
PHOEBE ROBINSON [00:41:43] And sort of really just look at like the way that black women were treating, were treated then. I mean, I don’t see much difference now in terms of, like, people having empathy for black women. I don’t think that they do. And I think it’s like they can, they can have empathy for like Beyoncé or Solange or my, my, my black coworker, because that is a person that you see in your life.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:42:10] Yeah.
PHOEBE ROBINSON [00:42:10] But just across the board, like a black woman, you would never meet, I don’t think that there’s that level of compassion. There’s that level of interest. There’s that level of seeing them as a person as opposed to a stereotype.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:42:24] Yeah.
PHOEBE ROBINSON [00:42:24] And so it’s really, it’s really especially with Meg Thee Stallion where I’m like I remember when 50 Cent, like his whole thing was that he got shot eight times and that was like he survived and what a survivor. It’s amazing that he has his career and like, it’s so incredible. And then people are just making so many jokes about her, A, which I don’t understand and B, I’m also like people go, oh, well, she hasn’t really come out and spoken out about, like, what exactly happened. And I’m like, do you think maybe she’s also, like, sort of-?
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:42:55] Traumatized.
PHOEBE ROBINSON [00:42:56] Yeah. And going through PTSD and like, it’s a lot to sort of process a violent attack happening against you. And because she’s not sort of performing trauma the way that people want. Women in particular and black women especially to perform trauma in public spaces, that means that she doesn’t deserve our empathy or our respect. It’s just, it’s wholly disgusting, in my opinion.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:43:22] Yeah. And it also then kind of lends itself to the idea that, well, she’s not talking about it. So she must be fine. And black women are just stronger than everyone else.
PHOEBE ROBINSON [00:43:30] Yeah.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:43:30] So they don’t feel pain as much. And this, that and the other. And so, yeah, I think a lot has been brought to light. And that has been very upsetting for me, because to have, like, spent two months with her this year, like 16 hour days, just seeing what a soft and sweet and kind, like delicate person she is. It’s like whatever she puts forward in her rap, which is incredibly assertive and empowering. She’s also just like a really young human being who just lost her mother last year. And the way in which she’s just sort of not even treated like a man, just sort of treated as if that’s just not a thing that is publicly relevant. Even just how little press it’s gotten was really strange to me.
PHOEBE ROBINSON [00:44:10] Yeah.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:44:10] But anyway, we digress.
PHOEBE ROBINSON [00:44:11] She’s a, she’s a punchline right now. And that’s, that’s what’s really sad.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:44:16] Yeah. And it’s also not the first time we’ve seen that specifically with black women. I mean, also just and I won’t harp on about this because I can’t imagine anything less interesting for you. But we look at, just for people out there, look at the empathy that Kanye West has just received for all of the things that have happened in the last couple of years, namely in the last month. And everyone’s like, you know, we need to be careful about Kanye West and we need to think about his mental health, and we need to really look at the way that we’re talking about Kanye West, look at our language. We’re not being empathetic enough. And yet Azealia Banks has just been demonized and pushed all the way, like out. And off.
PHOEBE ROBINSON [00:44:51] Yeah.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:44:51] Who has also come out and been very open about her mental health issues. So it’s just a really interesting double standard that I want everyone to look out for. And as you said, having empathy for Beyoncé isn’t having empathy for all black women everywhere. I want to talk to you about your body. Can we talk about your body and your relationship with it?
PHOEBE ROBINSON [00:45:18] Sure.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:45:18] Your relationship with your body, because you’ve been through a whole journey. And it’s one of the things that we first bonded over, like you and I sort of fell in love on stage in front of about 300 people. But talking about that was incredibly bonding. And I think we’ve had, even though we’re from different backgrounds and different countries, we’ve had a very similar experience with our bodies. Can you talk me through what that journey has been like?
PHOEBE ROBINSON [00:45:37] Yeah. I mean, I think just growing up as a black girl and you’re, the ideal body types are like the curvy Tyra Banks, video girl, video models. And, you know, obviously, I, as you can see, there, there, there’s no, it’s pretty flat here. I’m a-.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:45:58] She’s rubbing her breasts. For anyone who wasn’t watching this right now. She’s doing some breast rubbing. While I didn’t sign up for this, I’m not complaining. Carry on.
PHOEBE ROBINSON [00:46:11] But yeah, I wasn’t, you know, especially I would say, I probably didn’t start putting on weight until my late 20s, but like-.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:46:18] Also, by the way, sorry, just to highlight, just to add to that. That we say curvy women, but it was curvy women who had tiny waist and very thin legs and very thin arms and thin faces.
PHOEBE ROBINSON [00:46:27] Exactly.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:46:27] And who were very long until-, so let’s just clarify that. Let’s keep going.
PHOEBE ROBINSON [00:46:31] Yeah. Yeah, but exactly. So it’s like for what the 90s considered “curvy”.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:46:36] The Cola bottle. Yeah.
PHOEBE ROBINSON [00:46:38] Yeah. And I just, I was not curvy. I was very, I was pretty thin. I didn’t have butt. I didn’t have hips, I didn’t really have boobs. And so like I was definitely made to feel like you are, like you’re, you’re the fun friend, like you’re really cool. But like I wouldn’t date you because you don’t look feminine enough or you’re like, not pretty enough and that sort of traditional way that, like, the media likes to hyper-sexualize black women in particular, I think. And so I really just sort of was kind of like, oh, OK. I guess like no one’s ever gonna find me pretty. Like I just was like, I don’t have the long flowing hair. I’m not tall. Like, I’m just not what society says is pretty. And I really just sort of like beat myself up about that and really, like, my self-worth just came, just really became about like, oh, you don’t measure up to how you’re supposed to measure up as a black woman.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:47:34] Mmhmm.
PHOEBE ROBINSON [00:47:34] And, you know, and then when I started putting on weight, it was still like my boobs didn’t really get any bigger. So it was just like it went to my hips and my butt, but then it was like for these photo shoots, oh, we don’t have anything in your size.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:47:48] Mmhmm.
PHOEBE ROBINSON [00:47:48] And so it was just constantly, this constantly being told that, like, whether I’m like now a size 12, back then I was a size 0. So I’ve run the gamut. It was at no point at any size was I ever like really got the energy from society, this is great.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:48:09] Acceptable.
PHOEBE ROBINSON [00:48:10] Yeah.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:48:10] Or this is great. And not even this is great, just this is acceptable as a bare minimum.
PHOEBE ROBINSON [00:48:14] Yeah.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:48:14] You just kind of felt like you were always just not quite right.
PHOEBE ROBINSON [00:48:18] Yeah. Not measuring up. And you know, that sort of made me go like that, there is no point in which women are going to be able to measure up because society’s always gonna keep moving-.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:48:26] The goalposts.
PHOEBE ROBINSON [00:48:27] The yar-, yeah, yeah, yeah. And be like, oh well, there’s this thing you could improve on and there’s this thing you can improve on. Or maybe you want to try this or like maybe you should lie-, like I, when I started doing standup at 24, like I had a club booker tell me that I should start lying about my age. Like it was, there was always something that I should be doing to improve, because right now, the way I look or my age or my hair was just a let down. And so I really got to a place where I was like, I’m tired of giving ownership to bullshit because the whole industry in a lot of ways when it comes to beauty and fashion and appearance, is to make us all feel like-.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:49:08] Yeah.
PHOEBE ROBINSON [00:49:09] We’re constantly failing. So we need these products. And I was like, I just don’t want to feel that way anymore.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:49:14] I also like the fact that with us it’s like you have to look like this, but with men it’s like, hey, we were thinking beards could be cool. Does anyone want to have a beard or a mustache? And men are like, maybe or maybe not. And then that’s it. That’s the end of the conversation. Or like, hey, do you guys want a six pack? And some people are like, Oh, I don’t really have time, ’cause I’m just pursuing my really happy and successful life. And they’re like, cool man. I was just suggesting. Whereas we get fucking demonized, I can’t believe, I started following all of my boyfriend’s magazines and my magazines at the same time on social media, and it completely changed my life. I started doing this about five years ago, and to see how spectacularly different the information, the coding and the directions that we are receiving, what we are told, what they think that we’ll find interesting in itself is fucking fascinating. I strongly suggest anyone out there tries this because it, like talk about diversifying your feed and like seeing what different cultures, but mostly just the difference between the genders and what we’re seeing. And also, by the way, queer magazines, that’s another subsection of like very different coding and information that is just, you know, I’m not, I’m not here to say what is good or bad necessarily. But I am saying it is very worthwhile to investigate how you are being pushed into a certain box all of the time via a really interesting, sometimes blatant, but often, more often, I’d say insidious instruction giving. It’s really fascinating.
PHOEBE ROBINSON [00:50:42] Yeah. I remember I did this shoot for this thing. I’m being very vague because I don’t want to say what it is. But I had to wear like a cute like sort of like a, like a knockoff, like bodycon dress or whatever. And I had to wear two, two things of Spanx because my stomach stuck out too much. And then they were, you know, I’m, I’m a 34A. And they were like, OK. OK. Yeah. No. OK. Right. So can you wear like this padded bra? Then we’re going to stuff two chicken cutlets each.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:51:22] Shit.
PHOEBE ROBINSON [00:51:22] On each. Right? So you can-. I was like, right, but I was like, I just. Isn’t it cool if I’m just like myself? And like, I did it. And like, if that were brought to me now, I’d be like, no, I’m not going to wear this like C Cup bra and then stuff each cup with like two chicken cutlets so I can look like I’m a C Cup. I’m not a C Cup. It also doesn’t fucking matter what my tits look like. I’m here to be funny, like, what is this about? And so it really just was, sort of this thing where it’s like, OK, I could starve myself and lose my belly or I can get like a boob job or I could do all these things. And they would still find something else to be like, oh, but that thing’s not great, so let’s fix that. And I just was like, this is, this is madness. And it’s driving everyone truly out of their minds because A, no one has great self-esteem because they’re constantly told all the ways that they don’t look great, all the ways that they need to improve. And I’m like, how about we sort of focus on the inside and being happy with ourselves and figuring out who we are? There’s so many people who, quote unquote, look “perfect”, have no fucking clue who they are, what they want, or how to move through the world and be kind to others. But they look great.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:52:39] I used to be really vain when I was in my early 20s and it made me a really bad TV host. I was a really bad TV host because I would spend all of my time that I should’ve been preparing, obsessing of my appearance in the mirror. And that was the only thing I thought that would matter about me. And I watched those tapes back from like 2009-2012, and I just want to cry and want, and I’d never watched myself the whole time I was on TV because I was so worried about what I would look like. So I didn’t see how shit I was. And everyone was telling me I was great because that’s what this industry is like. They just, you know, don’t want to upset the talent. So finally, I got this brand new producer who in 2012, three years after I’ve been on TV, was like, you’re just not very good. You’re not, you’re not, like you’re great in person and you’re good in rehearsal. But then the camera comes on and you just, like you have all this potential and you just don’t meet it on camera. And no one had ever said that to me and he forced me to sit with him for three hours and watched through three hours of footage of myself. And I couldn’t believe how would-, I should talk a bit with, like a different voice because I was uncomfortable. I don’t why I would speak a bit like this. But that’s what I was like. And so that was, you know, a big decision for me to realize that, like, I am so consumed with my body dysmorphia and my appearance that I need to get off television. And so I left and did radio for the next three years where you couldn’t see me anymore. And I think that’s now why I love podcasting more than I love doing anything else, because this is not really about what I look like and therefore I can unleash my true personality. I had no idea who the fuck I was. I didn’t know what my voice was. I didn’t care about anything. I didn’t know what to care about even. I was just a fucking vessel that was trying to steer myself towards the patriarchal gaze, rather than actually develop who I was as a person. I think it massively contributed to my nervous breakdown when I was 27. I had a complete existential crisis of I have no idea who I am. And it’s definitely, of course, like trauma from the past. But it was definitely that, that obsession with trying to fit into a box. Do you find now that you’ve become more accepting of yourself and you started to realize your own beauty and like, you know, I’ve seen the way that you dress in a way that celebrates yourself. Do you feel as though your ability to now look beyond that has freed you as a person and made you a better actor or a better comedian or better anything? Has that had an impact on you?
PHOEBE ROBINSON [00:55:03] Yeah, I think I’m a better listener. I think that I am more compassionate because I spent so much time beating myself up.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:55:15] Yeah.
PHOEBE ROBINSON [00:55:15] I think I was, I don’t think I was ever a judgment of people that I was with myself, but I definitely was judgmental because I was like, I just didn’t feel that great about myself. And so I think I’ve gotten to a place where I just am really enjoying sort of like figuring out the things that I like. And, you know, a lot of that also happened between boyfriends, like my current boyfriend, I met him three years ago and then before that I was single for like two years. And really during that time, I was like, so much of me was like still kind of feeling as though, oh, my life is not complete because I haven’t found my boyfriend yet, I haven’t found like the one or whatever. But during those two years I really got to figure out what I liked about myself, what I like doing, what I, what my hopes and my dreams were, and like just acquiring knowledge. I wasn’t spending so much time being so concerned about all the ways I was failing physically. Where I could, like, read an article about science or something about politics, and I was like, oh, that was a good usage of that 30 minutes instead of like sort of tag teaming society to be like, OK, I’m going to shit on myself for half an hour and then in half an hour, you can come in and do it for me. And so I really do think I’ve have grown a lot as a person. I think I’m a better person. I like to think. I don’t know if I’m more interesting, but I think I like being around myself more.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:56:40] I think that’s really important. Also, one thing before we wrap up that I, I loved about your last book is, and I really like I’ve quoted this maybe 400,000 times since I read it was when you were talking about your body image issues and you called yourself out for the fact that you’d never really engaged in double standards around beauty, around fatphobia until you yourself experienced what it’s like to suddenly be too big for samples and too big for society’s expectations. And I, the reason that I want to bring that up now is because I think there’s a lot of people out there who don’t stand up for other groups because they haven’t yet experienced their pain. And while I understand that and we can’t obviously completely understand every single different type of person’s experience, what did you learn from that about showing up for causes before you actually experienced them yourself?
PHOEBE ROBINSON [00:57:37] Yeah. Well, I think a big part of it, and as much as I think that standup comedy can be sort of problematic, like I really just didn’t know what my voice was until I started doing standup. I didn’t necessarily know that I could, like, speak out about certain things. So I really got to a place where, instead of, like I remember when I first started doing apol-, doing standup, I would apologize if I had a good set in front of-. Like, I would just do all these scenes where I’m like, please don’t pay attention to me. I’m going to flatten myself. I’m going to try to be as invisible as possible because I don’t want to piss off any men. I don’t want anyone to be upset at me. I don’t want anyone to think I’m a bitch because I’m voicing my opinion. So I’m going to be as quiet as possible and just work as much as I can. And hopefully I will get by and sort of as like time went on and like, you know, I was gaining weight, which is totally fine. Like I wasn’t, like, stressing out about it, but I was like, I was just really coming into myself more and just being like, yeah, you can have an opinion and you can speak out, and it’s totally fine. If someone doesn’t like you, fuck them. And I have definitely have had men sort of be like, who do you think you are that you can say your opinions publicly? And I’m like, a fucking human being is who I think I am. And so I really just got to a place where I was like instead of apologizing for have an opinion, instead of worrying that someone’s going to think I’m an angry black woman, when I see something that is fucked up, I’m just gonna call it out. And I think, you know, talking about like sample size and all that stuff, while that is a very much a champagne problem, I think it’s emblematic.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:59:13] Yeah, niche.
PHOEBE ROBINSON [00:59:13] Yeah. It’s emblematic of like the clothing industry where it’s like they, you know, I love a good oversize blazer. So, like, they’ll make these oversize blazers, but then be like, oh, we don’t have fabric to make clothes for plus size women.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:59:27] Plus size, yeah.
PHOEBE ROBINSON [00:59:27] I’m like, but you, but you do.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:59:28] Yeah.
PHOEBE ROBINSON [00:59:29] ‘Cause you just made an oversize blazer for someone who’s a size 10.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:59:32] Yeah.
PHOEBE ROBINSON [00:59:32] So then just fucking make a size 20 and it’s fine. And so I just got to a place where like it’s OK to speak up and I don’t have to necessarily be from that community in order to voice my opinion, in order to be an ally. And I just try to make sure I don’t center myself-.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:59:49] Yeah.
PHOEBE ROBINSON [00:59:50] In things that are like you about me. And I think that’s like the hardest thing. I think sometimes people are like, well, then I have to put myself in the middle. It’s like, no, you can voice your support and then pass the mic to someone else.
JAMEELA JAMIL [01:00:03] Yeah.
PHOEBE ROBINSON [01:00:03] And I think I’m, I’m really glad that I got to a place where I just stopped being scared to speak up because I was going to ruin my career. Like, that’s what women are told. Like if you speak up.
JAMEELA JAMIL [01:00:14] Yeah.
PHOEBE ROBINSON [01:00:15] Your career is over. You’re done.
JAMEELA JAMIL [01:00:16] You’ll be seen as difficult.
PHOEBE ROBINSON [01:00:18] Yeah. You’re never going to get work. And I’m like, that’s, I mean, sometimes it is true. Like, truly that, like, sometimes you can’t get blacklisted from an industry. But I think at the end of the day, you have to go, it’s, it’s worth that if that means conditions are going to improve for the next generation. So you just have to put yourself on the line more.
JAMEELA JAMIL [01:00:39] Yeah.
PHOEBE ROBINSON [01:00:39] And just take the blinders off of like your specific issues and look at globally how they all are, all these different issues and, you know, be invested in that because, like, the fashion industry is just not like a problem for plus size women. And then for everyone else, it’s great. It’s like, no, it’s all of our problem. And we all have to demand that people do better, that designers are more inclusive. That, like the price points are more affordable for people like we all have to show up and say, this is bullshit. It can’t just be up to the person that’s being marginalized.
JAMEELA JAMIL [01:01:14] Agreed.
PHOEBE ROBINSON [01:01:14] And so I think I had to make that, that shift in my mind and not be scared anymore. And then I think now I’m just like, I don’t shut up.
JAMEELA JAMIL [01:01:22] I think it’s great. I love that you don’t shut up. So finally, I will just ask you, Phoebe Robinson, what do you weigh?
PHOEBE ROBINSON [01:01:30] What do I weigh? I weigh my niece and nephew who are so cute and like my niece, she’s, she’s really into science and she loves dinosaurs and she just loves discovering. I weigh my financial freedom. That’s always been an important thing for me that like, I’m certainly like not wealthy, but like I don’t have to depend on a guy to be able to live and afford to be in New York. I weigh my curiosity, my excitement, my loudness. I weigh my boyfriend, because he’s so cute.
JAMEELA JAMIL [01:02:11] He is very cute.
PHOEBE ROBINSON [01:02:13] I weigh all my wigs. I weigh, I weigh my ability to learn new information and adjust my opinions accordingly. I weigh sort of just taking the leap and doing certain things business wise without being overly prepared or overly qualified and just going for it, instead of being like, oh, I don’t have the resume. I just say I’ll just learn.
JAMEELA JAMIL [01:02:40] I’m the same. I love that.
PHOEBE ROBINSON [01:02:41] I weigh. Yeah, I weigh all my rejections. I’ve sort of gotten me to where I am career wise because I got a lot of rejection and without that, it probably wouldn’t be doing the things that I’m doing. And I weigh my friendships, my family. I weigh-.
JAMEELA JAMIL [01:02:57] Oh, God. I knew it, I knew he was coming in.
PHOEBE ROBINSON [01:02:58] This Bono pillow.
JAMEELA JAMIL [01:03:01] She’s holding up her pillow of fucking Bono. Hey, listen, he’s a wonderful humanitarian.
PHOEBE ROBINSON [01:03:10] He is.
JAMEELA JAMIL [01:03:11] OK, so we’re only joking, we’re only joking.
PHOEBE ROBINSON [01:03:16] And I think I just weigh like being hopeful for the future. And just like the generation behind us, Jameela, I think they are just like-.
JAMEELA JAMIL [01:03:27] So cool.
PHOEBE ROBINSON [01:03:27] So fucking brilliant. And they’re so great. And they’re so brave in a way that I just frankly, wasn’t when I was a teenager and in my 20s. And so I just, I’m so stoked for that wisdom that we’ll just be showered on all of us.
JAMEELA JAMIL [01:03:41] So you weigh your stanage for GenZ.
PHOEBE ROBINSON [01:03:44] Mmhmm.
JAMEELA JAMIL [01:03:45] Fair dues. I love that answer. I love you. Please go and catch Phoebe’s new podcast, “Black Frasier”. And then read every book she’s ever written and follow her on social media. ‘Cause she’s great.
PHOEBE ROBINSON [01:03:54] Thank you, Jameela, you’re so great.
JAMEELA JAMIL [01:03:57] Love you. Love you. Thank you so much for listening to this week’s “I Weigh”. I would also like to thank the team, which helps me make this podcast. My producer, Sophia Jennings and Kimmie Lucas, my editor Andrew Carson, my boyfriend, James Blake, who made the beautiful music you are hearing now, and me, for my work. At “I Weigh”, we would love to hear from you and share what you weigh at the end of this podcast. You can leave us a voicemail at 1-818-660-5543 or e-mail us what you weigh at IWeighPodcast@gmail.com. And remember, it’s not in pounds and kilos, it’s your social contributions to society. Or just how you define yourself in life. And now we would love to pass the mic to one of our listeners.
I WEIGH COMMUNITY MEMBER [01:04:37] I weigh my oftentimes debilitating obsessive compulsive disorder and the shame and fear it brings with it. I weigh my passion for justice and my anger at this world’s persistent injustice. I weigh my laughter and the humor that saved my life, time and time again. I weigh extreme self doubt and the love of people around me. I weigh wanting to help people who need it the most and can afford it the least, but worrying I will fail. I weigh a million contradictions and wonder at small things like poppies and fireflies. Thank you.
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