Jemima Kirke Talks About Showing Her Butt On TV, Body Image & Lena Dunham


‘Girls’ actress Jemima Kirke is a woman no one has any illusions about because she is balls to the wall authentic and doesn’t try to sugar coat who she is. The British-born New Yorker plays the hot mess Jessa who is best friends with Lena Dunham’s character Hannah. Jess is constantly getting herself into situations which often spiral out of her control including a drug addiction and almost helping an elderly woman commit suicide.

But in real life Jemima Kirke’s life couldn’t be any different. The only difference is her bold personality which leaves no room for her to apologize for who she is, and we love that!

Not too long ago she was featured in a very powerful PSA about the importance of reproductive rights where she spoke candidly about having an abortion when she was younger. She participated in the campaign in order to help move this topic away from shame and condemnation and make it an issue where women feel comfortable sharing their stories with one another.

The mother of two isn’t afraid to be vulnerable with her audience. Why is that important? Because the more we share our stories, failures, fears and insecurities, the world becomes a little less lonely place and we know we can identify with each other more.


Recently, Jemima spoke to Refinery29 about her body image, baring her ass on one of television’s most talked-about shows, and her thoughts on Lena Dunham getting criticism because of her body image. You wouldn’t think Jemima would be the kind of girl to give two sh*ts about the way her body looks, but some of her comments surprised us. She is, after all, human.

She starts by likening the body image obsession with a popular Pixar movie character.

“I think a lot of women see themselves like Mr. Potato Heads. Like, if they could take this part away, if they could eliminate this part, they would look better. They don’t see themselves as a package. They see themselves as pieces,” she said. It’s a powerful visual and very true.

Refinery29’s Kelsey Miller conducts the in-depth interview with Jemima after reading an article in the NY Times where the actress discussed her workout routine, and how she has come to accept her body the way it is.

“One thing that’s always been lacking in the feminist movement is the body stuff. We need to take the shaming out of the fitness world,” she said, while also admitting it took her a while to accept and be okay with certain parts on her body that don’t seem to be changing.


After meeting and starting to work with a personal trainer during her second pregnancy, Jemima says she went from wanting to “stay thin while I was pregnant” to learning to be the fittest version of herself.

Her outlook now maybe more solid, but she started out on rocky ground in her early childhood because of the influence of her mother.

“My mom used to say to me, ‘I think you’re beautiful. I think you’re perfect. I just want you to be happy.’ That’s such a mixed message, though…even though she was saying she wanted me to be happy, it still came off as bullying,” she said.

Her mother would make comments that would enable Jemima to second guess her body.

“She knew I wanted to be thinner…and she was always on a diet herself. I think she meant well. I just think she wasn’t equipped.”

Now that she has a daughter of her own, she realized how important it is to be careful of what she says around her as she grows up.

“I think it’s important for women around children, whether you’re a mother or not, to never talk about not liking yourself.”


When Dove made one of their famous advertisements called ‘Legacy’, they focused on the impact of mothers’ comments on their daughters. The mothers featured were shocked and saddened to hear that their daughters were expressing hatred for the same body parts as them, and realized the power their words have in terms of shaping a young girls outlook on life.

If there is anyone who needs to be confident with their body image, it is Jemima because she is part of what Kelsey Miller describes as “one of the nakedest shows on television”. Last season there was a season where Jemima had to show her bare ass on a Skype call to Hannah while she was in Iowa and Lena asked if she was comfortable doing it.

“I was tempted to say no, just because it’s not gonna be comfortable to do. But, I felt somewhat obligated as someone who’s on such a progressive show — as an artist, as a mother to a daughter — to show my body,” she said.

She also had some pretty badass things to say about the criticism Lena has faced about including so much nudity on the show. Because each of the women are normal, not fake size zero imitations of women, audiences and critics alike feel the need to comment on it, but if they were Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition models, the silence would be deafening.

“For some reason, Lena has a target on her head. People love to hate Lena. I hear a lot of men saying, ‘Why do I have to see that?’ I’m like, what do you mean, ‘have to?’ Like this is a punishment?” said Jemima.


“One thing I hate that they say about Lena is, ‘She’s so confident’. That makes me really mad and it’s really short-sighted, because I don’t think she’s confident. I think she’s brave. It’s not that she’s proud necessarily or showing off. It’s that she’s making an effort to fight the standard so that one day we’ll stop calling nudity and self-love ‘brave.’ And, if people get mad because they see it as a big fuck-you, well then, they’re fucking right. It is.”

Because of her experiences, her outlook on fitness is more healthy and balanced than what her mother ever taught her.

“Fad fitness [is] just so disempowering. We’re wasting time counting calories instead of becoming the president,” she declares. It’s easy to relate, there are far too many commercials and messages telling us that the key to feeling great is starting with hating yourself. Where as some specific brands have found success in choosing a messaged based on empowerment. Skincare brands telling us how to quash a number of those spots without squashing our self-esteem in the process, or beauty products which enhance our confidence are becoming more popular.

So now Jemima’s approach to her own body, self-esteem and beauty is more individualistic and she has learned to value each of the women in her life the same way.

“I try to look at myself as if I were a man who was really hot for me. I’ll see all the things that make me me, and [I’m] like, that’s hot. That’s how I look at other women. I look at them like, If I was in love with this person, I would love every bit. And, I tell my friends. I’m not doing it to make them feel good. I really mean it.”

It’s a powerful message that is always worth repeating because until all the advertising and media in the world changes to reflect how we really want to feel about ourselves, it needs to be said. Thank goodness for shows like ‘Girls’ and standard-smashing women like Lena Dunham who are willing to bear the criticism in order for millions of girls to start looking differently at their bodies and appreciating who they are.



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