TV's Leading Ladies Talk Representation at 2019 Glamour Women of the Year Summit

Samantha Bergeson
Astrid Stawiarz/Getty Images for Glamour

Glamour's annual Women of the Year Summit brought together an impressive array of actresses, activists, and aspiring change-makers on November 9 at the Lincoln Center to discuss what's next for women everywhere. With a theme of "Go Big," television stars like Mj Rodriguez, Britney Young, and Jameela Jamil, along with Busy Philipps, Beanie Feldstein, Michelle Buteau, and Ilana Glazer spoke about their own struggles in finding the confidence to push them to success in the industry.

Pose star Rodriguez and GLOW fan favorite Young discussed the importance of representation in television. Rodriguez, who was also honored at the Summit last year, "found solace" in watching LGBTQ shows like Will & Grace and Noah's Arc when she was younger. Now, she takes on the responsibility of sharing her own story as an African-American trans woman onscreen with the role of Blanca in Pose.

"We know how important it is to be doing a show like [Pose]. We have to do the job justice," Rodriguez said. "And me and Billy [Porter] are like the monarch and the matriarch of the show, him being the lead actor and me being the lead actress. It's important that we carry the show in the way that it needs to be carried. It's entertaining, but it's also educational. We know the stakes."

Similarly, Young sought out women who looked like her on TV shows as a child. Prior to the Summit, Young published an essay in Glamour about plus-sized women typically taking on the role of comic relief or menacing bully. To Young, her role as Carmen on GLOW defies stereotypes, and instead celebrates dynamic, full-fledged characters.

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"From the get-go I knew Carmen was going to be different," Young explained. "When they sent the casting breakdown, the first two words were 'gentle giant,' and that to me was like, 'Hi, we want you to be a certain stature, certain size, but we're going to celebrate it and make it positive.'"

Even the posters for GLOW opted not to use Photoshop or any airbrushing, a rare decision that made Young cry when she saw the finished product. "The body-positive movement used to be just fat girls being confident, and now it's about about everybody just being proud of who they are in their skin, no matter what size, shape, color, and that's what I really love about it," Young stated.

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"I've seen on some [stars' Instagrams] comments like, 'Why are you quoting body positive? You're skinny, you're stick thin,' and it's like, they can still be positive with their bodies! I love how that's changing and it's becoming more of a community. We're not saying you have to be this way, we're just saying we're happy to be this way."

The Good Place star and The Misery Index host Jamil opened up about her own past struggles with anorexia, which inspired her to launch the body positive organization I Weigh, a content-based allyship platform based on her social media campaign of the same name. "I Weigh is going to be the middle ground between not knowing anything and activism," Jamil explained. "We're going to teach you how to care and we're going to teach you how to act in order to help other groups."

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I Weigh currently has an all-female staff, with Jamil at the helm as CEO.

"I'm really excited about the fact that I'm learning to be a CEO and a businesswoman, and I'm afraid and vulnerable again. I haven't slept since March," Jamil joked. "It turns out #bossbitch is actually #deadbitch but it's the most meaningful thing I've been a part of so I can't wait to see how it goes."

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Jamil's authentic honesty and passion for inclusivity has made her one of the most influential stars on social media to gain awareness for abortion rights, weight loss targeted ads, and more. While her bluntness may incite trolls or negative comments, Jamil remains steadfast: "We don't have a responsibility to be liked by everyone. Just like we don't like everyone, everyone doesn't have to like us. Just move on and move up."