Let’s face the fact: The whole world is crushing on Mahershala Ali right now, and we’re not going to be the crew to hop off this bandwagon. Not only is he the first Muslim to win an Oscar for best supporting actor, he landed the gong for his part in the year’s best picture, Moonlight, one of the most intriguing, beautiful films you’ll ever see.
And even if you haven’t caught Moonlight yet, are there even more reasons to love Ali beyond his cinematic success? Is all we’ve read over the past few weeks just the tip of the awesomeness iceberg? By diving into the deeper recesses of the internet, we attempted to answer that question.
In a word, the answer is ‘yes’. But here’s why:
He Converted to Islam After Hearing a Prayer
Ali was born in Oakland, California to Christian parents. His folks named him Maher-shalal-hash-baz in honour of a prophetic name from the book of Isaiah. He didn’t convert to Islam until he was a graduate student. Speaking on the podcast Death, Sex & Money, Ali described visiting a mosque with his now-wife and her mother – a moment that would change his life: “I just had this really strong response where this prayer is resonating in my body, and I’m, like, crying…I woke up a week later, and I get up and I go, ‘I gotta go to the mosque.’ Long story short, I converted that day.”
He’s a Rapper
Before the fame, Ali rapped. And he was pretty good. Have a listen to the actor formerly known as Prince Ali:
He was a Basketball Star at University
Well, maybe ‘star’ is a bit generous, but Ali still received a scholarship to play basketball at St Mary’s (SMC), a collegiate hoops powerhouse in California. However, his time on the court would cause him to reevaluate his ambition.
Speaking in a 2011 interview, Ali said: ‘I went to SMC on a basketball scholarship. But when I graduated, I no longer thought of myself as an athlete…I came to SMC wanting the fullest experience as a student athlete, and left wanting to experience life as an artist and well-rounded person.”
He’d go on to land a spot at New York University’s prestigious acting programme. You’ve got to love the guy for taking a chance on such a risky career change.
He’s a Cat Person
Ali has two cats. He once told GQ, ‘Well, I’m allergic to dogs and not to cats. It’s also a Muslim thing. We can’t have dogs in the house.’
One of his cats is named after the rapper Nas, which is one of the better things we learned today.
We’re Going to See a lot More of Him
Ali recently appeared in a photoshoot for Calvin Klein. So even if you haven’t seen Moonlight, you’re probably going to see a lot more of Ali.