Who is Mahershala Ali? The rise of the Oscar-nominated actor

Mahershala Ali has been nominated for an Oscar. (AFP)
Updated 24 January 2019
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Who is Mahershala Ali? The rise of the Oscar-nominated actor

DUBAI: Movie geeks are abuzz for this year’s Academy Awards, following revelations that several nominees could make history for the 91-year-old ceremony.

Among them, Mahershala Ali could win an Oscar for his performance in “Green Book,” and become the fastest star to win two awards in the same category.

The 44-year-old won Best Supporting Actor in 2017 for “Moonlight” when he again made history as the first Muslim to triumph in the category.

Ali, born Mahershalalhashbaz Gilmore to a Christian mother in Oakland, California in 1974, converted to Islam in 1999.

“It just felt like a life sign. I’d come from sports, so I appreciated the discipline that the religion requires. For me, it was a way of living more deliberately,” said Ali.

He added, in an interview with British magazine the Radio Times: “I felt I was connecting to something that was making my physical experience more peaceful.”

Hollywood has been criticized recently for its lack of diversity, and more and more actors have become increasingly vocal about the Academy’s need to better represent US society.

Winners in the past have often used their acceptance speeches to talk about race, identity and other contentious issues.

When Ali received an award for “Moonlight” at the 2017 Screen Actors’ Guild Awards, he addressed being Muslim and his relationship with his Christian mother.

“My mother is an ordained minister. I’m a Muslim. She didn’t do back flips when I called her to tell her I converted 17 years ago,” he said.

But he discounted the idea that differing faiths need drive people apart, highlighting how their differences never hurt their relationship, saying: “We love each other. The love has grown.”

Ali kicked off his career in the early noughties, after graduating from New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts. After completing his education, Ali was cast in a small indie film, “Making Revolution” (2003), and went on to earn small roles in TV shows before he scored a role in 2008’s “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button,” alongside Brad Pitt. After earning an Emmy nomination in 2016 for his part on Netflix show “House of Cards,” Ali took on a variety of roles and appears in the latest season of “True Detective” as the lead character.


Life lessons from inspirational women — Alexis

Music artist 'Alexis.' (Supplied)
Updated 31 min 59 sec ago
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Life lessons from inspirational women — Alexis

  • UAE-based singer-songwriter, Alexis just released her album “This Is Me”
  • She talks tolerance, proving yourself, and the power of words

DUBAI: The UAE-based singer-songwriter, who just released her album “This Is Me,” talks tolerance, proving yourself, and the power of words

I’m very demanding of myself, which is a contradiction, because I’m so understanding and accepting of the weaknesses of other people, but I’m not that kind to myself. But I don’t mind laughing at myself either.

 

I’ve been guilty, earlier in my career, of trying to force situations. Sometimes pushing is good, but allowing things to happen in their own time is also a valuable skill. It’s not necessarily about the destination; it’s the journey. And if you can allow yourself to enjoy the journey, you’ll get there eventually — perhaps in a better condition.

 

My father encouraged me to be an individual thinker. He’s a man who has roots in a very conservative, male-driven culture, but he was raised by a woman who wasn’t afraid to break the mold. He advised me that because of what I look like, and being a woman, I would always need to be more than just adequately prepared: “If you’re required to know two things for a job, when you walk in there you need to know four or six things.”

 

I know it’s probably just something parents tell their kids to help them get through difficult situations, but I think that “Sticks and stones may break your bones but words can never hurt you” thing is such nonsense. Words can hurt. They can cause incredible damage. It’s important for us to realize the impact of what we say, how we say it, and to whom. Words have power.

 

I handled my own business from the very beginning, so I found myself at 18 going into meetings with executives who were in their 40s and 50s. And of course I was a child to them. So having them look beyond the physical thing and realize that I was very serious about my work and knew what I was talking about was a challenge. It’s easy to see me as a fashion horse. It’s harder to see that I’m a worker. Get past the window dressing and I’ve got quality merchandise. But I survived life with older brothers. I think I can tackle anything at this point.

 

Men and women are equally capable, but in different ways. It’s a bit of a generalization, but we have to accept that different people have different methodologies.