All you need to know about Mahershala Ali - The first Muslim man to win an Oscar

Meet the actor behind Juan from Moonlight.

From humble beginnings, Mahershala Ali has rose to global fame. He recently got an Oscar for his performance as mentor and drug dealer Juan in Moonlight. The actor, who became a father last week, was handed the award by last year’s Supporting Actress Winner Alicia Vikander. Post a standing ovation from viewers, Ali gave an emotional speech in which he praised the film as he became the first Muslim to win an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor.

Before Ali received universal acclaim from critics and won the Academy Award, he has bagged the SAG Award and the Critics’ Choice Award for Best Supporting Actor and was also nominated for the Golden Globe Award.

In his emotional Oscar speech, he said:

“I had so many wonderful teachers growing up, and one thing that they consistently told me was it wasn’t about you, it’s not about you. It’s about these characters. You’re in service to these stories and these characters. And I’m so blessed to have had an opportunity.”

A post shared by The Academy (@theacademy) on


Thanking his wife and his new-born daughter, he added:

Where have you seen him before? He has portrayed Remy Danton in the Netflix series House of Cards, Cornell Stokes in Luke Cage, Colonel Boggs in The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1 and Part 2, and Tizzy in the 2008 film The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.

Did you know: His real name is not Mahershala- as told to The Hollywood Reporter,  his actual birth name is Mahershalalhashbaz Gilmore.

His first name comes from the Bible. His mother decided that it would be his name after she had a dream about it. He changed his name from Gilbert to Ali after converting to Islam and is a member of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community. He and his wife, Amatus Sami-Karim welcomed their first child, a daughter named Bari Najma a few days ago.

He went to college on a basketball scholarship, but later on left sports to Pursue acting. He graduated in 1996 with a mass communication degree and went on to get his masters from New York University’s graduate acting program in 2000.

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