Mahershala Ali Is The First Muslim Actor To Win An Academy Award

The Best Supporting Actor award at this year’s Academy Awards ceremony went to Mahershala Ali for his role in Barry Jenkins’ acclaimed drama Moonlight, making him the first Muslim actor to win an Academy Award.

Beating out the competition:

Ali beat out BAFTA winner Dev Patel (Lion), Jeff Bridges (Hell or High Water), Michael Shannon (Nocturnal Animals), and Lucas Hedges (Manchester by the Sea) to take the little golden man in one of the tightest races of the ceremony.

Moonlight is a coming-of-age drama that follows Chiron, the protagonist, through three stages of his life. Ali portrayed Juan, a crack dealer. Juan takes Chiron under his wing and protects him from his emotionally abusive drug addict mother, played brilliantly by Naomie Harris, who was also nominated for a Best Supporting Actress Award.

Standing ovation:

As a long standing tradition in the Academy Awards ceremony, the acclaimed actor was handed the award by last year’s Supporting Actress Winner, Alicia Vikander.

Ali was saluted by a standing ovation from the audience in the theatre, after which he delivered an emotional speech. He thanked his wife who had given birth to their daughter just four days prior to the ceremony.

Ali also said that he had so many wonderful teachers while growing up, “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 [to do that],” he added.

The actor also stars in Best Picture nominee Hidden Figures.