‘Moonlight’ Star Mahershala Ali: From Being Followed in Barneys to Being Fawned Over

mahershala ali
source: Instagram

Mahershala Ali has had a long journey to fame. The Moonlight actor recently opened up about what it’s like to be a black Muslim in Hollywood after a lifetime of facing racism.

In his cover story for GQ, he said,

“When suddenly you go from being followed in Barneys to being fawned over, it will mess with your head.”

He’s still extremely affected by “those experiences that you have from age 10, when you start getting these little messages that you are something to be feared,” and understandably so. In a time when Islamophobia is seemingly at its height, in a time when our president is trying to ban Muslim refugees from entering the country, it makes sense that Ali would be weary of his new-found fame.

And it’s not like all that racism has just gone away overnight. Despite his sudden recognition, Ali still gets pulled aside by cops just walking down the street.

“Some cops roll up on you and say straight up, ‘Give me your ID,’ and you’re like, ‘What the fuck?’”

Not to mention that his name is also on a terrorist watch list (for no good reason, might we add). He previously told Fresh Air’s Terry Gross,

“They would be like, ‘Yeah, your name matches the name of a terrorist.’ I was like, ‘What terrorist is running around with a Hebrew first name and an Arabic last name? Who’s that guy?’”

(His full first name, Mahershalalhashba, is actually from the Old Testament).

Despite all the racism and hate he’s experienced in his lifetime, Ali remains hopeful for the country as a whole (and he might be the only one at this point). He said,

“I sincerely believe we have the capacity to actually make this country great. here are enough people, there are enough believers out there, there are enough intelligent, empathetic souls out there that want good for the whole. I don’t know if it’ll happen in my lifetime, but I believe in time the pendulum will swing in the right direction.”

Lena Finkel
Lena Finkel is the Editor and Founder of Femestella. Prior to starting Femestella, she worked at People, InStyle, Tiger Beat, and Sesame Workshop (aka Sesame Street). She loves all things Real Housewives and Vanderpump Rules. When she's not busy binge-watching TV, you can find her hanging out with her tuxedo cat Tom.