Actor Mahershala Ali Shows Us Where the Light Is In Latest ‘GQ’ Spread

Mahershala Ali must have been gunning for most women’s coveted position of Man Crush Monday when the spread and the article for his GQ feature dropped at the start of the week. The Oscar-winning Moonlight actor touched on how it feels to become acclimated with his newfound fame, being racially profiled, and his hope for America to one day heal its wounds and become a better place.

The 43-year-old was looking like a snack, decked out in Dolce & Gabbana, Saint Laurent, Prada, and Gucci in the July 2017 cover story. His smile in the editorial spread represents copious amounts of black boy joy and no doubt echoes the exuberance and lightness of Ali’s own personality. As he speaks and peels back more layers about him and who he is as an actor and a man, you begin to see that light is undoubtedly a part of him.


On Being Racially Profiled in the Past and How Fame Has Changed That:

“When suddenly you go from being followed in Barneys to being fawned over, it will mess with your head… those experiences that you have from age 10, when you start getting these little messages that you are something to be feared. Walking down the street in Berkeley and some cops roll up on you and say straight up, ‘Give me your ID,’ and you’re like, ‘What the f**k?’”

On Having to Make Himself Seem “Smaller” For Others’ Comfort:

“I think I identify with characters who have to make themselves smaller… Because that’s been my experience, as a large Black man, to make people feel safer. Just because I always found witnessing other people’s discomfort made me uncomfortable. And at the end of the day, it’s a lot of b.s., too. Sometimes you gotta be like, ‘Eff that.’’”

On How Religion Has Helped Him Reach New Heights As An Actor:

“It benefits me from the standpoint of really creating empathy for these characters that I try to embody, other human beings with issues as deep and personal as my own. Because of Islam, I am acutely aware that I am a work in progress.” He said his faith “puts a healthy pressure on you to be your best self, beginning with your own spirit and how that feeds into your actions.”

On 9/11 Leading to Him Being Placed on a Terrorist Watch List:

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

On the Strained Past African-Americans Have with America:

“I think African-Americans have a very convoluted relationship with patriotism. The fact is, we essentially were the abused child. We still love the parent, but you can’t overlook the fact that we have a very convoluted relationship with the parent. I absolutely love this country, but like so many people have some real questions and concerns about how things have gone down over the years and where we’re at. And that’s from a place of love, because I want the country to be what it says it is on paper.”

On His Belief That Change Is Possible:

“I sincerely believe we have the capacity to actually make this country great. There 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.”

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The actor who hit his peak in acting later in his career, after having minor roles, including one in the indie flick The Place Beyond the Pines, has been on a recent high. He won his first Oscar and became the first Muslim actor to do so. He also welcomed his first child with wife, Amatus Sami-Karim, a daughter they named Bari Najma. The actor can next be seen in JAY-Z and Tidal’s 4:44 visual. It has also been announced that he will be starring in Sony’s animated Spider-Man movie, alongside Atlanta actor Brian Tyree Henry.

Read the cover story penned by Carvell Wallace in full over at GQ.

Photo Credit: GQ Instagram/Peggy Sirota for GQ Magazine

Sheriden Chanel is a twenty-something writer, Beyoncé enthusiast, and lover of all things visual art. Keep up with her and her musings on social via @indiebyline.