Actor Mahershala Ali became the first Muslim man to win an Oscar on Sunday at the 89th Academy Awards.


Ali won the Best Supporting Actor award for his role in Moonlight, which also took home Best Picture. This year the Oscars saw one of its most diverse set of winners in history, with various immigrants winning awards, as well as African Americans sweeping the Best Supporting Actor and Actress categories. Not to mention that Moonlight featured an all-black cast.


And on top of all that, Ali was the first Muslim to win an Oscar. The 43-year-old converted at a young age, and changed his last name from Gilmore to Ali. He began acting as a regular on Crossing Jordan in 2001 and appeared in various television shows before hitting his big break on The 4400.

He became a household name since joining House of Cards in 2013. In addition to performing brilliantly in Moonlight, Ali also acted in Oscar nominated film Hidden Figures.

In his powerful acceptance speech, the first of the night, Ali thanked his teachers for leading him along the way. “I wanna thank my teachers, my professors. I had so many wonderful teachers. And one thing that they consistently told me is — Oliver Chandler, Ron Van Lieu, Ken Washington — is that it wasn’t about you. It’s not about you. It’s about these characters. You’re in service to these stories, to these characters. I’m so blessed to have had an opportunity. It was about Juan. It was about Chiron. It was about Paula,” he said.

In addition to thanking his cast and crew, he took the opportunity to thank his family. “And lastly I just wanna thank my wife, who was in her third trimester doing awards season. We just had a daughter four days ago [huge applause from the audience]. I just wanna thank her for being such a soldier through this process… and really carrying me through it all. Thank you, I really appreciate it. Peace and blessings.”


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