Mahershala Ali: 10 Things You Didn’t Know


2016 was a massive year for the movie industry, both in terms of financial success and the creation of powerful, moving films. From comedies to dramas, the year was filled with incredible performances from established and emerging actors alike. One of the most highly acclaimed performances was from Mahershala Ali in Moonlight. His portrayal of Juan, a drug dealer, achieved widespread praise and won him several notable awards. Ali has also appeared in several of television’s biggest series, such as House of Cards and Luke Cage.

Although he has had supporting roles in several notable productions since his professional debut in 2003, he has only just begun to achieve the fame that an individual with his talent deserves. As such, many people will now him only for his recent roles. This is unfortunate, as Ali is as interesting in his private life as he is on screen. From his acting to his incredible acceptance speech at the recent SAG Awards, people are finally starting to take notice of this incredible artist. In order to provide a better picture of who he truly is, here are 10 of the most interesting facts about Mahershala Ali.

10. He had a Christian upbringing

This may be surprising to some who know about Ali’s current faith, but he was actually brought up in a Christian household. In fact, his mother is an ordained minister. Interestingly, his name is actually derived from the Bible. His full name is Mahershalalhashbaz, but he chose to shorten it as a practical way to help his fans remember his name.

9. He is now Muslim

Despite being raised by a mother who is an ordained Christian minister, Ali eventually decided to convert to Islam. When he did this, he changed his surname from Gilmore to Ali. He also joined the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community.

As a Muslim who holds a position in the public spotlight, Ali used the platform of the SAG Awards to speak out against Donald Trump’s immigration ban. He drew on his experiences to deliver a message of inclusiveness and respect.

8. He is very athletic 

While he is known for his incredible acting abilities, Ali is actually an elite athlete as well. In his youth, he was so talented at basketball that he was offered a scholarship to a Division 1 school. However, after seeing how fellow athletes were treated, he decided not to pursue a career in athletics. This is fortunate for his fans, as he would go on to receive the training that would act as the foundation for his remarkable career in film and television.

7. He is highly educated

After choosing not to pursue life as a professional athlete, Ali attended St. Mary’s College of California. Here, he earned a degree in Mass Communication, a degree that is certainly relevant to his career. However, his education did not end here. In 2000, he graduated with a Master’s degree from New York University’s prestigious acting program.

6. He found his passion for acting while at school 

Although it may come as a surprise to his fans, Ali did not always have acting on his radar. As his early years were most likely spent focusing on his athletics and grades, Ali did not fall in love with acting until his college days.

While completing his studies, Ali took part in a production of Spunk. This decision would turn out to be one of the most important of his life, as it was this role that earned him an apprenticeship at the California Shakespeare Theatre.

5. Mahershala Ali Net Worth 

Ali has only just begun to realize his full potential in the entertainment industry, as the bulk of his notable work has taken place since 2008. During this time, he has amassed a respectable personal worth of approximately $2 million, although some estimates have it slightly higher. Regardless, his net worth is sure to see a dramatic rise in coming years, especially after his astounding performance in Moonlight.

4. He is also a musician

It seems that some people simply get all the talent and ability that most people can only dream of. In addition to being an incredible actor and elite athlete, Ali is also a talented rapper. In 2007, he released an album called Curb Side Service under the name Prince Ali. While his rapping was clearly good enough to earn him a recording contract, it is lucky for his fans that he decided to concentrate on acting rather than music.

3. He is a cat person

Ali’s love for music may not have been strong enough to outweigh his passion for acting, but it did determine one aspect of his day-to-day life: the name of his cat. Ali has a cat who he named Nas, after the famous rapper. He has confessed, however, that part of the reason he has a cat is that he is allergic to dogs.

2. Acting runs in his family

Many people achieve success through countless hours of hard work, while others rise to the top on inherited talent alone. A select few, like Ali, have impressive work ethics while also being blessed with good genetics. Ali’s father was also an actor, although he spent his career on Broadway. Ali has stated that his father’s passion for independent productions and artistic pieces strongly influenced his own preferences.

1. His family is growing

Ali’s performances are undoubtedly moving and inspiring, but his most important role is set to begin later this year. In late 2016, it was announced that Ali and his wife, Amatus Sami-Karim, are expecting their first child.

Ali and Sami-Karim met while studying at NYU, but did not become romantically involved until years later. They married in 2013, and are now looking forward to welcoming a baby into the world in 2017.


One of the stars who shone brightest in 2016 was Mahershala Ali. Especially for his role in Moonlight, Ali has emerged in the public eye as one of Hollywood’s finest artists. However, he is equally interesting in his personal life as in his professional appearances. Ali is much more than just an actor; he is also a highly talented musician, elite athlete, and will soon be a father. He has a unique perspective on the world, given his Christian upbringing and conversion to Islam. With his talent, education, and life experience, fans can look forward to seeing many more incredible performances from this actor in coming years.

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