Dubai – It was a historic day at the 2017 Oscars as Mahershala Ali declared the first Muslim actor to win an Oscar, for his portrayal of a drug dealer in the coming-of-age drama Moonlight.
It was also the first time that Ali, who converted to Islam 17 years ago, had been nominated for an Oscar.
In an emotional speech, the actor thanked his “wonderful” teachers and his wife, who had given birth to their daughter just days earlier.
Moonlight also picked up the award for best picture.
“I’m so blessed to have had an opportunity. It was such a wonderful experience,” Ali said, as he thanked the film’s director Barry Jenkins and Tarell Alvin McCraney, the writer of the play that Moonlight was based on.
“I also want to thank my wife, we just had our daughter four days ago, so I just want to thank her for being such a soldier through this process and really carrying me through it all,” he added.
The independent film tells the story of Chiron, a young gay African-American boy coming to terms with his sexuality as he grows up in a tough Florida neighbourhood.
Ali, who was born Mahershalalhashbaz Gilmore, won the best supporting actor award for his part as drug dealer Juan, who acts as a father figure to Chiron.
Moonlight vs La La Land
The Oscars kept viewers guessing all the way to the end — and even after it — with “Moonlight” coming in as a surprise best picture winner after the award was mistakenly given to “La La Land” first.
The 89th annual Academy Awards got off to a rousing, musical start, with Justin Timberlake starting things off with his best song nominee, “Can’t Stop the Feeling,” making his way from the back of the auditorium to the Dolby Theater stage.
Timberlake and his dancers didn’t stay on stage for long, taking things back into the audience again to boogie with the likes of Halle Berry, Ryan Gosling and Jessica Biel before tossing things to Oscars host Jimmy Kimmel.