If you haven’t read it already, put this on your list: E Alex Jung’s profile of Kumail Nanjiani for Vulture. For starters, any time E Alex Jung writes a celebrity profile it’s worth your time and the subscription – he connects with his subjects with empathy and objectivity, and the result is almost always real conversations that form the foundation for insightful pieces that really get to the heart of who this person is, what they care about, why they make the choices they make.
i profiled kumail https://t.co/pBuFBG1yiC— E. Alex Jung (probably) (@e_alexjung) October 12, 2021
Kumail is promoting Marvel’s Eternals, due out in three weeks. For Kumail though, while Eternals may have been what brought him to his decision to achieve the so-called perfect body, his complicated relationship with his body began a long time ago – and it’s a relationship he’s still trying to understand in real time, and that process is now even more confusing because the public has been invited to participate.
As we know, Kumail’s body transformation went viral almost two years ago now. As he says in the interview, he enjoyed the attention for a year – and he even played into it, with an appearance on Jimmy Kimmel and magazine features showing off his muscles.
But there was backlash too. Some people speculated about steroids, others were disappointed that he seemed to succumb to old school and narrow Hollywood beauty standards. And that’s when he began to realise that no matter he looked like, it wouldn’t permanently change what he felt like. All while getting more and more obsessed with his weight, his shape, his muscles. And being conscious of it the whole time: that his body obsession is just a symptom of his deep insecurity and unresolved esteem issues that go way back to his childhood and that were exacerbated by the racism that surrounded him when he moved to America. So it’s double shame – when you’re already caught in a spiral over a superficial value system and you feel even worse because you know that you should know better than to seek validation through a f-cked up lens.
As much as I wish that Kumail wasn’t going through this struggle, at the same time I appreciate that he’s so openly addressing it. That there’s a famous man, who is about to be known as a superhero, speaking candidly about low self esteem, about body dysmorphia, about how difficult it is to value yourself on your own terms, how difficult it is to figure out what those terms even are. He can’t be the only one but while Kumail is still working through his challenges, even by just participating in this conversation he’s contributing to the dismantling of toxic masculinity. Because for a long time, people bought into the fallacy that beefing up and getting a six-pack is supposed to be the highest level of self-actualisation, the ultimate definition of being a man. Kumail, however, is discovering that it didn’t make him any happier. Which is something that women can relate to too.
How many of us reading this piece can identify with how Kumail agrees intellectually that changing what’s on the outside doesn’t fix what’s on the inside – and yet, and still…
To read E Alex Jung’s full profile on Kumail Nanjiani, head to Vulture. Attached - Kumail and Emily V Gordon at the Academy Museum Gala a couple of weeks ago.
Yours in gossip,