These days, it’s hard not to hear about Kumail Nanjiani without hearing the word “ripped” or some equivalent of it in the same sentence. In December 2019, the star of Marvel’s upcoming Eternals created a loud and thirsty social media firestorm when he posted a photo of the transformation he underwent for the superhero role. While Nanjiani’s guns have been talked about ever since, it’s not the first time the Oscar nominee’s physical appearance has been a topic of conversation—though not always in a good way.
Nanjiani and his wife Emily V. Gordon, who co-wrote the semi-autobiographical 2017 rom-com The Big Sick, which earned them both an Oscar nomination, recently sat down with Vulture to discuss the attention being paid to Nanjiani’s six-pack, with the actor admitting that it’s not necessarily a good thing.
“It’s very easy to get obsessed with that number on the scale,” Nanjiani said. “It’s a tough thing. It’s deceiving. You become obsessed with it. I certainly have, and for me, it’s not great to weigh myself every day.”
The conversation then segued into a very different type of attention Nanjiani has gotten for his looks—in this case, going back to Silicon Valley and how many jokes were made at the expense of Nanjiani’s character Dinesh Chugtai being considered ugly (well, when he wasn’t being “Pakistani Denzel”). While Gordon was pretty forthright in sharing that “I did not like that you were considered unattractive on the show. That really f*cking bothered me,” Nanjiani seemed to put some of the blame on himself:
“[T]here were entire story lines around [Dinesh’s looks]. That stuff does get to you, where you’re like, aww … that’s not a great feeling. I love everyone on the show, and I never voiced this concern. Maybe I should have. Other actors did when they had stuff that they didn’t enjoy doing. I understand that story line ended up being funny. But yeah, parts of that didn’t feel great.”
Gordon shared that, “Even my mom would call me and be like, ‘Why are they saying that about him? I don’t understand.’ But yeah, it bugged me. I didn’t like it.”
“Generally speaking, a big part of the ascribing of things that happens is sometimes it puts a filter on the world, and brown Asian men are completely desexualized,” Nanjiani concluded. “Because they’re not threatening. It’s like, Oh, it thinks it’s hot. That kind of thing. I don’t hold it against any of the actors who’ve had to do that stuff, because getting jobs is really hard. It shouldn’t be the job of any one person to upend an entire culture.”