After being named Best Actor at the 2019 Academy Awards in Los Angeles, Rami Malek spoke with emotion: “I am the son of immigrants from Egypt—a first-generation American, and part of my story is being written right now. ... I could not be more grateful to each and every one of you, and everyone who believed in me for this moment.” He added that the award is “something I will treasure for the rest of my life.”
Thousands of miles away, in an Egyptian village called Minya, Malek’s kin stayed up until 5 a.m. to celebrate his win—the first time that an actor of Egyptian heritage has won an Oscar. "We celebrated with cookies and soda, and also with firecrackers that we had bought earlier," Essam Fawzi-Malek, a cousin of the famed actor, told EFE.
The 37-year-old Malek has been in the industry for some time but has gained more notice since he won a 2016 Emmy Award for his celebrated work on the cerebral drama Mr. Robot. It was his portrayal of Queen front man Freddie Mercury in the movie Bohemian Rhapsody that finally cemented his transition from a known face into a bonafide superstar.
Malek is known for his incredible ability to get into character, and his performance as the late Mercury captured the public’s imagination. In addition to his, Oscar win, the performance earned a Golden Globe.
Malek’s screen debut came on a 2004 episode of the popular television show Gilmore Girls. He followed that with an appearance on the hit show Medium. Malek then caught many people’s attention in the 2006 film Night at the Museum, in which he portrayed Pharaoh Ahkmenrah. His big break came when he landed the starring role in Mr. Robot, in which he played the genius hacker Elliot Alderson. For this role, he has been nominated for several awards, including a Golden Globe, a Critics Choice Award, and a Screen Actors Guild Award.
Malek’s journey has not always been easy. When he first began acting, he worked in pizza delivery. Malek recounts how he got creative and began handing out pizza boxes with his headshot taped to them. He toiled like this for years before receiving his big break. Malek’s story shows that, when given the necessary opportunities and support, people of color can add much-needed perspective, intrigue, and talent to whatever fields they choose to join.