In late 2019 Kumail Nanjiani was the cause of millions of jaw drops (ow!) when he totally transformed his body for his role as Kingo in The Eternals. Dude got so muscly he temporarily became the face of PornHub’s “Muscular Men” category. A few months later, Kumail modeled for the cover of Men’s Health, and admitted getting buff had given him body dysmorphia. By the end of 2020 he experienced major backlash after posting a super-buff Christmas dinner pic to Instagram. Social media users made fun of his muscles, jawline, and accused him of abusing steroids.
In a new interview with Vulture, Kumail says the critical tweets affirmed all his insecurities and didn’t help his body dysmorphia. He says that no matter how muscly he got, nothing was ever good enough. His ideal shape? Arnold Schwarzenegger from Pumping Iron. Oh boy. Maybe he should’ve kept things realistic and gone with Johnny Bravo.
In the interview, Kumail gets into his childhood, lack of self-worth, racism, and being the butt of “ugly” jokes on Silicon Valley. He says he had just popped an edible and was rewatching The Crow when he first saw the mean tweets about the Christmas photo, and “he felt like an insecure teenager again.” He tells the interviewer, via Vulture:
“The way I look has been way too important to me,” says Nanjiani, now 43. “And so to hear a bunch of people reaffirming my own darkest thoughts about myself was very difficult.”
Kumail’s wife, Emily V. Gordon theorizes that the backlash from Twitter could be because people feel betrayed by a former “relatable nerd” like Kumail getting buff. There’s also discussion about a racial double standard or how Hollywood may be approaching “the uncanny valley of muscularity.”
Kumail says that all the criticism led to him go to a therapist regularly for the first time in his life:
He began to realize that even the praise was dangerous, because the issue was not actually his body but how he thought about it. He was pure lines and angles, but he still felt a wash of body dysmorphia seep in whenever he looked in the mirror. Nothing was ever good enough. His ideal shape was Arnold Schwarzenegger from his Pumping Iron days. And even if he achieved that, who knows? He might still fixate on the problem areas. His shoulders, for one, have always been a real bugbear for him. He could spend hours scrolling through photos of bodybuilders with massive delts, the kind that look like two buttery brioches cooling atop your arms. When he was younger, kids would make fun of him and call him chicken shoulders. You might say, But chickens don’t have shoulders. And he’d say yes, exactly.
During the interview, Kumail reveals how obsessed he’s become with his body. he says he knows exactly what he weighs every day (that day it’s 163.4), but he’d “love not to have to think about that.” Kumail shares that when he was initially bulking up he’d strap electrodes to his muscles and drink four protein shakes a day. Jesus Christ.
The article brings up the fact that nobody ever expected Kumail to get buff for The Eternals; it was all his idea. Last week Kumail told GQ that director Chloé Zhao got “a little upset” at him for the body transformation. Chloé told GQ that she was only surprised because she’d cast Kumail for his “humility and charisma,” and she wanted to make sure he hadn’t changed because he felt pressure from her.
My takeaway from this article is: having a body sucks, being famous sounds like a lot of pressure, and Bean Dad may be the solution to body dysmorphia. Thank you, Bean Dad, wherever you may be. Aaaand, this just in, Bean Dad is in his kitchen, screaming at his daughter.