Rami Malek became a champion Sunday night when he won his very first Academy Award for Best Actor for his portrayal of the legendary Queen singer Freddie Mercury in Bohemian Rhapsody. Along with thanking his family, friends, and movie crew, Rami Malek's Oscar speech had an important message about acceptance and diversity that's exactly what we need right now.
Malek started with thanking his family, including his mother and late father, and then went on to thank Queen for letting him be a part of their story. "I may not have been the obvious choice but I guess it worked out," he joked as he thanked band members Brian May and Roger Taylor, who were seated in the audience. "Thank you Queen for letting me be the tiniest part of your phenomenal legacy. I am forever in your debt."
Then, after thanking the cast and crew of the film, he went on to talk about how he struggled with his identity as a child, and how this award proves that audiences are hungry for diverse stories.
“I think about what it would’ve been like to tell little bubba Rami that one day this might happen to him, and I think his curly haired little mind would be blown,” Malek said with his Oscar in hand. “That kid was struggling with his identity, trying to figure himself out. I think to anyone struggling with theirs and trying to find their voice, listen, we made a film about a gay man, an immigrant, who lived his life just unapologetically himself. The fact that I’m celebrating him and this story with you tonight is proof that we’re longing for stories like this.”
Malek — whose parents immigrated to America from Egypt before he was born — pointed out that he is now on his own immigrant journey, and that he appreciates all the support he's gotten. “I am the son of immigrants from Egypt," he said. "I’m a first generation American, and part of my story is being written right now, and I could not be more grateful to each and every one of you and everyone who believed in me for this moment. It is something I will treasure for the rest of my life.”
With the country divided on immigration issues, especially the critical fight on government funding of a southern border wall, Malek's sentiment comes at the right time. His speech proves that immigrants' stories can be positive and glamorous ones, and don't have to be limited to narratives of crime and terrorism. Malek pointed out that Mercury was a gay man whose immigrant story resonates even today, which proves that this country is loving and accepting at its core.
As first-generation American and a Muslim, I've seen the immigrant experience first hand and have struggled with identity myself, so it was refreshing to see Malek highlight his own life's journey. I hope his speech gives people hope and inspiration that in America, you can be dream big, no matter who you are or where you come from.