Clad in fitted designer suits, the actor talks about his childhood, journey to becoming an Oscar winner and double-consciousness as a Black-Muslim man.
“When suddenly you go from being followed in Barneys to being fawned over, it will mess with your head,” Ali tells GQ writer Carvell Wallace.
“Those experiences that you have from age 10, when you start getting these little messages that you are something to be feared... Walking down the street in Berkeley and some cops roll up on you and say straight up, ‘Give me your ID,’ and you’re like, ‘What the f--k?’ ”
Gaining fame later in life —when compared to the typical Hollywood leads— at 43 has made Ali more self-aware in who he is and how he's perceived.
“I think I identify with characters who have to make themselves smaller," he said.
"Because that’s been my experience, as a large Black man, to make people feel safer. Just because I always found witnessing other people’s discomfort made me uncomfortable. And at the end of the day, it’s a lot of b.s., too. Sometimes you gotta be like, ‘Eff that.’ ”