Celebrity

The Best Part of Kumail Nanjiani's Shirtless Selfie Is the Message Behind It

Hunky and aware of unfair body standards? We love

kumail nanjiani workout: Kumail Nanjiani's head superimposed on Superman's body

(Photos: Getty Images; iStock)

Jason Derulo may not want to stop talking about his poor, censored schlong, but he’s going to have to because there’s a new #ThirstTrap in town—and we’re 100% behind it. On December 16, actor and comedian Kumail Nanjiani took to Instagram to show off his ripped physique, the product of almost a year’s worth of training for his role in the upcoming superhero movie, Marvel’s The Eternals.

And by show off, we mean more like POP OFF, because the photo—and Nanjiani—are seriously hot. Forget Nanjiani’s seminal film The Big Sick, this photo has ME straight up sick with lust.

“I never thought I’d be one of those people who would post a thirsty shirtless, but I’ve worked way too hard for way too long so here we are,” the actor wrote of his decision to share the photo.

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I never thought I’d be one of those people who would post a thirsty shirtless, but I’ve worked way too hard for way too long so here we are. You either die a hero, or you live long enough to see yourself become the villain. I found out a year ago I was going to be in Marvel’s Eternals and decided I wanted to transform how I looked. I would not have been able to do this if I didn’t have a full year with the best trainers and nutritionists paid for by the biggest studio in the world. I’m glad I look like this, but I also understand why I never did before. It would have been impossible without these resources and time. So big thanks to @grantrobertsfit who started working with me at the beginning of the year and made me understand true physical pain for months and months. Then, once we started shooting, a massive thanks to @davidhigginslondon and his team (@ellispartridge, @thebeardypt, @tomcheesemanfitness) for training me almost every day and making me strong, limber and injury free. I can almost touch my toes now. (And thank you for forcing me to do cheat meals David.) Matthews Street Catering for their delicious and healthy meals. And finally, the biggest thanks goes to @emilyvgordon for putting up with me complaining and talking about only working out and dieting for the last year. I promise I’ll be interesting again some day. #thirstyshirtless (Photo by @markupson.) (edit: I left off one very important person: @lancecallahan who trained me for 6 years and helped me build the foundation I could use to do this. Thank you!)

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And needless to say, the internet was *shook* at the surprise reveal from the actor, who’s typically known for starring in roles that place him as the nerdy sidekick with an altogether forgettable physique.

Nanjiani’s superhero role, and his physical buff-up, are a star-making turn for the actor, and something audiences have seen before. In July 2013, Chris Pratt debuted his newly buff physique while training for his leading role in 2014’s Guardians of the Galaxy; the film turned Pratt from the goofy sidekick to a bonafide action hero. And while that was great for the worst Chris in Hollywood, Nanjiani’s reveal is even better because long with being thirst-quenching, Nanjiani was realistic AF about the work that went into his body transformation, and how unrealistic it is for everyday people. “I would not have been able to do this if I didn’t have a full year with the best trainers and nutritionists paid for by the biggest studio in the world,” he writes. “I’m glad I look like this, but I also understand why I never did before. It would have been impossible without these resources and time.” *Slow clap*

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Nanjiani’s candidness is super refreshing—and very much needed.

We already know that unrealistic body standards are a BIG issue for women

It probably comes as no surprise that a large number of women suffer from body image issues. In Canada alone, between 80 and 90% of women and girls report being unhappy with the way they look, with one out of every 10 girls developing disordered eating. And can we really blame them? Women are constantly inundated with images of their fave celebs frolicking on the beach in bikinis, photos of size zero Victoria’s Secret angels peering at us while we scoop our lady bits into overflowing bras and headlines about the latest female starlet who “got her body back!” after doing the not-so-minor work of literally growing a human inside her own body. Also, quick q: where did said body even “go?” Did it just disappear into the ether Avengers-style as soon as she started showing? Would love to know.

And while some female celebs like Chrissy Teigen, Selena Gomez and Tracee Ellis Ross *are* working to combat this, by showing us their very normal stretch marks on IG, sharing their feelings about their own weight gain and public scrutiny of it, and sharing their journeys towards self-love, the prevalence and longevity of these ideals has left women seriously effed up when it comes to our bodies.

But it can also really affect men

And the same can be said for the fellas as well. While I would in no way discount the unfair body standards that women are faced with (and research backs up the idea that women are more often judged on their appearance than men), the fact is that men face these standards, and the unfair repercussions of them, too.

In 2018, a U.S.-based study found that one third of those suffering from anorexia nervosa and one fourth from bulimia nervosa are men, with nearly equivalent numbers of men and women suffering from binge-eating disorders. In addition to this, the study stated that current evidence suggested males are steadily catching up to women when it comes to “the pervasiveness of body dissatisfaction and body dysmorphia.” Like women, this dysmorphia is largely affected by depictions of the “ideal” male body in Western media. You can probs already bring to mind what “ideal” looks like, but per the study, the “muscular ideal,” a “V-shaped figure with broad shoulders and a narrow waist,” is what’s considered the pinnacle of beauty. So Cody Simpson’s swimmer bod? Yep.

(Not so) funnily enough, Nanjiani’s role as a superhero—and the proliferation of superhero movies in recent years—is actually in part to blame for the increase in body dissatisfaction among men. With stars like Chris Pratt and Zachary Levi packing on muscle rivalling professional wrestlers like The Rock, Healthline writer Raj Chander writes “this increases male public interest in obtaining their recipes for chiseled abs and bulging biceps. A vicious cycle ensues.”

And while celebs like Sam Smith have opened up about their own struggles with body image, hopefully paving the way for more people to share their struggles, healthcare specialists have found that men don’t typically seek support when it comes to health issues.

Most harmful? The idea that anyone can just have this kind of body naturally

And while it’s not surprising that we sometimes idealize the bods of our favourite celebrities, the issue with being inundated with images of the “perfect” body is that we can start to internalize the idea that these bodies are the norm—and because your fave celeb is able to have it, you should be able to just have it, too. This is often without taking into consideration other factors that may affect why our faves look the way they look: including, but not limited to, things like genes, money for nutritionists and trainers and plastic surgery (*ahem* The Kardashians *ahem*).

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But these bodies aren’t realistic. At least not for everyone. As Nanjiani pointed out in his post, he wouldn’t have been able to achieve his Marvel movie-ready physique without a ton of resources, including time, celeb trainers and nutritionists, and—maybe most importantly—a shit ton of money. Because all of those aforementioned things can come with big dollar signs attached. And these are resources that aren’t attainable or affordable for everyone. It can be easy to forget that for many of these entertainers, their bodies are an extension of their job. It’s literally their job to spend copious amounts of hours in the gym building their bodies, whether it’s for a specific role or to shake their booties onstage during a Las Vegas residency (à la Jennifer Lopez). I, too, would love to look like J.Lo (who, lest we forget, is legitimately 50 years old and looks about 20), but I also have a job, and tons of responsibilities. So if I can make it to two pilates classes a week, good on me!

But you can’t expect—nor should you put the pressure on yourself—that you bod would be on par with Jenny from the Block’s; because you have a life to live that’s worlds apart from that of a mega celebrity.

Having celebs be open about their bodies pulls back the curtain

And it’s posts like Nanjiani’s that remind us of that. While it’s up to the audience to take what Nanjiani wrote and actually apply it to themselves (an easier-said-than-done task that requires self-reflection), having celebs talk openly about unfair body standards and share their own insecurities isn’t just fun #BTS content, it allows fans to see what exactly goes into these highly crafted and curated celeb images and allows us to see them for what they are: constructed, unrealistic and a whole lot of work.

Having Nanjiani clearly lay out the privilege and resources that allowed him to achieve his current body sends the message that we needn’t take these images as an example of where our bodies should be, because it’s not attainable for everyone. And, most importantly, it may not necessarily be what’s healthiest for your very specific and unique body. As someone whose own weight has yo-yoed in an effort to get it down to and maintained at 113 pounds (a weight I was briefly at three years ago and was absolutely miserable trying to keep up with), I know that my body is more comfortable and healthy at its current weight of around 125 to 130 pounds. Am I always super thrilled with how I look and what the scale says? Nope. But self-love is a process, and having celebrities like Gomez and Teigen share their own journeys with self-love not only proves that celebs are really just like us,  but normalizes the process of self-acceptance.

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Arguably the best part of Nanjiani’s post? The fact that he—nor his wife—seem to be treating his body transformation like a life-changing thing. Shortly after Nanjiani’s post, his wife, fellow filmmaker Emily Gordon, shared a photo to Instagram of People‘s (probably) Sexiest Man of 2020 to her fans. In the photo, Nanjiani sits on the couple’s couch, shirtless and playing video games with his cat. “He’s super buff but he’s also still super this guy: a horrifically focused gamer and the best cat lap,” Gordon wrote.

So sure, Nanjiani’s got a hot bod and is now somewhat of a sex symbol (and newly-minted PornHub avatar), but that’s not everything he is. And it isn’t everything that should matter.

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