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Kumail Nanjiani 'doesn't regret' sharing body transformation photos on Instagram

US-Pakistani actor Kumail Nanjiani arrives for the premiere of
Kumail Nanjiani is speaking out about his 2019 body transformation — and the impact of it being so widely reported. (Photo: FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP via Getty Images)

Kumail Nanjiani is opening up about how he handled the public response to his widely-reported 2019 body transformation.

It's been nearly three years since the Eternals star, 44, took to Instagram to share a shirtless photo of himself, putting his abs and muscular arms on full display. Now, in a new interview with GQ Hype, the actor discusses the pressure he faced when the media turned his body into clickbait.

"It’s weird to have my body have such a part in public conversation," he explained of that time. "There is no good result for me personally with that, but I also understand that, being a public figure, everything about me is fair game to discuss."

"I’m the one who put those Instagram pictures up, so I started this. I don’t regret it," Nanjiani made clear. "But it did become something that I had not anticipated. Having my body so critiqued… I guess now I understand 0.0001% of what it might be like to be an actress in Hollywood."

While Nanjiani admits he doesn't "have to deal" with the kind of pressure Hollywood actresses experience about their bodies, he was, at the time, routinely asked about his body in interviews, which took some getting used to.

"It’s such a small part of my life," he says now. "It’s always a risk publicly reckoning with something you’re going through personally. And that is what was happening in those interviews. I was dealing with the fallout of those pictures, and the waves of reactions to them, and my own part in causing them, and my own part in furthering a male body standard that is ultimately unhealthy and unachievable and unrealistic."

"Some people reacted to me reckoning with that, thinking that was also part of a performance," he noted of how he handled the response. "And now I’m saying it, and maybe this will be construed as part of the performance… I did those interviews because a lot was going through my head"

"I’ve genuinely run out of things to say about it," he said.

Nanjiani has been open in the past about how conversations around his physique eventually led him down an unhealthy cycle. In an interview with GQ last year, he admitted that he'd become fixated with his appearance and stats.

"I've found out over the last year and a half, since I did that picture, that I am very uncomfortable talking about my body," he said at the time, "and it's become less and less and less comfortable."

Furthermore, Nanjiani explained, the experience made him realize how the perpetuation of toxic masculinity on social media has become harmful for men.

"It is aggression," he said of the idealized male body. "It is anger. A lot of times we are taught to be useful by using physical strength or our brain in an aggressive, competitive way. Not in an empathetic way. Not in an open, collaborative way. It's the same thing when you have all these guys, like, asking people to debate them on Twitter. That's the same as arm wrestling. It's about defeating. And that's what the male ideal has been. Dominating. Defeating. Crushing. Killing. Destroying. That's what being jacked is."

In a separate 2021 interview with Vulture, he admitted that he's become "obsessed with that number on the scale."

"It’s a tough thing," the Welcome to Chippendales actor shared. "It’s deceiving. You become obsessed with it. I certainly have, and for me, it’s not great to weigh myself every day. I could tell you what I weigh today. If I could change something, I would love to not have to think about that."

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