Meet Riz Ahmed, internet boyfriend, woke bae and Emmy winner


Recently introduced or in a committed internet crush for years, here’s everything you need to know and love Emmy winner Riz Ahmed.

On Sunday night, Riz Ahmed won Outstanding Lead Actor in a Limited Series at the 69th Emmy Awards for his performance in HBO’s The Night Of and there was much rejoicing. Ahmed, who is British Pakistani, was the first Muslim man to pick up an Emmy and the first male actor of Asian descent to win an award for acting. (But say it with me now: 2017 is far too late for these kinds of firsts.)

Historically exciting as it was, it was also a great night for internet thirst, as Ahmed is both a certified Internet Boyfriend and woke bae. Allow us to explain.

Riz had a real banner year as an actor, starring in the aforementioned HBO mini-series as well as appearing in this little film called Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. He also held an arc on the final season of Girls, for which he was nominated for a 2017 Emmy for guest actor. Talented: Check. Omnipresent: Check.

He’s British (an accent always helps an internet crush), has great cheekbones and can wear the hell out of a suit. He gives the impression of being much taller than his 5’8″ frame, which is perfect for an internet boyfriend who you (most likely) will never meet and/or stand next to for photos.

Ahmed, who raps under the name Riz MC and in the duo Swet Shop Boys, also boasts a well-received music career. He made headlines featuring on the track “Immigrants (We Get The Job Done)” from The Hamilton Mixtape, the music video in which he also starred.

Mostly though, Riz seems to be dedicating his time to acting and bless him for it. It’s working out exceptionally well for all of us. While The Night Of, Girls and Rogue One were his most high-profile performances of late, he also appeared on the supernatural Netflix drama The OA, in the most recent Jason Bourne movie and as Jake Gyllenhaal’s assistant in Nightcrawler.

Moreover, he’s used his newfound acclaim to speak up about systemic racism in its various forms — and the internet loves a woke bae. In 2016, he wrote in The Guardian about “negotiating the cultural expectations of a Pakistani family, Brit-Asian rudeboy culture, and a scholarship to private school” and the “fluidity of [his] own personal identity.” In the same piece, he outlined the different types of minority representation in film, using a necklace metaphor:

"Stage one is the two-dimensional stereotype – the minicab driver/terrorist/cornershop owner. It tightens the necklace.Stage two is the subversive portrayal, taking place on “ethnic” terrain but aiming to challenge existing stereotypes. It loosens the necklace.And stage three is the Promised Land, where you play a character whose story is not intrinsically linked to his race. There, I am not a terror suspect, nor a victim of forced marriage. There, my name might even be Dave. In this place, there is no necklace."

And yet Ahmed goes on to describe how even upon reaching stage 3, he’s still stopped at the airport and faces racism every day.

A little over a year later, in his acceptance speech at the 2017 Emmys, Ahmed was no less articulate and no less political.

After giving thanks to his co-star John Turturro, writers, producers and even the late, great James Gandolfini, Ahmed spoke eloquently on the subject:

"It’s also strange reaping the awards of a story that’s based on real-world suffering, but if this show has shown a light on some of the prejudices in our society, some of the phobia, some of the injustice in our justice system, then maybe that’s something. And I want to shout out South Asian Youth Action for helping me prepare for this and The Innocence Project. Thank you very much."

He’s just the best. (Also shouting out Oprah, just because, is a sure fire way into the heart of the internet.) Speaking to the press off-stage, he expanded on the matter:

"I don’t know if any one person’s win of an award or one person snagging one role or one person doing very well changes something that’s a systemic issue of inclusion in this industry as it is in your industry [journalism] as it is in many industries. I think that’s something that happens slowly over time, but if there are enough isolated examples of success then maybe the dots start joining up and it’s not as slow a process as it usually is."

But joining #RizHive — TBD if that’s actually the name of his fandom, but it’s a working option — is not all about social justice. It’s also about good old-fashioned thirst and crushing. Enjoy these gems.


Next: 5 people who should host the 2018 Emmys

Congratulations to Riz on winning an Emmy. Congratulations to us all on sharing the world with Riz.