Oscar Nominee Kumail Nanjiani Still Gets Mistaken For Other Brown Stars

Kal Penn and Aparna Nancherla also chimed in on the actor’s hilariously blunt Twitter thread.
Kumail Nanjiani in March 2018.
Kumail Nanjiani in March 2018.
George Pimentel via Getty Images

Kumail Nanjiani is an Oscar-nominated actor, comedian and writer. But all his fame and accomplishments apparently haven’t shielded him from a scenario faced by many Asian-Americans ― getting mistaken for his brown colleagues.

Days after presenting at the Academy Awards, Nanjiani revealed that people still mix him up with other South Asian-American actors.

It’s unclear what prompted Nanjiani to send out this tweet. A representative for Nanjiani declined to explain the scenario to HuffPost.

Regardless, it wasn’t long before other brown stars chimed in with their own experiences.

Kunal Nayyar, who plays Raj Koothrappali on “The Big Bang Theory,” revealed that he often gets mistaken for Nanjiani ― joking that for him, it’s a compliment.

Kal Penn, who appears in the ABC television series “Designated Survivor,” said that he’d recently taken credit for both Nanjiani and Nayyar’s accomplishments.

Comedian Hari Kondabolu chimed in to add that even the most devoted fans can’t be trusted to know the difference between South Asian-American stars.

And in case you thought people could at least separate South-Asian American stars by gender, comedian Aparna Nancherla swooped in to the Twitter conversation to reveal the pitiful truth.

Jokes aside, it’s not at all uncommon for Asian-Americans to report that they are often confused with co-workers of the same race. Studies have shown that people are better at distinguishing between the faces of others within their own race, but not as good at cross-race identification.

And because of Hollywood’s dismal lack of diversity, there simply aren’t that many prominent roles available for Asian-American actors working in the industry today. The stars who do make it through often claim they are typecast into the same category.

In the past, people have mixed up “Master of None” actor Kelvin Yu and the show’s co-creator Alan Yang.

Just this week, Getty Images received backlash for mislabeling photos of “Last Jedi” actress Kelly Marie Tran and Olympic skater Mirai Nagasu at the Oscars.

In an op-ed for The Washington Post, journalist Iris Kuo wrote about her experiences getting mixed up with Asian-American colleagues. She said that even though those who misidentify Asian-Americans may not intend to be malicious, it’s still rude and racist.

“Whether they realize it or not, the repeated misidentification broadcasts its own message: I’m Asian, indistinct and not worth remembering,” she wrote.

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