DUBAI: In 2014, a young girl named Iman Vellani was browsing the Marvel comic books at her local bookstore in Canada when she saw something she’d never seen before: A face that looked like hers. It was Kamala Khan, the new Ms. Marvel, the first Muslim superhero in the company’s decades-long history. Little did she know, at the age of 19 in the “Ms. Marvel” Disney+ series, she would be the one to bring Kamala Khan to life.
“Playing her is the most surreal thing ever. The whole reason I got into the comics was because I saw in her a girl like me. She was a Pakistani-Muslim superhero fanatic. I was a Pakistani-Muslim superhero fanatic. It was just crazy, because I didn’t think a story like that was possible, because I never really saw it before. This comic book was holding a mirror in front of me, and I just completely fell in love with her,” Vellani said at a recent media roundtable.
Vellani herself has still to properly process what’s happened to her. After all, she was cast while still in high school as a complete unknown with zero professional credits to her name, whisked off to another country to find herself face-to-face with her hero, Kevin Feige, the president of Marvel Studios. It’s hard to blame her for walking through the entire experience as if it’s just some wonderful dream.
Ms. Marvel is the first Muslim superhero in the company’s decades-long history. (Supplied)
“I was basically in shock for a year and a half,” she said.
Playing her favorite character, however, turned out to be more than just a chance to connect with the cinematic universe that she posted about so fervently online throughout her formative years. It also enabled her to explore her identity as a Muslim and a Pakistani herself — something that hadn’t been easy, growing up with friends who were not a part of her culture.
“Being Pakistani was a part of my life I was very dismissive about, and I felt disconnected from my culture prior to this show. I was born in Pakistan, but I moved to Canada when I was one. I didn’t have any Muslim or Pakistani friends,” Vellani said. “I felt that isolation that comes with not …….