Listen, even if she talks only about peace, Malala Yousafzai doesn’t mind dishing about celebrity gossip.
The 25-year-old female-education activist made her debut at the 95th Academy Awards on Sunday but later found herself embroiled in a Twitter debate after Oscars viewers criticized host Jimmy Kimmel for referring to her as “Malala Land” after involving her in a dishy bit during the ceremony’s live telecast. Kimmel was accused of “harassing” the young Nobel laureate when he made his way into the audience for an interactive Q&A session, posing fan questions to stars inside the Dolby Theatre.
“Great to have you here and congratulations on your movie,” Kimmel said when he came to Yousafzai’s aisle seat. The Pakistani activist was nominated in the documentary short category as an executive producer on “Stranger at the Gate.” (“The Elephant Whisperers” ultimately won the Oscar.)
“This question is from Joanne Nicolaides from Brooklyn, N.Y.,” Kimmel said. “She asks: ‘Your work on human rights and education for women and children is an inspiration. As the youngest Nobel Prize winner in history, I was wondering, do you think Harry Styles spit on Chris Pine?”
Appearing confused, Yousafzai deadpanned: “I only talk about peace.”
“You know what, that’s why you’re Malala and nobody else is. That’s a great answer, Malala. The winner is ‘Malala Land,’ everybody,” he continued.
But the seemingly planned bit wasn’t completely over: The Taliban shooting survivor was subjected to a background scrum with a costumed “cocaine bear” that Kimmel had to fend off.
Meanwhile, users unpacked the bit on Twitter, where some regarded the comedian’s “La La Land” riff on her name as “childish racism.”
But all appeared to be well with Yousafzai, despite Twitter users going after Kimmel for the bizarre bit.
“Treat people with kindness,” she tweeted, posting a clip of her faux interview during the ceremony.
On Monday, Yousafzai further co-signed Kimmel’s audience walkabout by retweeting a Jezebel missive that said: “Let Malala Gossip About Pop Culture!” The tweet directed users to a story on the site titled “It’s Perfectly Fine That Jimmy Kimmel Asked Malala to Gossip at the Oscars”
In an earlier tweet about her glittering Ralph Lauren gown, she wrote, “what a dream night.”
The “He Named Me Malala” star and co-writer became an international human rights icon in 2012 after Taliban militants shot her in the head aboard a school bus in Pakistan. The schoolgirl traveled to Birmingham, England, for medical treatment and went back to school as soon as she could, according to the Associated Press. Since then, she has continued to campaign for the right to an education for other girls.
Yousafzai was selected for the cover of Time Magazine’s 100 Most Influential People list in 2013 and was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2014. She graduated from Oxford University in June 2020 with a philosophy, politics and economics degree.