Oscar time is upon us again, as this year’s nominations were announced this morning, prompting joy and disgust from moviegoers with almost every category. And while the first instinct will almost always be to complain about what didn’t make it – or to complain about Hollywood and awards season in general – let’s take a few minutes to shower further praise on those performers who are receiving their first nominations, and look at the long or short roads they traveled to achieve their successes.

We are admittedly playing favorites today, spotlighting actors and actresses (and a director) over those who arguably put just as much of an effort into the films’ creations. Boardwalk Empire creator Terence Winters’ first nom for adapting The Wolf of Wall Street is worth a mention, as is Phillippe Le Sourd’s nom for Wong Kar Wai’s The Grandmaster. Hell, even Steve Prouty’s makeup work for Bad Grandpa got a nod, though Johnny Knoxville is surprisingly absent from this year’s esteemed nominees. Ahem.

Here are 7 first time nominees and a little bit of backstory on where they came from...

Barkhad Abdi
Barkhad Abdi
One of two fairy tale stories from this year’s ceremony, Somali native Barkhad Abdi not only received his first Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor, but it was for his very first role in a film. The 28-year-old actor moved from Yemen to Minnesota when he was a teenager, and his post-university career consisted of working as a cab and limousine driver, as well as a radio DJ. His life changed forever following a 2011 casting call he’d heard about on the Today Show, which led to several more auditions for director Paul Greengrass and an eventual role.

But instead of being given a smaller role with only a few lines, Abdi nailed the role of Abduwali Muse, the head pirate responsible for taking over the container ship commanded by Tom Hanks’ Richard Phillips. Arguably the best part of a tense though predictable movie, Abdi has received award nominations from many associations and publications, and will be taking his career a step further by directing the film Ciyaalka Xaafada.

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