Thanks to his roles as Aquaman and Game of Thrones’ Khal Drago, Jason Momoa is famous all over the world. And even if the actor’s name doesn’t ring a bell, his distinctive beard may help you pick him out of a line-up. But Momoa may have stunned his many fans when he made a momentous decision. You see, in April 2019 he decided that the facial fuzz had to go – and it’s fair to say that some of his admirers weren’t happy about the drastic change.
Momoa is an impressive six feet and four inches of mostly muscle. According to Men’s Health, he weighs in at 238 pounds, and very little of that is fat – as anyone who has studied his sculpted physique can attest. Meanwhile, he boasts a chest that measures 50 inches and his guns are a massive 19 inches.
But Momoa is not just renowned for his body and good looks. He is well known for sporting an epic beard, too. He’s seen by some as a figurehead for the concept of anti-grooming – displaying his masculinity in facial hair that seems impossible to control. And it’s suited him pretty well for the sometimes rough and ready characters that he’s played.
Momoa is a native of Honolulu in Hawaii and was the only child of a painter dad and a photographer mom. And despite his birth in the Pacific, he had a slightly more prosaic upbringing after moving with his mother to live in Norwalk, Iowa.
Momoa’s dad is of Native Hawaiian stock, while his mom adds a little Irish, Native American and German. And the actor is not just a pretty face: he went to college, too. He began by majoring in marine biology but later changed to wildlife biology – indicating an abiding commitment to the natural world.
In his late teens Momoa caught the eye of fashion gurus Takeo Kobayashi and Eric Chandler. That saw him begin a career in modeling – although at first he had to supplement it with a part-time stint in a surf shop. Then he had a break and got the part of Jason Ioane in Baywatch Hawaii.
When London, U.K.-based magazine Square Mile asked Momoa about how he’d nabbed that first TV job, the actor admitted that he had bent the truth a little bit. He said, “[The casting agents] were like, ‘Dude, have you ever acted?’ I was like ‘No,’ and they were like, ‘Have you modeled?’ I was like, ‘Yeah, yeah, I’m a big model. I do Gucci and Louis Vuitton…’ just kind of making it up on the spot.”
If you see video of Momoa from those days, you might wonder if you’re seeing the same guy. He looked very different; apart from anything else, he was clean shaven and had a short haircut. And there’s not a tattoo to be seen. Still, the fresh look was popular, and his tenure in the action drama lasted for a couple years.
Certainly, Momoa had been noticed. After a couple of smaller shows, he landed a role in sci-fi cult favorite Stargate: Atlantis and had a run of several years as Ronon. This part allowed him to plumb greater depths of acting ability than he had previously shown – although the focus remained on action.
Around the start of his stint in Stargate:Atlantic, Momoa met the love of his life. He told E! News about the encounter with Lisa Bonet, “We just happened to be at the right place, right time [and we had] mutual friends. I actually had dreaded my hair almost for her.” And the spark became a fire that burned strongly enough for them to marry in 2017.
A stepdad when he first got with Bonet – she already had a daughter in actress and model Zoë Kravitz – Momoa became a father in his own right in 2007. In July of that year he and Bonet welcomed daughter Lola Iolani. In December of the next year the family was completed with the resplendently named Nakoa-Wolf Manakauapo Namakaeha.
Momoa had not so much as lifted a weight until he had to get into shape for 2011’s Conan the Barbarian. And to re-create the look that Arnold Schwarzenegger had epitomized in the 1982 original, Momoa had to get himself a whole lot more muscly.
To get ready for the role, Momoa did six weeks at a Los Angeles academy for stunts and martial arts. He also aimed to put on ten pounds in muscle. To do that, he got stuntman David Leitch and martial arts guru Chad Stahelski – who’d worked on the Matrix films – to help with his body sculpting program.
The film didn’t do particularly well – but an undaunted Momoa aimed at a new challenge. He wanted a role in the HBO series Game of Thrones, and to get it, he put on a haka – the Māori dance of challenge. Clearly, it worked, as he proved an imposing Khal Drogo in the show.
The Hawaiian beefcake soon began to be seen in all sorts of movies. He even shot his own creation – Road to Paloma – which also featured his wife Bonet and was released in 2014. In that same year he could be seen in dramedy Sugar Mountain and on TV in The Red Road. But something much bigger was on the way.
After successfully playing Aquaman in a cameo in a DC film and then in the ensemble movie Justice League in 2017, Momoa appeared as the character again in the next year. This time, the focus was very much on him in Aquaman. And wherever you turned, it started to feel that there was the glowering, hairy hunk.
Momoa showed up in several films, but he hadn’t turned his back on TV. He led the drama series Frontier and starred as outlaw Declan Harp – fighting the Hudson Bay Company in 18th-century Canada. He gained rave reviews for his performance in a show that fans liked quite a bit more than critics.
Meanwhile, Momoa’s upcoming projects gained plenty of notice. He was due to star in a series of movies based on the video game Just Cause and in Apple drama See. But perhaps most hotly awaited is his turn as Duncan Idaho in the Denis Villeneuve reboot of sci-fi classic Dune – expected at some point in 2020.
The Hawaiian’s roles have more than once seen him deploy a range of skills in martial arts. Indeed, he studied them for Conan and Stargate: Atlantis. His interest led him to learn Brazilian jiu-jitsu too – but that’s not the end of his talents. When asked to perform a war cry in See, he consulted with death metal vocalist Oli Peters on the right way to scream.
Momoa’s trademark is of course his long beard and shaggy hair, but the barechest appearance in Aquaman revealed a host of tattoos. As Khal Drogo, he also showed off plenty of ink, too. And although most of that was fake, the man himself does have lots of body art of various types.
Momoa has a variety of tattoos, and the most prominent among them is the halfsleeve that adorns his left arm. This pays homage to the god of his family – or his aumakua. According to Hawaiian mythology, this comes in the form of a returned dead ancestor. Momoa’s is a shark, so he has a tattoo of shark teeth.
Another distinctive feature – although a little less decorative than his ink – is the scar on Momoa’s face. The actor was attacked with a broken glass of beer during a bust up at a beer in Hollywood, California. It earned his attacker five years in prison and Momoa 140 stitches.
Elsewhere, in 2019 Momoa decided to make a radical change which stunned his many fans. He did it as part of a collaboration with the Ball Corporation. He was working with the company to put forward a novel approach to water. Instead of providing it in plastic bottles, he was suggesting people use his range of aluminum cans, which are, he claimed, “100 percent recyclable.”
As it turns out, Momoa is not alone among Hollywood notables in trying to sway people towards a plastic-free future. Will Smith set up a company with his son Jaden – which he called JUST – in 2015. That firm supplies water not in bottles or cans but in paper cartons which can be recycled without waste.
In April of 2015 a video appeared on YouTube that showed Momoa undergoing a transformation. It opens on a desert landscape and shows the actor trudging along carrying what looks like a fairly heavy sack. He then comes to a stop and pulls out a small piece of equipment – ready for action.
With a swoop, Momoa puts his equipment to use. It’s a shaver, and it slices through his beard. He flings the scrap of beard up in the air, crying, “Goodbye Drogo!” Then one by one, he names the roles that required the hirsute look – including Arthur Curry and Declan Harp. And for each name, another scrap of facial hair flies off.
The actor gives an explanation why he’s doing such a curious thing. He says, “I just want to do this to bring awareness because plastics are killing our planet, and I think we have a solution.” And the answer had a great deal to do with the difficulty in recycling plastics, according to Momoa.
The Aquaman star continued, “I don’t want to b**ch about it, [but] there’s only one thing that will really help our planet and save our planet – as long as we recycle – and that’s aluminum. About 75 percent of all aluminum that’s ever been used is still in use today. And it’s 100 percent recyclable. You drink the can, and in about 60 days, it’ll be back. One-hundred per cent. Infinitely recyclable.”
As Momoa talks in the video, he continues to shave. He expresses how upsetting it is to go to the airport and have a tiny water bottle that is then thrown away. After that, the star stops; he’s half shaved, and that sends him into fits of laughter. Then he explains that he’s spent the past couple months on this project.
The superstar expresses that he’s involved in making water cans and hopes to get other companies involved. He says, “It’s just water but I feel good about it. I know I’m going to recycle this and I know that we can recycle it.” Momoa carries on shaving until he’s entirely clean shaven. And although he still looks great, it’s a bit weird.
Momoa goes on, “So please, please. There’s a change coming: aluminum. We got to get rid of these plastic water bottles. Aquaman’s trying to do the best he can. For your kids, for my kids [and] for the world. Clean up the oceans, clean up the land.”
When Momoa said farewell to his Game of Thrones character Khal Drogo as he cut off his beard, it mirrored the actions of one of his co-stars. That’s because Kit Harington also had a change of look after the end of the hit show. Instead of the shaggy-maned look of Jon Snow, Harington has ever since rocked a smoother image.
But although Momoa remained a handsome figure, some were left distraught by the change in his look. A number of them took to the internet to share their displeasure in the shaving incident. One fan tweeted, “[Oh my God] Jason Momoa. I am not good with change – certainly not good when a beard gets shaved off.”
And the shocked responses to Momoa’s shaving stunt kept coming. Another seemed to have hit their personal alarm, posting, “Jason just really shocked me to my very core… He has shaved his beard. It’s not a drill…” One poster noted that Momoa had revealed that he had a chin. But that was no consolation for the tweeter who wrote, “I’m empty.”
Some people knew exactly where to point the finger. One wrote, “Well done guys, first you destroyed the planet and now you destroy Jason Momoa’s beard. I don’t know which is worse. Shame on you all.” And another decided that the best thing was to surrender to Momoa’s message, tweeting, “Okay. I’ll drink any water you want, grow it back please!”
For one internet denizen, it was as though there’d been a death in the family. They wrote, “Jason Momoa has shaven off his beard. I – we’ve arrived at an interesting point in our relationship and would be extremely grateful if you could respect our privacy during this trying and emotional time.”
There was, though, some good news for Momoa – as not absolutely everyone was against the change. Some did show surprise tinged with a little more positivity. One person posted, “Okay, but Jason Momoa without a beard: wow.” And the man himself noted on his Instagram page that he was pretty happy about it.
Momoa wrote on the social media platform, “Goodbye Drogo, Aquaman, Declan, [and] Baba. I’m shaving this beast off. It’s time to make a change. A change for the better… for my kids, your kids, the world. Let’s make a positive change for the health of our planet. Let’s clean up our oceans our land. Join me on this journey. Let’s make the switch to infinitely recyclable aluminum. Water in cans – not plastic.”
However, the panic over the beardless hunk didn’t last too long. When Momoa appeared on Jimmy Kimmel Live a few weeks after releasing the YouTube video, he already had an impressive stubble. He was on the show with the creators of Game of Thrones, and the beard looked set for a comeback.
At the time of writing, the crisis is over. When pictured at the runway show for designer Tom Ford’s Autumn/Winter Runway Show in February 2020, the Hawaiian hunk was sporting once more a decent beard. And there’s no indication that he doesn’t intend to return to the glorious face fungus that helps make him a man to watch in Hollywood.