Scrolling through social media today, I ran across a wonderful display of beauty wrapped in melanin, Ms. Lupita Nyong’o. While her beauty was captivating, it was her words from a few years ago that kept ringing in my head.
Hollywood crowned her a star for her riveting portrayal of Patsey in Steve McQueen’s critically acclaimed “12 Years a Slave.” Subsequently, on Oscar Sunday 2014, the world applauded as Nyong’o received Hollywood’s highest honor with her win as Best Supporting Actress. Just over three years later and the world is still singing her praises.
Nyong’o has been the talk of Hollywood for everything from her flawless skin and striking beauty to her head turning fashion. Unafraid of bold colors, plunging neck lines and flowing skirts her graceful elegance is undeniable. Major cosmetic brand, Lancôme recognized the beauty she posses and named her spokesperson for the brand in 2014 which is a first for a woman of color.
Born in Mexico but raised in Kenya, Nyong’o’s father is a professor turned politician and her mother is a business owner as well as managing director of the African Cancer Foundation. Realizing early on her attraction to acting, Nyong’o attended Hampshire College where she received her bachelor’s in film and theatre. She later obtained her masters in acting at the Yale School of Drama.
Dig deeper and you will find there is much more to Nyong’o than her acting ability and fashion savvy. Struggles with self image due to her complexion caused Nyong’o to feel inadequate and insecure; feelings most women can relate to. While the performances of Whoopi Goldberg and Oprah Winfrey in Steven Spielberg’s “The Color Purple” inspired her acting, it was South Sudanese supermodel Alek Wek’s emergence that empowered her to embrace the beauty of her “night-shaded” skin.
It is because of that struggle and her willingness to share it with the world that Nyong’o has not only captivated us with the mastery of her craft but also endeared us with her ability to eloquently express her vulnerabilities. Nyong’o’s delivery of a heart wrenching speech at the Essence: Black Women of Hollywood luncheon in 2014 came flooding back to me today. Her speech was centered around a letter she’d received from a young girl facing similar struggles recognizing her beauty. That speech allowed us a glimpse beyond her outer beauty into the magnificence of her spirit as she encourages us to “get to the deeper business of being beautiful inside.”
While no one knows what the future holds for this beauty, the one thing that is certain is that she will approach it with the same dignity and grace as she has her incredible rise to stardom. Lupita Nyong’o has electrified the silver screen and inspired young and seasoned women alike while reminding everyone that “your dreams are valid.” The mark of true power is the ability to lead others to their own–Nyong’o is doing just that.