She exemplifies what it means to be a leading lady, both in film and in real life.
Most of us by now have seen the blockbuster superhero phenomenon that is Black Panther (and if you haven’t, do it, you won’t be disappointed). So you are probably familiar with the name Lupita Nyong’o — the actress who plays Nakia in the film.
But who is Lupita Nyong’o? And how did she become such a sensation seemingly overnight?
Well the short answer is she didn’t — in fact Lupita has been acting since she was 14, when she made her professional acting debut as Juliet in Romeo and Juliet in a production by the Nairobi-based repertory company Phoenix Players. Lupita started her career working as part of the production crew for several films, and in 2008 she starred in the short film East River, and appeared in the Kenyan television series Shuga, an MTV Base Africa/UNICEF drama about HIV/AIDS prevention.
Nyong’o attended the Yale School of Drama, where she appeared in a handful of stage productions.
Immediately after graduating from Yale, Nyong’o landed her breakout role when she was cast as Patsey for Steve McQueen’s historical drama 12 Years a Slave (2013), which won her the 2014 Critics’ Choice Movie Award for Best Supporting Actress, and an Oscar.
Most recently Nyong’o took to Instagram to confirm the rumors that she be will starring in Jordan Peele‘s much-anticipated Get Out follow-up, Us.
There is no questioning Nyong’o’s acting skills but what really makes Nyong’o a star is her grace, intelligence, and charm. Since skyrocketing into Hollywood Nyong’o has used her platform to promote positive messages surrounding beauty, self-love and following your dreams.
In 2014, Lupita was honored with the Best Breakthrough Performance Award at the 7th annual Black Women in Hollywood Luncheon for her work in 12 Years a Slave, in which she delivered a powerful speech about black beauty.
Nyong is truly a force to be reckoned with both on screen and off. Her poise and presence continue to captivate and inspire so many and I for one can’t wait to see what she does next.
Here are some unique facts about the actress and 12 of the best Lupita Nyong’o quotes that you probably don’t know, along with some of her most compelling inspirational and motivational sayings:
1. Lupita Nyong’o is the first Mexican and first Kenyan actress to win an Academy Award.
Lupita identifies as Kenyan-Mexican, she was born in Mexico to Kenyan parents and raised in Kenya, and his dual citizenship. Her 2014 Academy Award win for Best Supporting Actress in 12 Years a Salve, made her the sixth black actress to win the award, the first African actress to win the award, as well as the first Kenyan and Mexican to win the award.
“No matter where you’re from, your dreams are valid.” — Lupita Nyong’o
2. She fluently speaks four languages: Spanish, English, Swahili, and Luo.
When Lupita was sixteen, her parents sent her to Mexico for seven months to learn Spanish. During those seven months, she lived in Taxco, Guerrero, and took classes at the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México’s Learning Center for Foreigners. Both English and Swahili are the official languages of Kenya and Luo is one of Kenya’s regional languages.
“You can’t eat beauty, it doesn’t feed you…beauty was not a thing that I could acquire or consume, it was something that I just had to be. You can’t rely on how you look to sustain you. What actually sustains us, what is fundamentally beautiful, is compassion–for yourself and for those around you. That kind of beauty inflames the heart and enchants the soul.“ — Lupita Nyong’o
3. Her family was forced to leave Kenya because of political unrest.
Her father, Peter Anyang‘ Nyong’o is a prominent Kenyan politician and her family had to seek political asylum from Kenya’s then-autocratic regime in the 1980s. Mr. Nyong’o and wife Dorothy were forced to leave Kenya for Mexico, where he found work at El Colegio de México as a visiting lecturer in political science, and where his daughter was born.
“There is room in this world for beauty to be diverse.” — Lupita Nyong’o
4. Lupita directed a winning documentary and a music video.
In 2009, While in college, Nyong’o wrote, directed, and produced the documentary In My Genes, about the discriminatory treatment of Kenya’s albino population. It played at several film festivals and won first prize at the 2008 Five College Film Festival. Nyong’o also directed the music video The Little Things You Do by Wahu, featuring Bobi Wine, which was nominated for the Best Video Award at the MTV Africa Music Awards 2009.
“One thing i learned in school was the value of failure, because once you fail you can get up and do it again.” — Lupita Nyong’o
5. In 2014, she was named “The Most Beautiful Woman” by People and “Woman of the Year” by Glamour.
Lupita was the third woman of African descent to win the award in its 29-year history. She told People that the cover was a “major, major compliment.” “I was happy for all the girls who would see me on [it] and feel a little more seen,” she said, noting that when she was younger, she assumed beauty was just what you saw on television: “Light skin and long, flowing, straight hair…Subconsciously you start to appreciate those things more than what you possess.”
“To be human is to seek perfection and find joy in never attaining it.” — Lupita Nyong’o
6. She signed a deal with cosmetics giant Lancôme, becoming its first black ambassador.
In 2014, Lancôme was Nyong’o’s first major endorsement deal since winning the Academy Award for her role in 12 Years a Slave. Françoise Lehmann, General Manager of Lancôme International, said the company’s decision to tap Lupita was because she is “talented and committed, true to her African beauty, and showing a great curiosity and open-mindedness in her career choices.”
“I am proud to represent Lancôme’s unique vision for women and the idea that beauty should not be dictated, but should instead be an expression of a woman’s freedom to be herself.” — Lupita Nyong’o
7. Spielberg’s The Color Purple gave her the acting bug.
Nyong’o cites the performances of American actresses Whoopi Goldberg and Oprah Winfrey in The Color Purple with inspiring her to pursue a professional acting career. When she saw Whoopi Goldberg’s performance as Celie in Stephen Spielberg’s The Color Purple, Nyong’o says it was the first time she believed that she could really become an actor.
“I thought I was going to school to be other people, but really, what I learned was to be myself – accepting myself, my strengths and weaknesses.” — Lupita Nyong’o
8. She was nominated for a Tony Award for best actress in a play.
In 2015, Lupita mad a return to the stage with a starring role as an unnamed girl in the play Eclipsed, a drama centering on the captive wives of a rebel leader during the Second Liberian Civil War. The play premiered on Broadway at the John Golden Theater the following year. The production became the first play with an all-black and female creative cast and crew to premiere at Broadway.
Nyongo’s performance met with critical acclaim, earning her a Theater World Award for Outstanding Broadway or Off-Broadway Debut Performance, an Obie Award for a Distinguished Performance by an Ensemble, and a nomination for the Tony Award for Best Actress in a Play.
“I hope that my presence on screen and my face in magazines my lead you, young girls, on a beautiful journey. That you will feel the validation of your external beauty, but also get to the deeper business of being beautiful inside.” — Lupita Nyong’o
9. Lupita has voiced two blockbuster animated roles.
In 2015 Nyong’o appeared as a CGI space pirate in Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Nyong’o was nominated for the Best Supporting Actress at the 42nd Saturn Awards and Best Virtual Performance at the 2016 MTV Movie Awards for her role. She later voiced a computer-animated version of the wolf Raksha in the 2016 live-action adaptation of Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book.
“What I will say is that what I have learnt for myself is that I don’t have to be anybody else; and that myself is good enough and that when I am being true to that self, then I can avail myself to extraordinary things…. You have to allow for the impossible to be possible.” — Lupita Nyong’o
10. Success runs in her family.
Lupita’s cousin Isis Nyong’o Madison was recognized as one of Africa’s Top 20 Youngest Power Women in Forbes. Isis Nyong’o, 35, is the Vice President and Managing Director of the African operations of InMobi, the world’s largest independent mobile advertising network.
Aggrey Nyong’o, was Lupita’s uncle and a leading pathologist in Kenya. He died in a car accident in 2002 and Lupita dedicated her Critic’s Choice Award to the memory of him.
“You fail, and then what? Life goes on. It’s only when you risk failure that you discover things.” — Lupita Nyong’o
11. Supermodel Alek Wek is Lupita Nyong’o’s inspiration.
In her Black Women in Hollywood speech, Lupita reminisced about the significance of seeing the rise of South Sudanese supermodel Alek Wek and how it changed the way she viewed herself. “When I saw Alek I inadvertently saw a reflection of myself that I could not deny,” Nyong’o said.
“It’s so funny, you go to acting school thinking you’re going to learn how to be other people, but really it taught me how to be myself. Because it’s understanding yourself deeply that you can lend yourself to another person’s circumstances and another person’s experience.” — Lupita Nyong’o
12. Lupita called out a magazine for photoshopping her natural hair.
Lupita took a stance against UK-based Grazia magazine after it Photoshopped out her full hair for the cover of its 2017 November issue. Lupita took to social media to express her disappointment over the magazines decision to edit out and smooth her hair in order to “fit a more Eurocentric notion of what beautiful hair looks like.”
“Personally, I don’t ever want to depend on makeup to feel beautiful.” — Lupita Nyong’o
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