If you’ve been anywhere near a TV, magazine or the internet in general, you’ve undoubtedly heard of her: Lupita Nyong’o.
Deemed America’s newest “it” girl—woman is more appropriate—Nyong’o has been a force not only on the big screen, but on every red carpet, late night show, daytime talk show and even basketball arena she has graced.
The 2012 Yale School of Drama graduate has already won 20+ awards for her moving performance as Patsey in Steven McQueen’s “12 Years a Slave,” including a Critic’s Choice Movie Award, SAG award and an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actress.
She’s definitely on top right now, and she certainly deserves it.
It’s always awesome to see Black actresses gain exposure, which opens the doors for tremendous opportunities (did I mention Nyongo’ is one of the news faces of Miu Miu’s spring collection?). But there’s something extra special about Nyongo’s newfound fame that really pulls a string in my heart—she has a face like mine.
During an interview with “The Telegraph,” Nyong’o explained how her first inspiration for becoming an actress was the first time she watched “The Color Purple.”
“I'd been starved for images of myself,” she added.
Someone on the screen like her. How beautiful it is that seeing a face resembling hers gave Nyong’o hope and inspiration that she too could be on the big screen? And now that she is, her own face is inspiring so many other Black women in a myriad of ways.
She said she’d been starved for images of herself, and as a Black woman—particularly with a darker complexion and natural hair—I can relate.
There is definitely a range of beautiful Black women in Hollywood, but there are still quite a few things that set Lupita apart from the typical Kelly Rowlands and Gabrielle Unions so many like to name when they defend, “There are pretty darker skinned females in Hollywood!”
What stands out most to me about Lupita are three features:
Yes, Kelly, Gabby and even Kenya Moore’s crazy but beautiful self all have darker complexions than the Beyonce, Alicia Keys and Halle Berry shades of Black women in the media. But, it’s still extremely rare to come across an actress or musician who is Lupita’s shade and is being hailed as gorgeous, radiant and stunning. She is like a deep mahogany shade, which is a very dark and rich brown complexion, and is still snatching up magazine covers and headline after headline.
Not only is Nyong’o natural, which is still not the most popular look for Black actresses and artists, this woman continues to defy the “standard of beauty” by keeping her TWA (Teeny Weeny Afro) short. She constantly switches up the short fro, adding parts, flat tops and even a widow’s peak, showing not only other sistas but the world that short, natural, seemingly undefined, 4-type hair (all you naturals know what I’m talking about) can be gorgeous and downright fly too. She doesn’t have to sport long, loose curls or even fine, bone-straight hair to be considered beautiful.
When I first saw Lupita in “12 Years a Slave” I thought someone with her petite frame couldn’t have been past her twenties….but she is! Nyong’o is 33, and her body is as fierce as ever. She doesn’t have the “typical” curvy shape so many in the Black community (well, with the rise of butt injections, it’s more than just Black folk now) desire and aspire to. She is unconventional. She doesn’t have a Nicki Minaji, Amber Rose, Beyonce, or Kim Kardashian type of frame. She is slender with a small top and bottom to match. But, instead of running to emulate the big booty hype that’s currently going on, Nyong’o embraces her figure…and does one heck of a job accentuating it through her fabulous fashion sense.
She is naturally beautiful: her natural complexion, natural hair texture and natural figure. And to see so many praise and adore someone who looks like Lupita Nyong’o truly inspires me.
Not that I long to look like someone else but, let’s face it, society is constantly throwing images at women of what is “acceptable” and what is the ideal standard of beauty. And for Black women, especially those with darker skin tones and natural hair, those images don’t usually look like us.
Like Lupita, we too can be starved for images of ourselves. Images on TV and in the movies and magazines that openly celebrate women who look like us. Whose skin is our complexion, whose bodies resemble ours, and whose hair texture matches our own.
So it is extremely refreshing to turn on the TV or click on a news site and see Lupita’s image reflecting back at us. She is an image of beauty, an image of naturalness, an image of acceptance and a sometimes needed encouragement and reminder that it is perfectly okay to be just who you are.
I’m very grateful that Lupita was inspired when she saw someone on the screen like her because now she will pave the way for so many others as they look at her image and see an image of natural beauty—and a face on screen that mirrors their own.