I don’t know her, and am unlikely to ever meet her, but I am so happy for Lupita Nyong’o. (Warning: in this post, I will proceed to gush at length). She appears to be a woman who is truly rising to the upper echelons of Hollywood – where I hope she’ll stay. It’s wonderful to see someone like her receive so many accolades and such a high level of attention worldwide. A woman “like her” wouldn’t ordinarily be found on the cover of a magazine (check out the latest editions of Entertainment Weekly – with Nyong’o sharing the cover with the great Cate Blanchett, or Vanity Fair‘s Hollywood issue, or Dazed and Confused), or be the subject of a fashion campaign (i.e. Miu Miu) and fashion editorials (Vogue Italia), but she has somehow defied convention and won.
She’s dark, even by African standards – and gorgeously so. If one scrolls to the comment pages on websites featuring her image, the first thing most people remark upon is her beautiful, glowing skin, along with her otherworldly face. But more than that – which is significant given the emphasis placed on looks in the entertainment industry – people are drawn towards her and compelled to root for her too because of her personality. She comes across as highly intelligent, articulate, bubbly, happy, and…nice. (How refreshing). She has a perfect pairing – beauty and brains. A perfect package.
Even her fellow comrades in Hollywood are “Nyong’o-ites”. Celebrities want to meet her, hug her, or take a picture with her. Check out The Hollywood Reporter interview featuring Nyong’o, Oprah Winfrey, Julie Adams, Julia Roberts, Octavia Spencer, and Emma Thompson. Oprah is ecstatic to sit beside her during this roundtable discussion and one can witness a certain level of awe from these actresses towards Nyong’o. When she speaks, they listen. When she tears up, overwhelmed, perhaps, by the position she’s in, as well as bearing the scars and memory of playing a tortured slave, they seek to comfort her.
It may not seem like it should be so significant, beautiful actresses are a dime a dozen after all, but when was the last time we saw someone like Lupita Nyong’o ascend to these heights? One may think of Grace Jones – although the only commonalities between the two may be their dark skin and natural hair, closely cropped – but Jones was more overtly eccentric than Lyong’o whose sartorial bent favours the feminine and brightly hued, over Jones’ dominatrix staples and hard demeanour.
Before Nyong’o came around, I wasn’t sure that Hollywood was prepared to have a woman such as her enter its mainstream corridors. Unfortunately, colorism in our society still exists. I’m optimistic that this will not be the end of the road for her. Aside from winning the Oscar for best supporting actress (not to jinx the process, of course), the next test for her will be to carry a leading role in a film. I hope it happens and that audiences come in droves. And I hope that there will be other similarly hued and similarly amazing Lupitas down the road who break down the still-present barriers in the entertainment industry and shine their light. Wouldn’t that be a sight to behold?