Lupita Nyong’o, Oscar’s 2014 Best Supporting Actress is a role-model extraordinaire. She is beautiful, exciting to watch and represents a woman who is confident in her skin. I recently described her as ‘beauty from head to toe.”
For many of us, Lupita appeared from nowhere to master her first major movie role as Patsy in Oscar’s Best Picture of the Year, 12 Years a Slave. So compelling was her performance, I left the movie theater thinking more about Patsy’s survival then Solomon being freed. Little did I realize the young woman who played a sexually and physically abused slave, would months later rise to become one of the most significant people of the award season?
On a recent Hot 97 radio interview with Angie Martinez, supermodel, Naomi Campbell described Lupita as “The lady of the moment who is elegant and stunning, yet simple and humble.” Amazingly, comedian and host of Fashion Police, Joan Rivers was in awe and found it difficult to say anything negative about Lupita. How did she emerge as the break-out person of the year and quickly rise to the A-list in Hollywood? Most of the glamour portion of her rise, we can attribute to heavy media coverage, but it is Lupita who has turned her quick fame into a message of hope for many women of all ages, in particular young Black girls and women.
What makes Lupita stand out and why is she significant? What can we learn from this young woman who has inspired many by openly discussing her past pain?
In her well-documented acceptance speech at the Black Women in Hollywood awards luncheon, Lupita revealed publicly how she endured “teasing and taunting about my night-shaded skin” while growing up. As a teenager, her emotional pain grew so severe; she tried to make a deal with God to lighten her skin. Nothing she offered changed her skin color. God had a plan for her. He needed her to stay beautiful just as she was for a time such as now.
Women of color in all walks of life from celebrities to villages in Africa are sadly using extreme and often dangerous products to whitening their skin, Lupita’s comments are so profound and hopefully a welcomed alternative for many women who believe that somehow their lives will be better and they would look pretty if only they had lighter skin. As co-directors, Bill Dukes and D. Channsin Berry pointed out about their documentary, Dark Girls, the conversation is now open. We should continue the dialog and address the pain caused by the dark skin/light skin color issues and keep the conversation alive in order to raise awareness of the biases that govern the standard of beauty in our world.
As Lupita Nyong’o so elegantly pointed out in her Oscar acceptance speech, “It doesn’t escape me for one moment that so much joy in my life is due to so much pain in someone else’s.” I translated that to mean, “don’t get it twisted, we still have a lot of work to do and a long way to go.” The door is open for all to walk through. Your skin color does not validate you!
By Sheila L. Agnew author, inspirational speaker, life coach and blogger. http://www.sheilaagnew.com