In the October issue of Vogue, three-time cover girl Lupita Nyong’o talks about growing up in Nairobi, and her desire to see more African narratives represented in Hollywood and beyond. “I want to create opportunities for other people of color because I’m fortunate enough to have a platform to do that,” she said.
Recently, Nyong’o starred in “Eclipsed” on Broadway, playing a 15-year-old girl held captive by a rebel officer in Liberia. In her latest film, “Queen of Katwe,” she plays the mother of a Ugandan girl who becomes an international chess master. (The film opens next week.) And she’s also working on the forthcoming film adaptation of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s “Americanah“— a love story that centers around two Nigerians.
“Being able to use my platform to expand and diversify the African voice … I feel very passionate about that. It feels intentional, meaningful,” Nyong’o said. She was drawn to “Queen of Katwe,” she said, because it was “based on a true story, an uplifting story out of Africa.” Nyong’o also reflected — not for the first time — on the significance of seeing darker-skinned women represented and celebrated as beautiful.
“Alek Wek changed how dark people saw themselves,” she said. “That I could do the same in a way for somebody somewhere is amazing.” She added, “The European sense of beauty affects us all. I came home from college in the early two-thousands and saw ads on TV with a girl who can’t get a job. She uses this product. She gets her skin lighter. She gets the job. The lording of lighter skin is a common thing growing up in Nairobi. Being called ‘black mamba.’ The slow burn of recognizing something else is better than you.”
Working on the set of “Queen of Katwe,” Nyong’o said a young Ugandan-British woman came up to her and said: “I’ve never had so many people call me beautiful until you showed up. I get called to auditions I never would have been called to before. I know it’s because you exist.”
Academy Award winner Lupita Nyong’o is in talks to play the love interest of Chadwick Boseman’s superhero in Marvel’s “The Black Panther.”
“Creed” helmer Ryan Coogler is on board to direct the film. Kevin Feige is producing the movie, which stars Boseman as T’Challa, the prince of the African nation of Wakanda, who must take over the mantel after his father’s murder. Marvel unveiled the character in “Captain America: Civil War” before the standalone film hits theaters on Feb. 16, 2018.
Nyong’o most recently lent her voice to “Star Wars: the Force Awakens” as Maz Kanata and “The Jungle Book” as Mother Wolf Raksha. She can be seen next in Disney’s “Queen of Katwe” opposite David Oyelowo and is also attached to star in DreamWorks’ “Intelligent Life.”
BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. (AP) — Oscar host Chris Rock, producer Reginald Hudlin and film academy president Cheryl Boone Isaacs took an afternoon off from Academy Awards preparations to celebrate black women in Hollywood.
Rock, Hudlin and Boone Isaacs were among the guests at Essence magazine’s ninth annual awards luncheon Thursday at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel. Rock and Boone Isaacs didn’t speak publicly; Hudlin took the stage to present an award to legendary entertainer Debbie Allen.
The annual Essence event celebrates the achievements of black women in entertainment. Actress Tracee Ellis Ross, entertainment attorney Nina Shaw and filmmaker Thais Francis were also recognized.
Francis thanked the magazine “for creating a platform of visibility.”
“A lot of us in this audience know the importance of visibility, especially during a time, in a society, in a world, in an industry that’s telling us that we’re invisible,” she said.
Shonda Rhimes, who introduced Allen as the new producing director of “Grey’s Anatomy,” called the writer-director-choreographer-performer “a force of nature.”
“Debbie blows through an environment and changes the landscape forever,” Rhimes said.
As Allen accepted the Legend Award, she said she felt like she was in church, preaching to her sisters.
“The only plate I’m going to pass is the plate of purpose,” she said, urging the women in the audience to make real connections with each other — not just to meet up for drinks, but to work on ways of changing the world.
Shaw gave similar advice as she accepted the Power Award. The attorney for such entertainers as Laurence Fishburne, Lupita Nyong’o and Ava DuVernay was introduced by Nick Cannon and Channing Dungey, who became the first African-American to head a broadcast network when she was named president of ABC Entertainment last week.
“If you are a woman who wants to be empowered, then empower other women,” Shaw said.
“Black-ish” star Ross, accompanied by her father and older sister, Rhonda, accepted the Fierce and Fearless award. Ross said she had been sick for the past week and worried she wouldn’t be able to attend the luncheon.
“I got dressed in the car,” she said. “I’m unclear if what I’m wearing is see-through. If it is, I’m sorry.” She said the recognition from Essence “is truly one of the proudest moments I’ve experienced.”
Oprah Winfrey opened the program, which will air Saturday on OWN.
The dazzling Kenyan actress Lupita Nyong’o samples the fall couture collections and talks to Plum Sykes about fame, family, and her four new acting projects.
It’s the Monday morning of Paris Couture Week, and Lupita Nyong’o appears, right on time, from the elevator of Le Bristol hotel. Never mind that she’s come direct from a trip to her native Kenya, which she just happened to combine with an elephant-saving mission. Or that her flight landed only a few hours ago. Or that all her bags were lost en route. She is wearing a dramatically sculpted scarlet Dior minidress, her short hair is teased into a halo and held off her face with an Alice band, and her beautiful skin gleams with health. As she bounces into the lobby, her mirrored, blue-tinted Dior sunglasses reflect a roomful of transfixed admirers.
“Hello-ooo!” she says, her voice deep and warm, as she breaks into a gigantic smile. She removes her sunglasses to reveal wide, dark eyes, sprinkled with glittery silver eye shadow. Her eyebrows are precision-plucked—no Cara Delevingne strays for her. “Really, I’m not tired,” insists Lupita. She’s beaming with excitement. This is her first Paris Couture.
There are few actresses as instantly recognizable as 32-year-old Lupita Nyong’o, who took on the role of the slave girl Patsey in Steve McQueen’s 12 Years a Slavewhile a student at Yale—and went on to win an Oscar in 2014. In one fell swoop Lupita conquered Hollywood, seduced the fashion world, and found herself shouldering the dreams of an entire continent.
A few minutes later we are crawling through traffic, heading to the Dior show at the Musée Rodin. Settling herself patiently in the back of the car, Lupita tells me, “I didn’t know the power of couture until I tried on a couture dress. It made me cry.”
Lupita has an old-school attitude to fashion. She calls pants “slacks.” When I joke about this with her, she responds, “What can I say? I’m a Pisces. I have the soul of an 80-year-old woman inside me.” Long before the world was awed by her movie debut and her Oscar speech, for which she wore an exquisite baby-blue Prada chiffon gown, Lupita was properly turned out. Her first memory of fashion was at age five, wearing her “very eighties red cord miniskirt with suspender straps. Presentation is extremely important in Kenya. You dress formally. You can’t just wear flip-flops. My mother always had her own style. She wore A-line, tea-length flowery dresses, very well fitting. Her nails were always perfectly done.” As a girl in Nairobi, Lupita recalls, “salons were a big feature in my life. We would go every two weeks to get our hair braided, washed, or treated. That’s where I read American, British, and a few African magazines.Then I would design my own clothes. In Kenya it’s much cheaper to get clothes made than to buy them. We would have everything run up by a tailor, or my aunt Kitty, who is very creative, would sew things for me.”
It may seem an unlikely combination, but politics were as ever-present in the Nyong’o household as style. Lupita’s father, Peter Anyang’ Nyong’o, now a senator, was for a long period an opposition politician under the repressive Moi regime. He spent three years in self-imposed exile with his family in Mexico, where Lupita was born.
The Nyong’os returned to Nairobi when Lupita was one. The following years she remembers as “scary, but I was at an age where you couldn’t fully understand what was happening.” Her father was at times detained in jail, once for an entire month, and the family “had to destroy a lot of his documents. I wasn’t allowed to go to school. We were basically locked up in the house. The curtains were shut all the time, and we were just burning papers.” She says the experience made her resilient. “I was definitely exposed to some extreme situations. Tragedy is something that I have known and that I have tried to accept as part of life. But I don’t dwell on it. . . . OK! I need to powder my nose!”
We have arrived at the Dior show, and Lupita, her beautiful nose suitably blotted with custom-blended Lancôme Miracle Cushion (she is the newest face of Lancôme), strides confidently across the lawn toward a vast glasshouse that has been splashed with Pointillism-style dots. Photographers snap pictures constantly as she is escorted by a gaggle of worshipful Dior publicists to the front row.
The sublime collection makes me want to throw out every single piece of clothing I own. As Lupita walks backstage afterward to meet Dior designer Raf Simons, she says, “I loved the breeziness of everything, the coats thrown over the dresses.” Her favorite piece is a demure, New Look–inspired green-and-pink print, A-line silk pleated coat. It’s the kind of thing a very, very chic Sunday-school teacher might have worn circa 1952. “I can work a pleat,” adds Lupita. (At Cannes this year she did just that, twirling up the red carpet in an emerald-green Gucci dressthat was a swirl of hundreds of pleats.) Backstage, while the model Rosie Huntington-Whiteley and the singer Grimes look patiently on, Lupita is greeted with excitement by Simons. He thinks Lupita is “so radiant and seems to take such pleasure in playing with fashion.” Next, the actress Emily Blunt, chic in white, grasps Lupita’s hand. “I am so thrilled to meet you,” she declares. “I am a huge fan.”
I can’t think of another actress who has appeared in only one major role in an American film and caused quite such a stir. (Lupita also played a smaller part in last year’s Liam Neeson movie Non-Stop.) But, as she tells me that evening, her output will be dramatically upped this fall. We visit the historic restaurant Le Grand Véfour in the Palais Royal for an indulgent dinner. The maître d’ offers Lupita the honor of sitting in Napoleon’s seat—now a plush crimson velvet banquette—and she accepts gracefully. She is dressed in an asymmetric print Dior silk top, skinny black pants, and high heels (all on loan while the aforementioned lost luggage is being located). While we tuck into delicious platters of fish, sorbets, and cheeses, Lupita tells me that she has just spent four months filming a CGI character—a pirate named Maz Kanata—for J. J. Abrams’s Star Wars: The Force Awakens, opening this December. “We needed a powerful actress to play a powerful character,” the director explains to me later. “Lupita was someone I’d known a little and was enormously fond of. More important, her performance in 12 Years a Slave blew my mind, and I was vaguely desperate to work with her.”
Acting a motion-capture character was “really bizarre and lots of fun,” Lupita says. “I really enjoyed the fact that you’re not governed by your physical presence in that kind of work. You can be a dragon. You can be anything.”
When I ask her, “How do you act ‘anything’ ?,” she says, “My training at Yale is the core of the actor that I am. Before that I was just going on instinct . . . having my imagination take over. But Yale taught me that it’s about giving yourself permission to pretend.”
An important pretending trick is to dress in the same “uniform” every day while going to and from set. If she doesn’t have to think about what she’s wearing when she’s not in costume, this allows her to focus. When she was recently filming the Mira Nair–directed Queen of Katwe, the true story of a chess master raised in a Ugandan slum, she wore an A-line skirt and blouse every single day because that’s what her character wore. “One amazing thing about filming in Uganda was that on the first day of rehearsal we were all barefoot,” she remembers. “I looked down and all the feet were my complexion. That had not happened to me before. I was reminded that I’m actually not that special. There are lots of people in the world who look like me.”
Lupita Nyong’o, Miriam Makeba, Alek Wek, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and Wangari Maathai are just a few of the dynamic women featured in Ruramai “Rudo” Musekiwa‘s Sibahle poster series. The Zimbabwe-born, Johannesburg-based artist and activist created the collection to acknowledge the contributions made by both well-known and unsung heroines from the continent in time for South Africa’s National Women’s Day on August 9th.
“The Sibahle Poster Series is an ongoing body of work paying tribute to phenomenal African women,” Musekiwa said in a press release. “The statement it seeks to make, is that our young girls can and should find inspiration right here, within the continent, within our context as a people. Women are the pillars of our society and it is imperative that we pay homage to inspirational women that not only radiate authenticity and passion within their respective crafts, but also understand how their purpose is connected to others (Ubuntu).”
According to Variety.com,Oyelowo is set to co-star with Lupita Nyong’o in the indie drama “Americanah.” Based on the Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie novel, the story follows a pair of young Nigerian immigrants who face a lifetime of struggle while their relationship endures. The film is now looking to attach a writer and director, with no production start date set yet.
Brad Pitt is producing through his Plan B production banner along with Nyong’o and Andrea Calderwood. Plan B also produced “Selma,” and after having such a good experience working with them, Oyelowo jumped at the opportunity to board another project they were producing.
Oyelowo has a busy end of the year, with “Interstellar,” “Selma” and “A Most Violent Year” all bowing in the last month. He is expected to be in the Oscars conversation for his performance in “Selma,” and he can be seen next in the indie “Captive” opposite Kate Mara. Nyong’o is slated to appear in the new version of “Star Wars” helmed by J.J. Abrams in 2015.
Nevertheless, in her interview with Glamour magazine, she tells the magazine the attention she’s received has been overwhelming. “Right now I’m still adjusting. I guess I feel catapulted into a different place; I have a little whiplash,” she said. “I did have a dream to be an actress, but I didn’t think about being famous. And I haven’t yet figured out how to be a celebrity; that’s something I’m learning, and I wish there were a course on how to handle it.”
She couldn’t even imagine what winning the Oscar would be like, she observed.
“I don’t think I will ever be able to really articulate how bizarre it was to hear my name at the Academy Awards. I’d watched in my pajamas the year before!” she said. “I felt numb — dazed and confused. I remember feeling light — weightless. More like limbo than cloud nine.”
Nyong’o, who was born in Mexico of Kenyan parents, mentions that she didn’t know success on this level would be possible for a woman with darker skin. For her, Oprah Winfrey wasn’t just a role model but a “reference point,” and seeing Winfrey and Whoopi Goldberg in “The Color Purple” was key to her belief that she could become successful.
She hopes she can have the same effect on people who see her.
“I’ve heard people talk about images in popular culture changing, and that makes me feel great, because it means that the little girl I was, once upon a time, has an image to instill in her that she is beautiful, that she is worthy,” she said. “Until I saw people who looked like me, doing the things I wanted to, I wasn’t so sure it was a possibility.”
The December issue of Glamour will be available on newsstands November 11.
RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — “Twelve Years a Slave” actress Lupita Nyong’o is lending her star power to the opposition to a minor league baseball stadium in what was once the center of Richmond’s thriving slave-trading center.
Nyong’o has been posting anti-stadium opinions on social media to her millions of followers, and has personally appealed to Mayor Dwight C. Jones to withdraw support of the stadium that is the centerpiece of an economic development project.
“Evidence of America’s slave history simply must be preserved, as the legacy of slavery affects all American people,” she wrote in a letter dated Oct. 19 to Jones.
In response, Jones invited Nyong’o to visit the former capital of the Confederacy to see Shockoe Bottom and plans to preserve its slave-trading past.
“Our plans show where we want to invest in that history and lift that history up for future generations to learn from,” Jones wrote.
The stadium-centered project is proposed for Shockoe Bottom, the city’s oldest neighborhood and once the bustling center of the slave-trade. By some estimates, more 300,000 men, women and children were jailed, bought and sold in the Bottom and shipped throughout the Southern states in the decades leading to the Civil War.
The stadium proposal has unleashed pent-up frustration among those who believe the city has literally buried that shameful chapter of its history. The area is now home to nightclubs, restaurants, former tobacco warehouses transformed into townhouses and parking lots.
Nyong’o has a “12 Years a Slave” connection to the neighborhood. The celebrated film depicts the life of Solomon Northrup, who is kidnapped and sold into slavery. He is initially held in a Shockoe Bottom jail where slaves were chained before they were sold to growers in the Deep South.
“Elmo’s skin just happens to be very ticklish. Lupita’s skin happens to be a beautiful brown color. Skin can come in all different shades and colors. Isn’t skin just the best? However, ticklish or smooth or black or brown or white or tan, be sure to love the skin you are in.”
Lupita Nyong’o is stunning — and her new ad for Lancôme proves this yet again. The beauty brand’s first ad featuring their newest spokesperson released this week, and Nyong’o looks radiant with her glowing, chocolate-colored complexion.
The Oscar-winning actress became endorsed by the beauty brand in April — and her first ad highlights Lancôme’s Teint Idole Ultra 24H foundation, a smooth blemish-free product which is “available in 28 shades for all skintones.”
The foundation is being touted as one of the brand’s more diverse products, which provides “endless perfection” for women of almost every complexion.
And with the current Vogue magazine cover girl promoting their product, Lancôme seems to be sending a message of appreciation for diversity and consumers of color.