Role Models for My Daughters: Lupita Nyong’o

“You can’t eat beauty. It doesn’t feed you.”

lupita pink
Lupita for a Lancome advertisement

For the latest post in this series, I would like to feature actress Lupita Nyong’o. She is of Kenyan decent, but her Mexican name is a product of her birth in Mexico (Lupita is a shorter version of Guadalupe). She was raised in Kenya and studied in the United States, earning her first degree in acting from Hamphsire College in Massachusettes, a university known for its alternative curriculum. She later earned a Master’s in Acting from the Yale School of Drama. Quickly after, she landed the breakthrough role of Patsey, a slave in Louisiana in Steve McQueen’s critically acclaimed film 12 Years a Slave. It is this role that skyrocketed her reputation and for which she won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress in 2013. Nyong’o was the first Kenyan, the first Mexican, and the sixth black woman to win this award. Two years later, she was nominated for a Tony Award for her role as an orphan in Broadway’s Eclipsed. She recently had a minor role as a CGI (computer-generated imagery) character in Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Interestingly, she enjoyed this role as it did not depend so heavily on her physical appearance as Patsey did. Just this year, she starred in The Jungle Book, a movie I am dying to see!

As Patsey in 12 years a Slave

I admired Lupita ever since I heard her beautifully eloquent speech on pursuing and realizing success despite the social odds against you. In a world that idolizes fair skin, and as a woman of Indian descent, I greatly appreciated her lifting up the idea of equality and letting go of the shame many feel for their own skin color. I have written before about India’s internalized racism and my own childhood experiences. I grew up wishing my skin was lighter so that I would be considered “beautiful.” As I grew older, my views drastically changed and I realized how terrible ugly and damaging this mindset was. I recently watched the documentary Dark Girls on Netflix which discussed the same issue among African Americans in the U.S. It is also a pervasive across Asia; many friends from different Asian countries talk about the preference for white skin in their cultures. It’s no wonder that the skin lightening and bleaching industry is so profitable, and I shudder to think what those chemicals are doing to the beautiful skin that we are all born with.


Lupita took all of this and turned it upside-down on a very public platform so that the entire world could hear what she was saying, to hear what I had been wishing everyone would hear and understand for so long. Moreover, she served as a role model for young girls and women everywhere who would have otherwise continued the process of self-loathing because of their skin tone. Lupita herself has such lovely, dark skin that looks like it would feel like butter. I actually envy her skin tone! Mine is totally uneven and I really dislike the acne scars from my high school years. I take comfort in the fact that my aesthetician said my skin quality is healthy, though. However, Lupita’s rich, even tone that looks good in EVERY.SINGLE.COLOR. is just so gorgeous. Her mature outlook, inspiring words, and incredible talent only serve to make her more beautiful. Here is her speech if you are interested. If you already agreed with her, it will just make you feel happy and empowered to watch it again. If your views on beauty mirror those of most of the world, however, I hope that this video elicits a change in perspective. Love your own skin, and seek to know the hearts of others before dismissing their worth because of their outer layer.


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