Hollywood actress, Lupita Nyong’o has talked about being a “victim of colourism” as a kid and how she “wished to have skin that was different”.
The popular movie star who has featured in films like Black Panther and 12 Years a Slave, was raised in Kenya before moving to the US.
Speaking to BBC Newsnight ahead of the release of her children’s book, Sulwe, which captures a story of a girl with darker skin than her family, she said, “I definitely grew up feeling uncomfortable with my skin colour because I felt like the world around me awarded lighter skin.”
“My colourism was very much linked to racism.”
“We still ascribe to these notions of Eurocentric standards of beauty, that then effect how we see ourselves among ourselves.”
“Race is a very social construct, one that I didn’t have to ascribe to on a daily basis growing up.”
“As much as I was experiencing colourism in Kenya, I wasn’t aware that I belonged to a race called black.”
“It changed when i got to the US because suddenly the term black was being ascribed to me and it meant certain things that I was not accustomed to.”
We are happy for Lupita.
Lupita Amondi Nyong’o born March 1, 1983) is a Kenyan-Mexican actress. The daughter of Kenyan politician Peter Anyang’ Nyong’o, Nyong’o was born in Mexico City, where her father was teaching, and was raised in Kenya from the age of one. She attended college in the United States, earning a bachelor’s degree in film and theater studies from Hampshire College.
Nyong’o began her career in Hollywood as a production assistant. In 2008, she made her acting debut with the short film East River and subsequently returned to Kenya to star in the television series Shuga (2009–2012). Also in 2009, she wrote, produced and directed the documentary In My Genes. She then pursued a master’s degree in acting from the Yale School of Drama. Soon after her graduation, she had her first feature film role as Patsey in Steve McQueen’s historical drama 12 Years a Slave (2013), for which she received critical acclaim and won several awards, including the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress. She became the first Kenyan and Mexican actress to win an Academy Award.
Nyong’o made her Broadway debut as a teenage orphan in the play Eclipsed (2015), for which she was nominated for a Tony Award for Best Actress in a Play. She went on to perform a motion capture role as Maz Kanata in the Star Wars sequel trilogy (2015–2019) and a voice role as Raksha in The Jungle Book (2016). Nyong’o’s career progressed with her role as Nakia in the Marvel Cinematic Universe superhero film Black Panther (2018) and her starring role in Jordan Peele’s critically acclaimed horror film Us (2019).
In addition to acting, Nyong’o supports historic preservation. She is vocal about preventing sexual harassment and working for women’s rights and animal rights. In 2014, she was named the most beautiful woman by People.
Nyong’o was born in Mexico City, Mexico, to Kenyan parents, Dorothy Ogada Buyu and Peter Anyang’ Nyong’o, a college professor. The family had left Kenya in 1980 for a period because of political repression and unrest; Peter’s brother, Charles Nyong’o, disappeared after he was thrown off a ferry in 1980.