There’s been no lack of Lupita Nyong’o love here on The Gloss over the last few months. Pretty much everyone on our staff thinks she is an amazing goddess who can do no sartorial wrong. Honestly, I didn’t really know much about her other than that she dresses amazingly well and has been nominated for a bunch of awards for her work in her very first film, 12 Years A Slave.
But I just learned a lot about what makes Lupita tick and honestly, it makes me like her even more. At yesterday’s ESSENCE Black Women In Hollywood Luncheon, Lupita gave a truly beautiful speech about self-image, beauty, and being a black woman. You might want to get a tissue handy, because this ish is seriously emotional.
Her speech is about many things, including her own heartbreaking experiences growing up and wanting to have lighter skin, as well as the letters she’s been receiving from fans since she became famous. But what I found most affecting was Lupita’s own tale of the women she looked up to as beautiful examples of black womanhood, like Alek Wek:
“And then … Alek Wek. A celebrated model, she was dark as night, she was on all of the runways and in every magazine and everyone was talking about how beautiful she was. Even Oprah called her beautiful and that made it a fact. I couldn’t believe that people were embracing a woman who looked so much like me, as beautiful. My complexion had always been an obstacle to overcome and all of a sudden Oprah was telling me it wasn’t…But a flower couldn’t help but bloom inside of me, when I saw Alek I inadvertently saw a reflection of myself that I could not deny. Now, I had a spring in my step because I felt more seen, more appreciated by the far away gatekeepers of beauty.”
Lupita’s own touching story of the way that seeing a woman who looked like her celebrated in the media proves how vitally important it is that we have a vast diversity of ethnicities, skin colors, abilities, and body types on our televisions, in our movies, on our magazine covers and being talked about by bloggers like me.
Lupita is getting so much attention right now and it’s evident that she takes the responsibility seriously; As someone who felt inspired by other black women, she also wants to inspire others. She continued, speaking directly to black girls and women:
“And so I hope that my presence on your screens and in the magazines may lead you, young girl, on a similar journey. That you will feel the validation of your external beauty but also get to the deeper business of being beautiful inside. There is no shame in black beauty.”
Black women like Alek and Lupita do powerful work with their faces, their bodies, their images and their work. In a world where a white fashion editor doesn’t realize that sitting on chair that obviously objectifies the bodies of black women is offensive, having beautiful, dark-skinned women as visible examples of the true diversity in beauty serves as a powerful reminder, not only to young black women and girls, but to all women, that the definition of beauty isn’t limited by arbitrary factors like skin tone
You can read the the full text of Lupita’s affecting speech over at Vulture, if you’re interested. And let me tell you right now, you’re interested.
Photo: Getty Images