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Congratulations to Lupita Nyong’o for winning Best Supporting Actress for her role in 12 Years a Slave during the 86th Annual Academy Awards. The Mexico-born Kenyan actress has dazzled us with her now iconic style and grace this awards season. But Nyong’o has not only captivated the media, she has inspired dark-skinned girls everywhere to love the skin they’re in.

During

her acceptance speech for Essence magazine’s Best Breakthrough Performance Award, Nyong’o shared part of a letter a black girl had sent her:

“Dear Lupita,” it reads, “I think you’re really lucky to

be this black

but yet this successful in Hollywood overnight. I was just about to buy Dencia’s Whitenicious cream to lighten my skin when you appeared on the world map and saved me.”

“My heart bled a little when I read those words,” Nyong’o said. “I could never have guessed that my first job out of school would be so powerful in and of itself and that it would propel me to be such an image of hope in the same way that the women of The Color Purple were to me.” …

Nyong’o then shares how—with her mother’s wise counsel and seeing media images that celebrated dark-skinned beauty—she overcame the colorism that once made her feel “unbeautiful.” She concludes with this message to her young letter writer:

“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.”

Read the full speech, here.