13. Acting Up Beautifully

Lupita Nyong’o accepts the Oscar® for performance by an actress in a supporting role for her role in “12 Years a Slave.” (Aaron Poole / ©A.M.P.A.S.)

Lupita Nyong’o accepts the Oscar® for performance by an actress in a supporting role for “12 Years a Slave.” (Aaron Poole/ ©A.M.P.A.S.)

Lupita Nyong’o blew audiences away with her performance in the critically acclaimed 12 Years a Slave and went on to be the sixth black actress to take home an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress. She also won in the same category at the Screen Actors Guild and Critic’s Choice award ceremonies.

On the red carpet, Nyong’o never fails to turn heads wearing the likes of Prada, Ralph Lauren or Christian Dior Couture. Seemingly overnight, Nyong’o became one of the most recognizable faces in the world, and she has used her visibility to share personal struggles she encountered on her journey to success.

At the seventh annual Black Women in Hollywood Luncheon held by Essence magazine, the Mexico-born Kenyan shared a moving story of her struggles with her skin complexion. Nyong’o, who has become a Lancôme ambassador, told the audience how she prayed that one day her skin would be lighter after enduring taunts.

People cover w LupitaHowever, women like model Alek Wek helped her see herself as beautiful. And Nyong’o, who is only the third black woman to be named the “World’s Most Beautiful Woman” by People magazine, is doing the same for legions of black women and girls.

Nyong’o, who is interested in both sides of the camera, also dealt with skin issues in a documentary about people with albinism in Kenya. She wrote, directed and produced In My Genes as her thesis project at Hampshire College and also studied film at Yale.

It’s clear that her future looks bright. In addition to an upcoming role in Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Nyong’o optioned the film rights for Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s novel, Americanah. She is not only co-starring with Daniel Oyelowo as a Nigerian couple in Americanah, but she is also co-producer with Brad Pitt and Andrea Calderwood. — Megan Sims