Hollywood darling Lupita Nyong’o is in Beverly Hills this week gearing up for this weekend’s Academy Awards, where’s she’s one of the favorites to win best supporting actress for her role in “12 Years a Slave.” But at Essence Magazine’s 7th annual Women in Hollywood Luncheon this week, the actress opened up about some of the obstacles she had to overcome while growing up as a dark-skinned girl in Kenya’s middle class suburbs around Nairobi.
“I got teased and taunted about my skin,” Nyong’o began, on stage in a ballroom at the Beverly Hills Hotel. “My one prayer to God was that I would wake up lighter skinned. The morning would come and I would be so excited about seeing my new skin that I would refuse to look down at myself until I was in front of the mirror because I wanted to see my face first. Every day I would feel the disappointment of being just as dark as the day before.”
Nyong’o said she tried to bargain with God by vowing to stop eating sugar cubes and to never lose her school sweater again, if she could only see a change in her skin tone. It wasn’t until she discovered Sudanese British supermodel Alek Wek that she began to believe in her own beauty.
“She was dark as night and was in all the magazines and on runways,” Nyong’o said. “My complexion had always been an obstacle to overcome. I couldn’t believe that people were embracing a woman who looked so much like me as beautiful. It was perplexing and I wanted to reject it because I had begun to enjoy the seduction of inadequacy. But a flower couldn’t help but bloom inside of me.”