Monday, 15 February 2016

The Acting Black Blogathon: Lupita Nyong'o

Hello you there and welcome! In the U.S., February has been designated Black History Month, and Wendell over at Dell on Movies had the brilliant idea to host a blogathon about it, and asked us to highlight black actors. You can either write about one actor's performance or about one actor's career. Or you could make a list. 

At first I wanted to write about one of Samuel L. Jackson's performances, but it would have been an obvious choice. Plus, I wouldn't  have been able to write a good piece. I'm not good with lists, so I decided to go with an actress I admire, both as an artist and as a woman, Lupita Nyong'o.

Born in Mexico City in 1983 to Kenyan parents, she grew up mostly in Africa in an artistic family. Acting was in her blood, and she played her very first role, a minor role in Charles Dickens's "Oliver Twist" while attending the Rusinga International school.

Inspired to pursue a professional acting career by Whoopi Goldberg and Oprah Winfrey's performances in "The Color Purple", Nyong'o starts her career as part of the production crew in several films.

In 2009, she moves her first steps alone as she directs, writes, and produces "In My Genes", a fascinating and inspiring documentary about albinism in a predominantly black society such as the Kenyan.

She works unnoticed in the cinematic world for years, but thing are about to change when she is casted to play Patsey in Steve McQueen's "12 Years a Slave". Before you know, the whole world is talking about her and her performance. As much as I love McQueen, the film wouldn't have been the same without her, the emotional epicenter of the entire film. Her performance as Patsey is devastating, and the tears, and anger that will grown inside of you during the film are because of her. There it is, the birth of a star.

In January 2014, she is 'surprisingly' nominated for Best Actress in a Supporting Role at the Academy Awards, and even more unexpected is her win over much more experienced (and famous) colleagues, and her emotional acceptance speech, closed by a quote I'll remember forever -- When I look down at this golden statue, may it remind me and every little child that no matter where you're from, your dreams are valid. -- was remarkable.

Thank to that role, she becomes an inspiration and an image of hope to black women, and later delivers another moving speech at the Black Women in Hollywood. She talks about beauty, and how she used to feel about her own skin. How unbeautiful she used to feel and how much she wished for a lighter skin. She spends words about the moment in her life she finally realized that beauty was not a thing that she could acquire, but it was something that she just had to be. "I hope [...] that you feel the validation of your external beauty but also get the deeper business of being beautiful inside. There is no shade in that beauty" she says.

This is exactly what she delivers as Patsey. It is indeed the beauty of her spirit, her inner beauty that enchants the soul and that the viewer remembers. This is the kind of beauty that has survived in the young woman portrayed by Nyong'o while the outer beauty, the one everyone seems to be desperately looking for, has faded away.

Later that year, she plays a minor role in "Non-Stop", an action film starring Liam Neeson and Julianne Moore. Unfortunately the role doesn't give her the chance to fully express her potential.

She quickly becomes an icon of beauty and style, and that same year she is named "The Most Beautiful Woman" by People Magazine, and "Woman of the Year" by Glamour.

She arguably likes to be on covers, but that's never been her ambition. What she really wants is to be the best actress she can be, and she wants to be in situations that challenge her to continue to do that. That's the reason why she chooses to play Maz Kanata, a thousand-year-old space pirate in the latest Star Wars film. She wanted to challenge herself, and what a better way to do that than portraying a CGI-created character?

Well, despite rumors saying her character's role was drastically reduced because J.J. Abrams wasn't happy with her performance as she seemed to be struggling with CGI and she didn't feel a great connection to the character, her voice performance in "The Force Awakens" is more than satisfactory. We don't know a lot about Maz Kanata, but her voice sounds wise as required by someone who has seen a lot of things.

In 2015 she returns to stage with a starring role in "Eclipsed", a drama about the decisive roles women played in the second Liberian civil war, written by Danai Gurira - also the actress best known as Michonne on "The Walking Dead". The production, that began off-Broadway, will mark Nyong'o Broadway debut this year. I haven't seen her off-Broadway and I won't have the chance to see her at the John Golden Theatre, but according to the critics she delivers another heartbreaking, and intelligent performance as she portrays a 15-year-old orphan.

With another voice work as Raksha in "The Jungle Book", scheduled to be released on April, and a leading role in the upcoming biographical drama "The Queen of Katwe", hopefully she will continue her great work.

I hope I've paid a fair homage to such a wonderful artist and woman. Thank you for reading, and I also hope I did a good job and I didn't bore you to death with my piece. 


  1. You most certainly did not bore me with this. It was very fascinating. I knew very little about her as a person before reading this. Fantastic. That documentary you mentioned sounds intriguing. I hope she gets bigger and "better" roles that showcase her entirely so mainstream audiences get to know her as a great actress and not just the girl from 12 Years a Slave. Thanks for taking part. I loved reading this!

  2. This was not boring in the least and what a great tribute to a lady who is equally beautiful and talented. I hope she is in more films that showcase her great talent

    1. I hope that too. I think she'll be great in The Queen of Katwe. I can't wait for it.

  3. Excellent post! Not boring in the least. I love Lupita, she was amazing in 12 Years a Slave and rightfully deserved that Oscar. I wish I could see her on stage, I'm sure she's a dream.

  4. zzzzzzzzz..... huh? (jks)

    oh yeah, love Lupita! She barely appeared in Non Stop, and didn't play herself in Star Wars; but absolutely deserved kudos for 12 Years A Slave. Nice piece!!!!

  5. Love this post! I sadly haven't seen a lot of Lupita but I will never forget that Oscar acceptance speech. I actually started welling up again just thinking about it. She's such a lovely woman!
    - Allie

  6. Great post! I have yet to see her performance in 12 Years a Slave, but will be checking it out soon.