Lupita Nyong'o, 12 years a slave, essence, black women of hollywood

Actress Lupita Nyong’o is blowing up the Hollywood sphere and it’s not just for her amazing, Oscar-nominated performance in Steve McQueen’s 12 Years A Slave.

Nyong’o attended Essence magazine’s Black Women in Hollywood Luncheon on Thursday and made the seventh annual event much more memorable with a moving speech directed at a young female fan who looks to her as a role model.

The 30-year-old spoke to the young girl from experience about the notions of beauty, and specifically black beauty. Nyong’o is of Kenyan descent but was born in Mexico, and says she had to learn over time to love her dark complexion.

“My one prayer to God, the miracle worker, was that I would wake up lighter-skinned,” Nyong’o said while speaking of her childhood.

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Nyong’o also quoted her fan who said in a letter to the actress that she “was just about to buy Dencia’s Whitenicious cream to lighten my skin when you appeared on the world map and saved me.”

For those unaware, Dencia is a Nigerian pop star under fire for her skin-bleaching product, Whitenicious. If that name doesn’t say it all, we’ll explain that while Dencia has said the product is only meant for lightening dark spots and evening out skin tone, though she appears all over to be several shades lighter than she was before starting the campaign. So for $69-$160 you too can “Say Goodbye to Pigmentation and Spots Forever.”

Nyong’o used her own role model, supermodel Alek Wek as an example of beauty that comes in all colors. Wek comes from the South Sudan and has a complexion almost identical to Nyong’o’s.

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“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,” Nyong’o said of seeing her own role model on runways all over the world.

The actress ended her speech in the most perfect way she could, “There is no shame in black beauty.”

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