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Lupita Nyong’o has shot into fame in recent months with her fashion and her acting skills. When Steve McQueen started to despair after seeing over 1000 actors for the role of Patsey in 12 Years a Slave, he came across the tape from this unknown Kenyan actress. He was in disbelief, but she was perfect for the role. Her humility shines through even after starring and winning awards for the first feature film she was in after drama school. She says it is “not a badge of honor” but only a lucky break. Fast forward to present day, Lupita is a standout star, having won SAG and Critics’ Choice Awards and receiving nominations for the Golden Globes and Oscars. Red carpet season is in full swing the fresh faced beauty walked the Red Carpet with bold, eye-catching, elegant gowns.
From a prominent Kenyan family, Nyong’o was born in Mexico City, where her father had relocated her family after her uncle went missing. Lupita received her name in Kenyan tradition, being named after happenings at the time of birth. Being in Mexico, Lupita, a form of Guadalupe and the country’s patron saint, was everywhere. Although carrying a bit of Mexican culture with her, she moved back to Kenya with her parents before she was a year old. During college, she returned to America and after some soul-searching, applied for the Yale School of Drama. Weeks before graduating, her manager encouraged her to audition for 12 Years a Slave and a week later she was meeting the casting director in LA and then McQueen in Louisiana. She got the part and six weeks later was rehearsing scenes in New Orleans. It was a whirlwind of events to get her where she is today. McQueen went on to say “You know, there’s been a lot said about dark-skinned black actresses and the limitations they have within film. Well, I just hope that directors and other creative people have the idea of putting her in great and interesting projects, because she’s extraordinary.”
Since her film debut, she’s become one of the faces of Miu Miu, filmed the upcoming action-thriller Non-Stop with Liam Neeson, has been nominated for an Oscar and had her first run-in with the paparazzi heading home from L.A. “I don’t know who they were waiting for, but they definitely chased me down, which is a startling, disturbing experience,” she says as her driver navigates the frigid Manhattan streets on his way to the Brooklyn Museum, where Nyong’o plans to see the Jean Paul Gaultier exhibit. “I did not expect it. I went into flight mode.” Nor did she imagine that she’d practically become a national hero in Kenya, where one Nairobi church reportedly held a thanksgiving Mass in her honor and the president sent out a tweet to congratulate her on the nomination. “There are so many highlights that are no longer highlights,” she says evenly. “I’m living a very swollen life.”
Refering to the recent overwhelming awards season, Nyong’o says, “I’ve been in a bubble. I haven’t been out much. I haven’t gotten used to being recognized.” More than that, “I was blissfully ignorant of the magnitude of the project I was in or what it was going to mean for the world.”
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