“My One Prayer to God… Was that I Would Wake Up Light Skinned,” Says Oscar Winner Lupita Nyong’o in an Emotional Speech + Video

31 Mar

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Since her world debut in 12 Years a Slave, Lupita’s name has become just as common a word as “the.” If it’s not conversations about her epic “Patsy” performance, it’s about her bold and always fab style choices or her perfect and radiant ebony skin… or all of the above. Lupita’s spotlight shines much deeper and brighter than the superficial though, as her new fame is not just about her acting chops or undeniable beauty. It’s about what the actual acknowledgment of those things represents.

In a world shaped by Hollywood views, Lupita is a rarity. Professionally, women of color are hardly noted for their contributions and it’s proven to be more difficult for them to propel forward, whether in the boardroom or in Tinseltown. Lupita’s victory is refreshing and one that all ethnic women, regardless of occupation, hold on to as our own to “make up” for all the times prior that we went undeservingly unnamed. All of the praise surrounding her beauty is something we probably hold on to even tighter. (Maybe because we all want to first feel beautiful even before feeling successful?) Women of color, whether Asian, Indian, Latino, Black, and everything else, are not exactly the first choice for magazine covers and fashion spreads. And even when we are, it’s usually those of us with features that closely resemble our white sisters. A woman of rich and pure dark complexion like Lupita may find a cozy corner on the high fashion runway, but too unoften is she invited to play in the realms of mainstream commercial beauty. That underrepresentation of women of color, and more specifically women of dark color, is the very reason that so many young girls (and grown women too) struggle with loving their own beauty. One of those girls actually wrote a letter to Lupita, expressing her disgust with her own dark skin that she was just about to bleach before Lupita “saved” her. Lupita read the letter at Essence Black Women in Hollywood and to my surprise admitted that she too was once that little girl. Like the rest of the world, when I look at Lupita I see a confident and fearless young woman whose style and glam choices suggest that she’s more than comfortable in her own skin. I never once wondered if she struggled to get to this point. In her emotional speech, which was also a heartfelt response to that little girl and all others, Lupita talked about how she not only struggled but also how she conquered.

Her words were much needed as validation for little girls, and also as a reminder that there is still work to do in the beauty industry. While racism and colorism are indeed issues, they don’t stand alone. Joining them is ageism and weightism and hair lengthism and hair texturism and other -ism’s that intentionally box out and shame girls and women who don’t fit the very redundant cookie cutter mold. (Excuse some of my made up -ism’s, but I really wanted to keep with the -ism theme 🙂 ) We can all do a part, though, to start guaranteeing everyone a spot on the beauty list–whether you tell the little girl with her mom at the checkout counter how beautiful she is or write a blog post that challenges people to have a more inclusive take on “pretty.” As you think about how you will do your part to knock down the caving walls in which society tries to house beauty, check out Lupita’s speech below for a little extra inspiration!

Happy Monday and love you lots!


3 Responses to ““My One Prayer to God… Was that I Would Wake Up Light Skinned,” Says Oscar Winner Lupita Nyong’o in an Emotional Speech + Video”

  1. Christi March 31, 2014 at 10:20 am #

    What an inspiring speech and well-written article concerning it! All I can say is it’s about time that the industry recognize the beauty outside of the normal standards that are so stringent and exclusive! We have such a ways to go but it is encouraging to see the progress, however slight. She’s such a role model too because she doesn’t just rely on her beauty and fashion sense. She’s super intelligent as well and you can see how important education is to her! Would absolutely love to meet her!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Essence March 31, 2014 at 10:21 am #

      I agree 100%! She’s an all around “it girl!” Brains, beauty & humility!



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    […] you’re enjoying your Tuesday! So remember yesterday’s post about Lupita Nyong’o's beautiful “Essence Black Women in Hollywood” speech on […]


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