Actor and super femme Lupita Nyong'o covers the October issue of Vogue US, delivering a breathtaking editorial of the fall season's most glorious prints styled by Tonne Goodman and lensed by Mario Testino. Promoting her new movie 'Queen of Katwe', Lupita takes us to her native Kenya in the Luo homeland-- "a stone's throw from Lake Victoria -- for an interview by Elizabeth Rubin.
It took Lupita exactly five pages into the script about Phiona Mutesi, an uneducated girl from the slums of Uganda became an international chess master, to know she had to be in the film. Director Phiona Metesi wanted Lupita to play Phiona's mother Harriet.
“To play a mother of four in Uganda, a formidable mother who has so much working against her, was so compelling to me. It wasn’t something I thought I’d be asked to do”—at least not by Hollywood. “The fact that it was based on a true story, an uplifting story out of Africa. . . .” She inhales and shakes her head. “Oh, my goodness, all my dreams were coming true in that script.”
Lupita's new role comes on the heels of her Broadway role in Danai Gurira's play 'Eclipsed', in which she plays a fifteen-year-old Liberian called the Girl. Lupita is sprinkled around our AOC website as a reflection of her broad range of activities and issues. Read about 'Eclipsed' in our AOC Women's News channel.
Nyongo's rise has been rapid since her academy-award performance in '12 Years A Slave', and she tells Vogue that she didn't set out with a mission to tell these African stories. “Being able to use my platform to expand and diversify the African voice,” she says, searching for the right words, “I feel very passionate about that. It feels intentional, meaningful.”
AOC has written previously about Lupita's role as a beauty ambassador for Lancôme and international voice for black skin. She explains "I cannot run away from who I am and my complexion or the larger society and how they may view that. I realize that with what I shared at the Essence awards." The star shared her recollection of making a pact with God that she'd stop stealing sugar cubes if she could wake up with lighter skin. It was her meeting with South Sudan model model Alek Wek (video in this AOC article) that changed her. There she was "dark as night" on all the runways, in magazines and on TV. When they finally met, Lupita could not believe the world considered Wek to be beautiful, a woman "who looked so much like me."
Lupita's range of projects is a delight and includes roles in 'Star Wars: The Force Awakens', Marvel's 'Black Panther', and Disney's new 'Jungle Book'. Of great consequence could be her forthcoming film adaptation of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's 'Americanah'.
“There are certain cards that have been dealt me that I take on,” Lupita says. “I want to create opportunities for other people of color because I’m fortunate enough to have a platform to do that. That is why Eclipsed and even Queen of Katwe are so important, to change the narrative, offer a new lens on African identity.”
It’s also why she wanted to make Adichie’s Americanah—“a portrait of African dynamism and racial commentary,” she says, but at its heart, an epic love story of two Nigerians across three continents: That will be a first for Hollywood. Lupita preordered the book, devoured it, and asked a mutual friend, Kenyan author Binyavanga Wainaina, to forward an email to Adichie. Though 12 Years a Slave had not yet premiered, she wanted to buy the rights and make the movie. “I can’t tell you how much I laughed and cried out loud reading your book,” she wrote Adichie. “As an African actress looking to develop great projects, I am always searching for characters who are full of life, complicated and indelible in their pursuits and in their needs.”
This Vogue interview is so rich with more information about Lupita's political and activist perspective, formulated by her family's past, that I will publish it in a separate article. I've noticed the fashion magazine's becoming much more embracing of serious articles, perhaps as a reflection of millennial and smart sensuality values among women of every age. This evolution is a good five years in the making and this article Lupita Nyong'o: 'I Want to Create Opportunities for People of Color' is a wonderful tribute to Lupita and women everywhere trying to make a difference. See our Lupita Nyong'o articles after the Mario Testino images. ~ Anne