12 years a slave, Best supporting actress, Dark skin, Intelligent black girl, Natural hair, Role model -

The Ubiquitous Lupita!

She’s been the film awards season’s Cinderella who went from being a virtual unknown to top celebrities’ first choice selfie companion. You’d have had to be living under a rock for the last six months or so to not have known, seen or heard about one Lupita Nyong’o. She has come, seen and conquered; all seemingly in very short space of time.

Those who have observed and witnessed her work will agree that she’s remarkably talented, not to mention smart and pretty. She humbly put in work for many years taking on all kinds of roles and finally, at 31, she’s got the world’s attention. In my view, she deserves every accolade coming her way especially that Oscar for best supporting actress in Steve McQueen’s 12 Years a Slave. She is African, by way of Kenya although she was actually born in Mexico and has American citizenship!

Anyway, not since the days of Grace Jones has a famous black female with prominent black features aroused such fervour. It is no coincidence that Lupita’s own inspiration is Whoopi Goldberg, the antithesis of Hollywood glamour and often times the butt of tasteless jokes especially among the black community. I remember a line from a verse by the late rapper Big L where he says ‘I got girls that make that chick Toni Braxton look like Whoopi’. I regret to admit that I thought it was funny at the time and probably recited it countless times without realizing what I was endorsing. Sadly, such ignorance still exists – if you’re a light skinned black female who is slim with straight hair then you’re hot, anything else and you’re not.

There are enough A-list black girls whose bank balances allow them to look black only when it’s convenient. I think the world could do with 'other' role models. Of course there’s nothing wrong with fairer skin, weaves, wigs or whatever else but it just hurts to see confused young girls losing their identity while trying to achieve what's considered to be the standard. I just hope that those watching Lupita’s meteoric rise will be inspired and feel less pressured to bleach their skin, straighten their hair or inject silicone in a bid to feel worthy or accepted. If you’re gifted and determined enough people will have no choice but to notice and…you WILL be respected!

It’s not a secret that for so long beauty has been defined as something that regular black girls are not or could never be so it’s refreshing to see a dark skinned black girl with natural hair just comfortably mixing up with the rest of them. It is indeed possible to be yourself and successful! Of course I’m not suggesting that it’s easy or that it’s going to work the same for everyone but like how Chimamanda Ngozie Adichie put it, I’m just excited that Lupita exists right now and long may her reign continue!

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