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Lupita Nyong'o named People Magazine's most beautiful woman in the world


Aside from her breakthrough performance in Steve McQueen's third feature film, 12 Years a Slave, Lupita Nyong'o has been making her rounds on-screen at award shows and in the glossies, parading her much-coveted fashion sense and natural beauty. Now, the Kenyan-Mexican actress, film and music video director has been named 2014's "World's Most Beautiful Woman" by People Magazine.

At the Oscars this year, Nyong'o memorably graced the carpet with flows of ice-blue Prada; the ultimate goddess gown. But, the moment that we really fell in love with Lupita was during her speech on America's perception of beauty. On collecting her award, Lupita read this with a very real humility:

I remember a time when I too felt unbeautiful. I put on the TV and only saw pale skin, I got teased and taunted about my night-shaded skin. And my one prayer to God, the miracle worker, was that I would wake up lighter-skinned. The morning would come and I would be so excited about seeing my new skin that I would refuse to look down at myself until I was in front of a mirror because I wanted to see my fair face first. And every day I experienced the same disappointment of being just as dark as I had been the day before. I tried to negotiate with God: I told him I would stop stealing sugar cubes at night if he gave me what I wanted; I would listen to my mother's every word and never lose my school sweater again if he just made me a little lighter. But I guess God was unimpressed with my bargaining chips because He never listened.

The 30-year-old beauty went on to say that the thing that initially kick-started her self-confidence was her recognition of South Sudanese British supermodel Alek Wek, who first appeared on the catwalks at the age of 18 in 1995. Nyong'o recalls:

...And then Alek Wek came on the international scene. A celebrated model, she was dark as night, she was on all of the runways and in every magazine and everyone was talking about how beautiful she was. Even Oprah called her beautiful and that made it a fact. I couldn’t believe that people were embracing a woman who looked so much like me as beautiful. My complexion had always been an obstacle to overcome and all of a sudden, Oprah was telling me it wasn’t. It was perplexing and I wanted to reject it because I had begun to enjoy the seduction of inadequacy. But a flower couldn’t help but bloom inside of me. 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...

There's a message there for all of us: No one else should define how we feel about ourselves. It's too easy to get carried away in worshipping our favorite red-carpet regulars - stick thin and slathered in make-up, or photoshopped to within an inch of their lives - and following other peoples' depictions of what it means to be beautiful, what we should strive to be. This narrow conception of beauty has held so many women back from being comfortable with themselves.

Remember, in the words of a super-talented, beautiful Oscar-winner:
No matter where you're from your dreams are valid.
As cheesy as it sounds in the context of this blog post, there's a big lesson here, ladies. Let's not miss it.
8 years ago