She’s a winner. A beautiful, visibly, African woman who gripped our hearts in her role as Patsey in the award winning film, 12 Years A Slave. In case you haven’t seen the movie, which would make me judge you, you should know it was one of the most heart wrenching films I have ever seen. Slavery is hard to discuss, difficult to swallow, still years later and not quite as removed as we’d like to believe, 12 Years was a movie that I believe finally captured the brutality, the deeply disturbing, and painful past of America. While there have been many stories told from Roots to Django, about the experience and history of enslaved Africans, there have been none that have caused such a guttural reaction. That was in part due to the character Patsey, which Lupita Nyong’o executed perfectly. Her ability to make the audience feel each blow she took to the face from Mrs. Epps, played by Sarah Paulson, down to the anguish she dealt with as she endlessly toiled in the cotton fields only to be praised in front of other slaves and then repeatedly raped by the plantation owner, Master Epps (Michael Fassbender). The movie brought up a feeling of anger that typically lies dormant within. It stirred within me a sense of pride, fear, and despair as I watched. It was a film, that though seemingly old in subject is so relevant now, especially as we seem to be bearing witness to racism rearing its ugly head again here in America. But Lupita, Lupita has taken the world by storm. Her role as Patsey has brought her before our eyes to shine and stun, and that is even more powerful.
There are flashes everywhere in her world, as a new glamourous photo pops up of her daily while she effortlessly displays her chicness. Whether she is at a fashion show rubbing shoulders with Anna Wintour, literally or hobnobbing with Meryl Streep, Liza Minnelli, and Rihanna. Her presence with these high profile women is showing society that beauty’s name doesn’t have to be something easily pronounced or packaged in a familiar way to be amazing. Lupita is radiating on our screens with her bright smile, impeccable diction and her noteworthy style and it makes black women and girls proud, far and wide. Per usual we have laid claim to Lupita, we have made her our own. Embraced her from our various places around the world because she is us. She is young, ambitious, and gorgeous. The way the world is fawning over her shows those who have questioned their beauty, wondered about their place, that there is room for them in the spotlight.
Of course with the admiration must come the naysayer or the party pooper to ruin the good time. Enter Cameroonian celebrity, Dencia, who attacked Lupita after she mentioned to fans not to buy into the skin bleaching cream that is being promoted by Dencia. Lupita has admitted to having faced insecurities in her young years because of the darkness of her skin she shared her longing for lighter skin at the Essence Women in Hollywood luncheon in a speech. But stated that she learned to love the skin she was in and encouraged other girls to do the same. Mentioning this letter she received from a fan who struggled with accepting her own complexion, “ “Dear Lupita,” the letter read. “I think you’re really lucky to be this Black but yet this successful in Hollywood overnight. I was just about to buy Dencia’s Whitenicious cream to lighten my skin when you appeared on the world map and saved me.” The importance of Lupita surpasses her role as Patsey, it goes beyond her fresh off the runway wares, it truly is about busting the door open to Hollywood and making them see that star power is present elsewhere. For women, young and old, it is refreshing to see the love Lupita is getting from everyone. It is empowering to witness as she goes from obscurity to superstar. Her beauty radiates from within and it touches the darkest corners of Hollywood and our hearts. Hearts that have felt forgotten about in television and film, hearts that desire to be noticed; Lupita is the spotlight on them.
I have wondered aloud what Lupita thinks about her new fame, if she just thinks were all late to the party. I have asked myself what she can possibly be thinking as people laud over her grace, as they quarrel about her nationality and lay claim to her ethnicity. What must it feel like as people clamor over who can call you their own. The truth is Lupita belongs to us all; women, men, black, white, or otherwise. She is a representation of what it means to have your dreams come true, an example of what happens when the stars and your hard work align. It’s no shock that there is a fight over what to categorize her as, because for black people we rarely have someone we can tap into our pride for. As women we can say our looks won’t hold us back because, well, look at Lupita. She is the object of our affection, the source of our joy, but most of all a beacon of what is to come. Raise a glass for Lupita, cheers to you girl for making the world pay attention. From plantation to podium you have paved the way and for that you deserve all the praise.
L. Camille 03062014