Lupita Nyong'o is no longer a young woman who graduated from Yale, made her feature film debut in a critically-acclaimed movie, and became a fashion favorite. As of this past weekend, when she won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for her unforgettable performance as Patsey in 12 Years a Slave, and when that film went on to win Best Picture of the Year, Lupita Nyong'o the person became Lupita Nyong'o the movement. And for those of us watching closely, this movement (the correct pronunciation of which you can find HERE) has great cultural significance. Attention must be paid.
First of all, if you were able to make it through that without shedding a single tear, then props to you. But for the rest of us actual humans, that speech was everything. And the orchestra playing "Pure Imagination" at the end was absolutely perfect. Still, her acceptance speech at Essence magazine's Black Women in Hollywood Luncheon is a favorite for many of us:
I want to take this opportunity to talk about beauty, black beauty, dark beauty. I received a letter from a girl and I’d like to share just a small part of it with you: “Dear Lupita,” it reads, “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.”
My heart bled a little when I read those words, I could never have guessed that my first job out of school would be so powerful in and of itself and that it would propel me to be such an image of hope in the same way that the women of The Color Purple were to me.
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 was 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.
And when I was a teenager my self-hate grew worse, as you can imagine happens with adolescence. My mother reminded me often that she thought that I was beautiful but that was no conservation, she’s my mother, of course she’s supposed to think I am beautiful. And then … Alek Wek. 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. But around me, the preference for my skin prevailed, to the courters that I thought mattered I was still unbeautiful. And my mother again would say to me you can’t eat beauty, it doesn’t feed you and these words plagued and bothered me; I didn’t really understand them until finally I realized that beauty was not a thing that I could acquire or consume, it was something that I just had to be.
And what my mother meant when she said you can’t eat beauty was that you can’t rely on how you look to sustain you. What is fundamentally beautiful is compassion for yourself and for those around you. That kind of beauty enflames the heart and enchants the soul. It is what got Patsey in so much trouble with her master, but it is also what has kept her story alive to this day. We remember the beauty of her spirit even after the beauty of her body has faded away.
And so I hope that my presence on your screens and in the magazines may lead you, young girl, on a similar journey. That you will feel the validation of your external beauty but also get to the deeper business of being beautiful inside. There is no shame in black beauty.
In a world where women of color are still lightening their skin, in a world where the typical black woman on screen looks like Halle Berry or Paula Patton, in a world where Kerry Washington and Gabrielle Union are considered to be dark-skinned beauties (and it is still a big deal that they are being so embraced by Hollywood), Nyong'o as a fashion and beauty icon (she's also the new face of Miu Miu) is no small thing at all. The legacy of slavery still very much operates in our culture, and part of that legacy pertains to black women with lighter skin being labeled more beautiful and more valuable (a scene in 12 Years a Slave shows that, indeed, slave owners were willing to pay more for those enslaved blacks with lighter skin). For hundreds of years, black beauty has been defined by non-blacks, and while that is still very much happening today — even with Nyong'o's story — it is wholly refreshing to see all shades of black beauty finally being embraced in a very public light.
When Nyong'o hit the Academy Awards red carpet she was, of course, bombarded with questions about her gorgeous pastel-blue gown. It was designed by Prada, and — more importantly — she said that it reminded her of her hometown, Nairobi, Kenya. And wouldn't you know it — Kelly Osbourne of E!'s Fashion Police immediately and appropriately labeled the look #NairobiBlue, which then began trending on Twitter. It is also no small victory to see the name of an African city become equated with a thing of beauty, to become beautiful itself.
But race and black beauty aren't the only issues at play here. While many folks might have looked at her rise to fame as a rags-to-riches story, it's important to note that Nyong'o comes from a middle-class upbringing. She prides herself on being the daughter of a Kenyan senator, and the cousin of Isis Nyong'o, who recently made the Forbes list of Most Powerful African Women. She completed her undergraduate studies at Hampshire College and earned her MFA from the Yale School of Drama. All of this to say that she is an educated, fabulous, talented force of nature. And judging by her Instagram account, she's just as much as superfan of all things pop culture as the rest of us. Her presence in this world is huge right now, and watching her inspire young men and women everywhere makes the notion of celebrity status far more enjoyable.
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U.S. TV mogul Oprah Winfrey has gifted one of her Twitter.com followers a designer dress she wore on the cover of a magazine. A woman named Brandi contacted the 60 year old on the social media site to compliment her after spotting the Brian Rennie for Basler gown on the March (14) Essence magazine cover.
She wrote, "@oprah you look beautiful in that essence cover pic. WOW. CAN I please have that dress? Cuz (sic) I know u won't wear (it) again lol (laugh out loud) luv u (sic)".
Winfrey surprisingly responded to the message, writing, "@snobaby28 you're right I won't wear ever again contact my asst. and show her this tweet."
Brandi did follow up with Winfrey's assistant and received the dress less than a week later.
She wrote, "@Oprah THANK YOU! Recv (sic) beautiful dress. Plan to wear at my wedding when I find a groom lol but will twt (tweet) pic wearing it soon. Luv u to life!"
Engaged actress Hayden Panettiere has kickstarted her search for the perfect wedding gown by modelling designer dresses for a Brides magazine cover shoot. The Nashville star, who announced her engagement to Ukrainian boxer Wladimir Klitschko, 37, in October (13), recently admitted she had yet to start organising her big day, but she has geen given a head start on what to wear thanks to a new photo assignment.
The actress tried on a variety of gowns by designers like Oscar de la Renta, Marchesa and Monique Lhuillier as she posed for the April/May (14) issue of the top bridal publication.
In the accompanying interview, Panettiere revealed her fiance's proposal was "very sweet and simple and genuine", adding, "It wasn't about being overwhelmed by fireworks or a mariachi band. I think it's amazing when people do that, but I like that mine was simple and from the heart."
The actress, 24, also admitted she was already nervous about being the centre of attention at her nuptials: "When eyes have been on me in the past, it's been because of an event, where people see me as a persona, as Hayden Panettiere the actress.
"For the aisle, you're the purest, most emotionally stripped down version of yourself, sharing this raw moment with the most important people in your life. It seems very overwhelming!"
Justin Bieber still has the hots for his ex-girlfriend Selena Gomez - if his latest Instagram.com post is anything to go by. The Baby singer took to his photo-sharing blog on Monday (03Mar14) to share a shot of Gomez at the Vanity Fair Oscar party on Sunday night (02Mar14), and in the accompanying caption, he wrote, "Most elegant princess in the world".
The Come & Get It singer wore a form-fitting, golden Emilio Pucci gown to the Academy Awards after party.
Bieber, who turned 20 on Saturday (01Mar14), posted the shot while preparing for his latest day in court. He will address DUI charges following his Florida arrest January (14) later today.
Actress Jennifer Lawrence went commando at the Vanity Fair Oscars party in Hollywood on Sunday (02Mar14) after changing into a metallic Tom Ford mini-dress with a shattered glass design. The outfit featured sheer black panels at the back and down the sides, revealing her lack of underwear. The American Hustle beauty had walked the red carpet at the Academy Awards in a red Dior Haute Couture gown earlier in the evening.
Beyonce was wearing a reported $2 million (£1.25 million)-worth of Lorraine Schwartz diamonds while she performed XO live for the first time at the 2014 BRIT Awards in London on Wednesday (19Feb14). The R&B superstar stunned in a figure-hugging, teal, Swarovski crystal-coated Vrettos Vrettakos gown.
Mariah Carey struggled through her performance at the recent BET Honors ceremony as her dress broke while she was on stage. The Hero singer unveiled her new single You're Mine (Eternal) during the awards show in Washington, D.C. on 8 February (14), and she turned heads in her low-cut, cleavage-baring black gown.
Part of her performance involved singing on top of a piano, and Carey admits she struggled to keep her dress from falling down as the straps broke when she reclined.
Carey tells People.com, "I was (worried) when I laid on the piano. Right before the lights went on me, I heard 'Pop! Pop! Pop!' The supposedly see-through wires broke. Nobody saw anything, and it was by the grace of God that I got through the performance."
British actress Kelly Brook suffered an embarrassing wardrobe malfunction at a TV awards show in the U.K. on Wednesday night (22Jan14). The Piranha 3D star appeared at Britain's National Television Awards at London's O2 venue wearing a low-cut black dress, which was slashed to the thigh.
Brook went without a bra under her gown, and the flimsy material became completely transparent as it was lit up by the camera flashes from photographers on the red carpet, putting her bare breasts on display.
The mishap caused a storm among fans on Twitter.com.
"Great. Now you can maybe look at my armpit vagina. All these cameras, it's horrible!" Actress Jennifer Lawrence cracked a crude joke about a little overhanging underarm skin as she walked the red carpet at the Screen Actors Guild Awards on Saturday (18Jan14) in a strapless sequin Dior gown.