Hollywood’s newest it girl is flawless. Sure no one is flawless, but Lupita Nyong'o is damn close.
But as graceful, Ivy-league educated, eloquent, gorgeous, fly and talented as she the 12 Years A Slave actress is, she admits to struggling with accepting her beauty as a Black/African woman.
Hollywood was overflowing with gorgeous Black women yesterday for ESSENCE’s 7th Annual Black Women in Hollywood luncheon. It was the security and safety of being in a room of warm Black women where she felt comfortable detailing her quest to accept the skin she’s in. Like most people socialized by society and the media, her idea of beauty came from what she saw on TV. In her speech she urged young girls to get to the business of being beautiful inside. An exerpt of her speech below:
“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.
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."
After you use your Kleenex to dab your eyes, we have the dibs on what some of our favorite Hollywood glam girls wore.
Kerry Washington wears pregnancy magnificently. She donned the ultimate baby bump accessory in a blue Calvin Klein dress with Jimmy Choo pumps. Brandy rocked a red Elena Reva pantsuit with red suede Christian Louboutins.
Angela Bassett is drinking from the same fountain of youth as Nas. She stunned in a floral lace Byron Lars dress with a plum lip. Tracee Ellis Ross rocked a beige HONOR NYC suit. And of course the honoree, the goddess Lupita, stunned in a crop top with matching skirt from Giambattista Valli‘s Spring 2014 with Sophia Webster white pumps and a white Elie Saab clutch. All white everything looks as good as the bright colors she rocks so well.
(Photos from left: FayesVision/WENN.com, Jason LaVeris/FilmMagic, Jason LaVeris/FilmMagic, Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)