Being named PEOPLE’s 'Most Beautiful' came with an additional surprise for darling Lupita Nyong’o: an opportunity to meet her beauty icon, supermodel Alek Wek.
During ESSENCE's Black Women in Hollywood Luncheon, the Oscar-winning actress spoke about Black beauty, crediting Wek for “a flower blooming inside of me.” In the speech she said:
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.
PEOPLE made Nyong'o’s dream come true in a one-on-one sit-down with the actress and accomplished model. It was a glorious moment between two beautiful and smart African women.
Nyong'o gushed to Wek:
I just remember seeing you on the cover of a magazine, and I don’t even know what magazine it was, but there was no apology in you. You were just who you were and I had never seen that before. How is this working? That she’s just who she is and she’s on the cover of these magazines? I’ve never seen anyone like me on the cover.
This is really a dream come true sitting here with you and talking about beauty and character. I know you never knew I existed until I came onto the scene but I think that’s the wonderful thing about being in some sort of public eye. You can affect and inspire people without knowing it. Your work is done and you have no idea. That’s really powerful so thank you for being that for me.
Wek was humbled by Nyong'o’s gracious compliments and shared:
Much congratulations and all the beautiful words you said at Essence. You didn’t have to but it was really, really beautiful. It meant a lot because starting modeling in the 90s it was quite so surreal. They were like, ‘Oh you’re so different, so weird, so bizarre!’ I’m like, ‘I’m so normal, what are you talking about?’ I just love the geniuses that you bring toward to your craft and just you as a young lady. That totally shows through.
(Photo: People via YouTube)