Lupita Nyong'o, Glamour's Woman of the Year, Compares Oprah's Influence to the Bible
By Antoinette Bueno
Photo: Glamour Magazine
Though it's been more than seven months since 12 Years a Slave star Lupita Nyong'o became a household name thanks to her Oscar win for Best Supporting Actress in March, it's safe to say her fame has not just been a flash in the pan.
According to Lupita, she's still adjusting to her new status on the A-list.
"I guess I feel catapulted into a different place; I have a little whiplash… I did have a dream to be an actress, but I didn't think about being famous," she tells Glamour. "And I haven't yet figured out how to be a celebrity; that's something I'm learning, and I wish there were a course on how to handle it."
Though she did have one very important role model growing up -- Oprah Winfrey, 60.
"Oprah played a big role in my understanding of what it meant to be female and to really step into your own power," she says. "I wouldn’t even call her a role model; she was literally a reference point. You have the dictionary, you have the Bible, you have Oprah."
Lupita also touches on becoming a role model -- especially for other women of color -- in her typically eloquent way, recalling a particularly mortifying incident growing up in Kenya.
"European standards of beauty are something that plague the entire world -- the idea that darker skin is not beautiful, that light skin is the key to success and love," she explains. "When I was in the second grade, one of my teachers said, 'Where are you going to find a husband? How are you going to find someone darker than you?' I was mortified. I remember seeing a commercial where a woman goes for an interview and doesn't get the job. Then she puts a cream on her face to lighten her skin, and she gets the job! This is the message: that dark skin is unacceptable."
But her supportive mother instilled the message in her that beauty is truly skin-deep.
"I come from a loving, supportive family, and my mother taught me that there are more valuable ways to achieve beauty than just through your external features," she says. "She was focused on compassion and respect, and those are the things that ended up translating to me as beauty. Beautiful people have many advantages, but so do friendly people. I think beauty is an expression of love."