There’s a brown girl in the ring tra la la la la…. You may not be familiar with this opening line to the Jamaican nursery rhyme, but you would definitely have heard of Lupita Nyong’o! Various phrases have been associated with the African actress, such as, “Pride of Africa”, “the most beautiful woman in the world” “Lupita Nyong’o dress”; the latter more so than anything else at the moment. Her acting skills brought Lupita centre stage, but designer outfits such as the grasshopper green Gucci dress debuted at the 2015 Cannes film festival, which ended yesterday, also keep Lupita in the spotlight.
It’s said that Hollywood is where dreams come true but Lupita’s meteoric rise to fame after winning the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress in her first mainstream film, must have been written in destiny. Most actors have ‘a look’ about them; Lupita’s most conspicuous attribute is her skin, more accurately, it’s colour. Of course there are a few black actresses around but even in ‘black Hollywood’ we rarely see dark-skinned female actresses given a chance to display their skills let alone applauded for them. Unfortunately when a black actress steps onto the scene, it’s not just about the acting… skin complexion is usually part of the equation. Colourism, the fungus which keeps on spreading is still an issue in the African diaspora whether they are in Europe, the Americas or the Caribbean. However, it does exist in many parts of the world, including Asia, so isn’t just a ‘black problem’. It’s disheartening that the shade of skin has such a heavy influence on who is given opportunities and who isn’t, but this is the current scene of the world today. A dark-skinned African woman with short afro given a chance to shine and be celebrated in Hollywood (arguably the world’s stage for film and entertainment), is a bit of a misfit on the common narrative in this context. In April 2014 People Magazine, named Lupita the most “beautiful woman in the world”. With all the talk of her looks and red carpet dresses, it’s easy to forget that first and foremost Lupita is an actress and I’m glad to see that she is staying true to her love, after all beauty is only skin deep. I first saw Lupita in the African TV series Shuga, but was intrigued by her story like most people, once she garnered attention on the main stage. Lupita’s physical reflection is the opposite to what has been considered ‘acceptable’ by many (including black) cultures, especially in the entertainment business where looks are everything! She doesn’t have Nicki Minaj boobs and booty, which some believe is the epitome of the black female physique (real or surgically enhanced) celebrated in black culture, but she does have tightly coiled afro kinky hair and smooth onyx skin. We’re so used to NOT seeing female actress like her, that it was a shock when she appeared on international screens and the same can be said for Viola Davis.
No one is perfect but within that Lupita oozes confidence, humility and joy. There was a time when she didn’t like her own complexion and asked God to change it. However, her talent on the big screen is a breath of fresh air, inspiring other women from all walks of life as she is the latest person to put the spotlight on the general perception of beauty, which just like talent comes in many guises.
In my eyes, Lupita Nyong’o is An African ‘Affecter’.
Affect (verb): Have an effect on; make a difference to.
Blogging with an African aspect