Oscar winner and all-round gracious, incredible human Lupita Nyong-o gave a moving speech on beauty in the days leading up to the Academy Awards. Speaking at a luncheon for Black Women in Hollywood hosted by Essence magazine - where Nyong-o won the best break-through performance award for her role in 12 Years a Slave - Nyong-o spoke of her struggles with low self-esteem, and her quest to find and understand real beauty.
The actress read out a letter that she has received from a young black girl, who told her she had wanted to buy skin-whitening cream until she saw someone with equally dark skin making it in Hollywood.
“I could never have guessed that my first job out of school would be so powerful in and of itself. I remember a time when I too felt unbeautiful. I got teased and taunted about my night-shaded skin. My one prayer to god, the miracle worker, was that I would wake up lighter skinned,” Nyong-o told the audience, which included her mother.
Nyong-o said that model Alek Wek had a similar effect on her when she was young. But that she had also realised that true beauty had nothing to do with fashion trends, or even, really, external beauty. You cannot, she said, rely on beauty to sustain you.
“What actually sustains us — what is fundamentally beautiful — is compassion, for yourself and for those around you. That kind of beauty inflames the heart and enchants the soul.”
Nyong-o finished with this, and left us soaring,
“I hope that my presence on your screens and in magazines will 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 shade in that beauty.”