“No matter where you’re from, your dreams are valid.”
Kenyan-Mexican actor Lupita Nyong’o has actively been a part of Hollywood since 2005, and within a period of fewer than two decades, she has managed to cement her legacy by sheer talent and versatility of roles. Nyong’o has the innate ability to blend in with her characters and is very passionate about her job, as much as she is about serious societal issues such as sexual harassment, feminism, animal rights as well as historical preservation. Strong and dauntless, she has often voiced her opinion against the wrongdoings in the lecherous underbelly of Hollywood; she has advocated for the conservation of wildlife. Nyong’o also swore to work alongside female and feminist male directors to align her work with her moral principles. Nyong’o is not only an actor but also the author of the famed children’s book Sulwe that deals with colourism and a little girl’s journey towards accepting her darker skin.
Born on March 1, 1983, as Lupita Amondi Nyong’o, in Mexico City to parents of Kenyan origin, Nyong’o’s family moved to Kenya shortly due to her father’s job as a visiting lecturer in Nairobi. While there, Nyong’o grew up in an artistic and culturally inclined family where the children often performed at family reunions, and they would make trips to the theatre quite often. After having enacted in various school plays, Nyong’o’s official acting debut was as Juliet in a Nairobi-based production of Romeo and Juliet. She also performed in other plays before seeking out the intense desire in her to pursue acting. She owes it to Whoopi Goldberg and Oprah Winfrey’s brilliant performances in The Color Purple to have inspired her even more. Nyong’o pursued film and theatre studies in Hampshire College, United States, before graduating in 2005 and working as a production crew.
The young artist worked as a production assistant on several film sets, including well-known films such as The Constant Gardener, The Namesake, Where God Left His Shoes and more. Nyong’o starred in the 2008 short film East River before returning to Kenya to appear in a UNICEF HIV/AIDS prevention drama named Shuga. She found her calling in enacting in various films about awareness, including one about albinism. She received a Herschel Williams prize for her outstanding acting ability at yale School of Drama before she landed her breakthrough role.
As soon as she graduated, she landed the role of a slave named Patsey in Steve McQueen’s 12 Years a Slave. The film is set in a timeline before the Civil War where a free black man is sold into slavery to work on a cotton plantation, tortured mercilessly by his malicious owner. Lupita’s distinguished role of Patsey, who worked alongside this man on the cotton plantation, won her several nominations as well as an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress, becoming the first African actress to win the award. Her radiance and riveting performance amidst the dark atmospheric film was well-received by all. She soon starred in various other films such as Non-Stop, Eclipsed, the Jungle Book and more. Her ability to highlight her character irrespective of its stature is commendable. She imbues an aura of perseverance and dignity which makes her presence a sheer delight on-screen.
After playing her famed roles in both Black Panther (alongside Chadwick Boseman) as well as in Jordan Peele’s Us, Nyong’o received high praise for her bravado in playing varied roles with effortless ease and conviction. She soon went on to star in Discovery Channel’s Serengeti where she voiced out her opinions regarding the lack of representation even in the narrating nature documentaries where one can hardly spot African woman narrators. She praised the crew for encouraging her to resort to using her native Kenyan accent and won an Emmy nomination for her distinct narrative skills. Nyong’o will soon be seen in an ensemble spy-film alongside heavyweight names such as Penelope Cruz, Diane Kruger and more in The 355, besides some other film adaptations and musicals.
Today, on her 38th birthday, let us take a look at Lupita Nyong’o’s five favourite horror films, as told to Rotten Tomatoes:
Lupita Nyong’o’s 5 favourite horror films
- Poltergeist – Tobe Hooper, 1982
- Babadook – Jennifer Kent, 2014
- Martyrs – Pascal Laugier, 2008
- Interview with the Vampire – Neil Jordan, 1994
- Train to Busan – Yeon Sang-ho, 2016