Since the release of the hit movie “12 Years a Slave” in October, Kenyan actress Lupita Nyong’o has been having a busy year as Hollywood’s new “it girl”.
Before her big movie debut, Nyong’o was a regular on the Kenyan television series “Shuga.” The series, produced by MTV, was a hip portrayal of contemporary Kenyan youth aimed at spreading HIV awareness. It was so popular, it later aired in other African nations.
Nyong’o, now 30, had been chasing her dreams of being in the film industry since the age of 19. According to UK publication The Telegraph, Nyong’o was inspired to pursue her dream of becoming an actress when she saw Whoopi Goldberg in “The Color Purple”. “It was the first time I’d seen someone like me on screen,” Nyong’o said. “Whoopi Goldberg had my kind of hair and was dark like me. I thought, maybe I could do this for a living.” she says.
Although “12 Years a Slave” is one of the biggest roles the actress has played, according to CNN, as an undergraduate, Nyong’o worked on the production crew of “The Constant Gardener,” starring Ralph Fiennes. The movie, shot in Kenya, became a turning point for her. She has said Fiennes made her realize her passion when he told her to only get into acting if she feels that she can’t live without it. “It’s not what I wanted to hear, but it’s what I needed to hear,” she said.
Her ambition and humble spirits seem to be helping.
Her intense role as Patsey, in “12 Years a Slave” (which she landed just before graduating Yale’s School of Drama) has earned her rave reviews and a slew of nominations. They include best supporting actress for the Golden Globes and Critics’ Choice awards, and a Screen Actors Guild Award for outstanding performance by a female actor in a supporting role.
The Huffington Post reported that fashion brand Miu Miu has tapped the beauty along with actresses Elle Fanning, Elizabeth Olsen and Bella Heathcote for its Spring 2014 campaign.
But she isn’t letting her style star status go to her head. “Being considered a fashion star is wonderful,” she told USA Today. “It’s definitely a bonus thing. It was in no way my agenda when I started.”
Nyong’os next film, “Non-Stop”, a terrorist thriller with Liam Neeson and Julianne Moore, hits theaters Feb. 28.