Lupita Nyong’o has never shied away from discussing her experiences as a dark-skinned Black woman growing up and as a Hollywood star. That remained the case during a recent sit-down with Oprah Winfrey, where the actress revealed a remark a makeup artist recently told her about her complexion.
“There’s definitely still a misunderstanding of dark skin,” Nyong’o told Winfrey on a soon-to-air episode of “OWN Spotlight: Oprah At Home with Lupita Nyong’o and Cynthia Erivo.” “I recently had a makeup artist say to me, ‘Oh, well, you know, your skin can take anything it’s so tough.’ I have very sensitive skin. It’s just misunderstood. And so that definitely then plays itself in so many different ways.”
She also pressed for the representation of dark-skinned women — including behind the scenes.
“The more dark-skinned women that are present and working, the better,” she explains. “And I think it’s about there being a change in the demographic behind the camera as well. And that’s how, then, things will truly change.”
Nyong’o’s sit-down follows the release of her first book, a picture-based story geared toward children titled “Sulwe,” which was released on Oct. 15. Months earlier in April, the Oscar-winning actress explained on Twitter why it was important for her to release such a book, the title of which is a Luo term for “star.”
“I wrote Sulwe to inspire children (and everyone really!) to love the skin they are in & to see the beauty that radiates from within,” she tweeted.
It’s a story that follows a young girl named Sulwe whose skin is “the color of midnight.” She has the darkest skin tone in her family and so she struggles with wishing she had fairer skin like that of her mother and sister. Yet her perception is changed when she’s taken on a magical journey through the stars.
The story is one that resonates personally with Nyong’o, who has previously opened up about not always embracing her appearance. At the 2014 Essence Awards, she candidly discussed “a time when I … felt unbeautiful.”
“My one prayer to God, the miracle worker, was that I would wake up lighter-skinned,” she said. “The morning would come and I would be so excited about seeing my new skin that I would refuse to look down at myself until I was in front of a mirror because I wanted to see myself until I was in front of a mirror because I wanted to see my fair face first. And every day, I experience the same disappointment of being just as dark as I had been the day before.”
Today, Nyong’o is an advocate for speaking out against colorism, which she recently told “BBC Newsnight” “is the daughter of racism.”
“We still ascribe to these notions of Eurocentric standards of beauty, that then affect how we see ourselves among ourselves,” she said.