Why Lupita is Winning Right Now
I just wrapped up a conversation with a friend about why Black Twitter (or at least the parts of it that I frequent) loves Lupita Nyong’o so much. My fellow conversationalist pointed out that while she gets that Lupita is beautiful and fashion forward, she doesn’t understand why so many people are enamored with her at the moment. She explained that she would rather see the internet going nuts over Black actresses who have a longer resume and who have proven, through the quality of their work, that they deserve all the love that Lupita is currently receiving…after only appearing in 1 Hollywood release.
The woman with whom I spoke had a very valid point; why celebrate a person when they haven’t proven themselves in the field for which they are famous? Lupita is basically a newbie in terms of Hollywood. She’s put in a little bit of work here and there, but in terms of time on the silver screen, 12 Years a Slave is the only work on which most folks can base an opinion of her acting chops, or lack thereof.
I had to concede to the fact that Lupita’s resume is relatively short. She really hasn’t had enough time in front of audiences as a professional actress to justify people singing praises about her skills as an entertainer…but I don’t believe that her work in 12 years is the real reason why her fanbase has grown so much in such a short amount of time.
I explained that people are in love with Lupita because of who she is, and the seismic shift that her mere presence can have on the self esteem of little Black girls everywhere. Lupita is a beautiful dark skinned young Black woman who is thriving in a world that is usually openly hostile toward people like her. People who look like Lupita get made fun of because of the texture of their hair, the thickness of their lips, the breadth of their noses, and yes, the color of their skin.
In her “Black Women in Hollywood” speech for Essence, she reflects on the impact that the absence of dark skinned women in media had on her, how she struggled with being able to see herself as beautiful, inside and out, and how nuanced images of other dark skinned Black women helped her to feel valuable. That moment was powerful because she the IT woman of the hour and she used her platform to say something real. For me, one of the reasons that Lupita matters is because she can tell the story of how the world made her feel that she wasn’t beautiful because the world didn’t (doesn’t) value dark skin.
In the end, my conversationalist and I ended up enlightening one another, which doesn’t happen often on Twitter. My takeaway was that Lupita needs to be critiqued as an actress as much as she is upheld and celebrated for being a symbol for dark skinned confidence and beauty. I think the woman with whom I spoke understood Lupita’s ability to show the world just how bass ackwards it is to deny that Black is beautiful.
What is your take on the Lupita phenomenon ? Sound off in the comments below.