Her roots are strong, which is why she flies.
Lupita’s roots are in Kenya, where Vogue travelled with the star to shoot their October cover. Lupita Nyong’o is on the cover of Vogue for the third time. I just did an unofficial tally of how many Vogue covers Blake Lively has and Google images tells me it’s four. FOUR. The f-ck?
Anyway, Lupita’s third Vogue cover is stunning. Obviously. The image is flawless and inspiring but what strikes me beyond her obvious beauty is how much Lupita recognizes the influence of her image and embraces it. There are a few stars who openly reject that “diversity” buzzword and resent the implication that they owe anything to anyone because of the way they look.
In the Vogue cover story, Lupita makes it clear that she knows the power and subsequent responsibility that comes with being a woman of colour – a dark-skinned African woman of colour – in her position in Hollywood.
“Being able to use my platform to expand and diversify the African voice, I feel very passionate about that. It feels intentional, meaningful.”
Intentional. That words seems very appropriate to describe Lupita Nyong’o and her choices. We’ve talked about how long it took us to see Lupita’s face on-screen after her Oscar-winning performance in 12 Years a Slave. After that role, she deliberately chose to play a 15 year-old Liberian girl on Broadway in Eclipsed and a Ugandan mother of four in Queen of Katwe. Through those roles, her goal is to, “offer a new lens on African identity.” I reviewed Queen of Katwe earlier this week. The thing it most succeeds at is showcasing Africa through a lens we rarely see. Katwe is a love letter to Uganda and to a continent that is too frequently overlooked and undervalued. Lupita brought Vogue home to her village in Kenya for this shoot. That was intentional. Queen of Katwe’s director Mira Nair and the brilliant mind behind that opening quote/my new tattoo talks about how Lupita’s intention extends into everything she does, including fashion.
“It sounds boring to say this, but the politics of representation—what we represent when we do our thing—she knows how to use the system and be true to herself.”
Case in point: Lupita Nyong’o’s MET Gala hair. I still have dreams about that hair. Goddamn. That hair.
It wasn’t just hair though, was it? Lupita plays the game by showing up to the fashion events and looking f-cking blindingly perfect but stays true to herself by rocking traditional African fabrics or the Met Gala hair, which Vogue describes as, “high, tall, a sculptural exclamation.” The Vogue story also addresses the controversial statements talent agent Tracy Christian made in 2014. She essentially said that Lupita’s career would last “two-and-half, three years” because of how dark her skin is. Referencing Beyoncé, Christian said, “Being lighter-skinned, more people can look at her image and see themselves in her.”
I could go off on that statement but Lupita says it better than I ever could.
“I have to deafen my ears to that Christian lady… She is looking at me as part of the cultural tapestry.” She throws out her arms. “I am living and breathing. That person is not considering what I had for breakfast, how that is sitting in my stomach, and why I didn’t do well with that audition.” She shakes her head. “I can’t think like that.”
If it isn’t clear to all the “Christian ladies” out there, Lupita Nyong’o is living and breathing and a whole lot of people will look at this Vogue cover and see themselves in her.
One last thing: as much as all of this is important and fascinating and I totally respect Lupita’s privacy, I would love some anecdotes about her love life. Maybe that’s something we can look forward to in Lupita’s fourth Vogue cover?
You can read the entire Vogue feature and stare at the incredible photo spread here.