Having starred in a Miu Miu campaign and been signed up as the face of Lancôme within the past three months, Lupita Nyong’o’s fashion ascent has been dizzying – and it keeps going. Today, People magazine declared the actress the most beautiful person in the world.
Nyong’o was catapulted from obscurity to global fame late last year thanks to her performance as Patsey in Steve McQueen’s 12 Years a Slave. Throughout awards season her red carpet appearances won her, and her stylist, acclaim in the fashion industry, while much was written about her beauty. In January, for example, Enuma Okoro said that “for black women especially, she is a welcome sight in a public media eye that tends to obscure the beauty of dark-skinned women, an acknowledged issue in Hollywood circles”. Many also celebrated the fact that Nyong’o broke the Hollywood ‘starlet’ mould by having her big break at the age of 30.
Though this latest accolade may not rank beside Nyong’o’s Academy Award in terms of gravitas, it is an honour the actor has gladly accepted. In an interview with the magazine, she said: “It was exciting and just a major, major compliment … I was happy for all the girls who would see me on [the cover] and feel a little more seen.”
The People magazine award has only been given to women of colour three times since it was launched in 1990: Halle Berry in 2003, Jennifer Lopez in 2011 and Beyoncé in 2012. Previous winners include Gwyneth Paltrow, Leonardo DiCaprio and Michelle Pfeiffer. This year, Jennifer Lawrence, Mindy Kaling, Pink and Kerry Washington also appeared in the list, which is published in full on 25 April.
In February, Nyong’o gave a speech at Essence magazine’s Black Women in Hollywood event, saying: “I remember a time when I too felt unbeautiful. I put on the TV and only saw pale skin. I got teased and taunted about my night-shaded skin. And my one prayer to God, the miracle worker, was that I would wake up lighter-skinned.” She spoke of her “self-hate” in adolescence and her feelings of inspiration when the model Alex Wek rose to prominence. “I couldn’t believe that people were embracing a woman who looked so much like me as beautiful … a flower couldn’t help but bloom inside of me.”