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Lupita Nyong’o Bio
Lupita Nyong’o (born March 1, 1983) is a Mexican–Kenyan Actress and film director. She was born in Mexico, but was raised in Kenya. She attended college in the United States, earning a Bachelor’s degree in film and theater studies from Hampshire College.
Nyong’o started in the film industry as a production assistant on several Hollywood films. In 2008, she made her acting debut with the short film East River and subsequently returned to Kenya to star in the television series Shuga (2009). In 2009, she wrote, produced and directed the documentary In My Genes.
Nyong’o later completed a master’s degree in acting in 2012, from the Yale School of Drama. She had her first feature film role as Patsey in Steve McQueen’s historical drama 12 Years a Slave (2013), winning the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress and received a standing ovation at the ceremony for her performance. Nyong’o is the first Mexican Actress and the first Kenyan Actress to win an Academy Award. In 2014, she was named “The Most Beautiful Woman” by People and “Woman of the Year” by Glamour.
Nyong’o started her film career working as part of the production crew for many films, including Fernando Meirelles’s The Constant Gardener, with Ralph Fiennes, Mira Nair’s The Namesake and Salvatore Stabile’s Where God Left His Shoes. She cites Fiennes as another person who inspired her to pursue a professional acting career.
She starred in the short film East River (2008), directed by Marc Grey and shot in Brooklyn. She returned to Kenya that same year and appeared in the Kenyan television series Shuga, an MTV Base Africa/UNICEF drama about HIV/AIDS prevention. In 2009, she wrote, directed, and produced the documentary In My Genes, about the discriminatory treatment of Kenya’s albino population. It played at several film festivals and won first prize at the 2008 Five College Film Festival. Nyong’o also directed the Music video The Little Things You Do by Wahu, featuring Bobi Wine, which was nominated for the Best Video Award at the MTV Africa Music Awards 2009.
She enrolled in a master’s degree program in acting at the Yale School of Drama. At Yale she appeared in many stage productions, including Gertrude Stein’s Doctor Faustus Lights the Lights, Chekhov’s Uncle Vanya, and William Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew and The Winter’s Tale. While at Yale, she won the Herschel Williams Prize for “acting students with outstanding ability” during the 2011–12 academic year, and graduated.
The next year Nyong’o landed her breakthrough role when she was cast for Steve McQueen’s historical drama 12 Years a Slave (2013). The film, which met with wide critical acclaim, tells the historical account of Solomon Northup (played by Chiwitel Ejiofor), a free-born African American man of upstate New York who is kidnapped and sold into slavery in Washington, DC in 1841.
Nyong’o played the role of Patsey, a slave who works alongside Northup at a Louisiana cotton plantation; her performance met with rave reviews. Ian Freer of Empire wrote that she “gives one of the most committed big-screen debuts imaginable,” and critic Peter Travers added that she “is a spectacular young Actress who imbues Patsey with grit and radiant grace”. Nyong’o was nominated for several awards including a Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actress, a BAFTA Award for Best Actress in a Supporting Role and two Screen Actors Guild Awards including Best Supporting Actress, which she won. She was also awarded the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress, becoming the sixth black Actress to win the award, the first African Actress to win the award, the first Kenyan Actress to win an Oscar, and the first Mexican to win the award. She also became the fifteenth Actress to win an Oscar for a debut performance in a feature film.
She also played a brief role portraying a reserve flight attendant alongside Liam Neeson and Julianne Moore in the action thriller Non-Stop (2014).
Nyong’o was cast to star in Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015). On May 4, 2015, photographer Anne Leibovitz revealed Lupita’s character as Pirate Maz Kanata in Vanity Fair‘s June Edition issue. In the spread, Nyongo was pictured wearing CGI gear with dots on her face, confirming that Kanata’s character will be done via motion capture. Lupita later revealed on instagram that she will be playing the newly announced character. Lupita revealed in an interview at Disney Expo that her character won’t be seen until the movie; though her character’s voice over can be heard in the final trailer.
Lupita joined the cast in Jon Favreau’s The Jungle Book (2016), a live-action/CGI hybrid movie. Nyong’o was cast as Rakcha, a mother wolf who adopts Mowgli. She made an appearance at Disney Expo in August 2015 with Favreau and castmates, Neel Sethi and Ben Kingsley to discuss with Bob Iger about the movie and reveal of the trailer and teaser poster for the film.
Nyong’o will also produce and star in a film adaptation of the novel Americanah.
Deadline.com announced back in January 2015, that Nyong’o were in negotiations to star in Mira Nair’s The Queen of Katwe, a biopic based on the true story about the rise of a young African chess prodigy. Phiona Mutesi, whose rise to prominence in the international chess circuit was documented in a 2011 ESPN: The Magazine article by Tim Crothers. Nyong’o will be playing Phiona’s mother, Harriet Mutesi. Lupita arrived in Uganda in March to begin filming and wrapped up in South Africa in July. Lupita made a three-time stage appearance at Disney Expo to discuss The Queen of Katwe.
Lupita Nyong’o will headline the New York premiere of Eclipsed, directed by Liesl Tommy and written by Danai Gurira. The production, which has been added to The Public Theater’s 2015-16 season, will begin off-Broadway previews on September 29. Opening night is set for October 14 at The Public’s LuEsther Theater. Nyong’o played The Girl, a fifteen year old orphan. Eclipsed is to take place through the chaos of the Second Liberian Civil War, where the captive wives of a rebel officer band together to form a community, until the balance of their lives were upset by the arrival of a New Girl. The New York premiere of Eclipsed made its final extension to November 29. Lupita’s performance received many rave reviews. Charles Isherwood, theater critic of New York Times, called her performance a tremendously accomplished performance that “CUTS TO THE BONE.” Eclipsed will extend to Broadway at the John Golden Theatre. The Broadway production will begin with previews on February 23 and opening on March 6.
In 2014, she was chosen as one of the faces for Miu Miu’s spring campaign, with Elizabeth Olsen, Elle Fanning and Bella Heathcote. She has also appeared on the covers of several magazines, including New York’s spring fashion issue and the UK magazine Dazed & Confused. Nyong’o is on the July 2014 cover of Vogue, making her the second African woman and ninth black woman to cover the magazine. Nyong’o also appeared on the cover of July’s issue of ELLE (France). She has also been a regular on Harper’s Bazaar’s Derek Blasberg’s best dressed listing since the autumn of 2013. In April 2014, Nyong’o was announced as the new face of Lancôme. Nyong’o appeared on other covers of magazines such as, March’s issue of Lucky Magazine, Harper’s Baazar’s (United Kingdom) May issue, Spanish Magazine MujerHoy, Paris Match, Elle (Indonesia), and Glamour (South Africa). She also appeared on the American October ’15 issue of Vogue, making it her second cover in a row.
In June 2015, Lupita returned to her native Kenya and announced that she will advocate globally for elephants with the international conservation organization WildAid, as well as promote women’s issues, acting and the arts in Kenya. WildAid announced Lupita as their Global Elephant Ambassador.
Nyong’o resides in Brooklyn. She is fluent in Spanish, Luo, English, and Swahili. On February 27, 2014, at the Essence Black Women In Hollywood luncheon in Beverly Hills, she gave a speech on the beauty of black women and talked about the insecurities she had as a teenager. She said her views changed when she saw South Sudanese Supermodel Alek Wek become successful. She mentioned receiving the following letter from a girl she had inspired in turn:
I was just about to buy Dencia’s Whitenicious cream to lighten my skin when you appeared on the world map and saved me.
— Lupita Nyong’o quoting a letter written to her by an unidentified little girl from Africa
In 2013, her father was elected to represent Kisumu County in the Kenyan Senate. Nyong’o’s mother is the managing director of the Africa Cancer Foundation and her own communications company. Other family members include: Tavia Nyong’o, a scholar and professor at New York University; Dr. Omondi Nyong’o, a pediatric ophthalmologist in Palo Alto, CA; Kwame Nyong’o, one of Kenya’s leading animators and leading technology expert; Isis Nyong’o, a media and technology leader who was named one of Africa’s most powerful young women by Forbes magazine.
In 2014, the National Trust for Historic Preservation recruited Nyong’o in an effort to oppose development, including a new minor league baseball stadium, in the Shockoe Bottom area of Richmond, Virginia. The historic neighborhood, one of Richmond’s oldest, was the site of major slave-trading before the American Civil War. On October 19, 2014, Nyong’o sent a letter to Richmond Mayor Dwight C. Jones, which she posted on social media sites, asking him to withdraw support for the development proposal.
In popular culture
Nyong’o was mentioned in Christian rapper Lecrae’s song “Nuthin'” from his 2014 album Anomaly and was referenced by Jay Z in his verse from Jay Electronica’s song “We Made It”. She was also mentioned in the parody song “American Apparel Ad Girls” of the drag queens Willam Belli, Courtney Act and Alaska Thunderfuck. Nyong’o was mentioned in the 2015 African song Nerea by Kenyan afro-pop band Sauti Sol.
On October 20, Congressman Charles Rangel and Voza Rivers, the head of the New Heritage Theatre Group, announced the day is officially “Lupita Nyong’o Day” in Harlem, New York. The honor was announced as a surprise during an open discussion between Nyong’o and image activist Michaela Angela Davis at Mist Harlem.
Lupita Nyong'o is a Mexican-Kenyan actress known for 12 Years a Slave, Star Wars and The Jungle Book.