Photography– Willy Vanderperre Styling-Olivier Rizzo Text-Lynette Nylander
It’s been just six years since her Oscar-winning turn as Patsey in 12 Years a Slave but Lupita Nyong’o has already redefined what screen actresses might be, what they might achieve, what they might represent, and how they might inspire others. In fiction, she has inhabited different worlds, told different stories. In reality, she has affirmed the beauty of millions of black women across the globe, reaching way beyond the limitations of cinema.
Last year, as special-forces operative Nakia in Ryan Coogler’s Oscar-nominated Black Panther, Lupita Nyong’o and her accompanying all-black lead cast – unprecedented in the superhero-movie genre – caused a seismic shift.
Marrying the black experience, which in Hollywood is rarely seen through the African lens, with fantasy fiction, the resultant epic carries an enormous cultural significance that will be its legacy. It was wildly popular:
Black Panther was the ninth-highest-grossing film of all time. 2018 also saw Nyong’o reprise her performance as Maz Kanata in the Star Wars franchise, due for release later this year. Both roles – pivotal to megawatt, mega-buck productions – transcend any vague notion of Nyong’o as an ingenue, a rising star.