February 27th, 2014
Beauty, Fashion News
Lupita Nyong’o Talks Colorism, Beauty, and Self Acceptance at Essence Magazine’s 7th Annual Black Women in Hollywood Luncheon
By Claire

If you follow us on Instagram, you’re very well aware that we were in the building for Essence Magazine’s 7th Annual Women in Hollywood luncheon!
essence black women in hollywood 2014
Aside from the palpable star power and beautiful crowd, the speeches truly made the afternoon exceptional.
lupita nyongo essence black women in hollywood 2014 7th annual
Lupita Nyong’o, who has wowed onlookers with her acting prowess and undeniable good looks, revealed to the audience that when she was younger, she struggled with accepting her, ‘dark beauty.’
Lupita Nyong'o Talks Colorism, Beauty, and Self Acceptance at Essence Magazine's 7th Annual Women in Hollywood Luncheon, Sponsored by Lincoln Motor Company
She opened her speech with a letter from a young girl, who was tempted to use Dencia’s skin bleaching cream; thankfully the girl decided against it after seeing pictures of Lupita in magazines and advertisements, and realizing that a dark skin tone wasn’t anything to be ashamed of.
Nyong’o confessed that she, too, used to yearn for lighter skin when she was younger, and never thought she was truly beautiful. She said, “And then, Alek Wek came onto the scene. She was dark as night, she was on all the runways and in every magazine, and everyone was talking about how beautiful she was. Even Oprah called her beautiful. And that made it a fact.”
I couldn’t believe that people were embracing a woman who looked so much like me as beautiful. My complexion had always been an obstacle to overcome. And all of a sudden, Oprah was telling me that it wasn’t. It was perplexing. And I wanted to reject it because I had come to enjoy the seduction of inadequacy.”
She continued, ” But a flower couldn’t help but bloom inside me. When I saw Alek, I inadvertently saw a reflection of myself that I could not deny. Now, I had a spring in my step because I felt more seen, more appreciated by the far away gatekeepers of beauty. [Even though] around me, the preference for light skin prevailed.”

She ended her speech underscoring the importance of appreciating inner beauty. Still, her talk touched on salient issues in our community: those of colorism, feelings of inferiority based on skin tone, and the supreme importance of seeing someone who looks like you embraced by the global arbiters of fashion and beauty.
That someone like Lupita could ever think she wasn’t pretty because of her dark skin tone is preposterous, especially when we gaze upon the gorgeous woman that graces our screens every day. That she had Alek Wek, and that we now have her, is a blessing. Young girls need to see women who look like them, so that they can understand that their black is beautiful.
What do you think of Lupita’s revelation?
And have you ever dealt with feelings of inadequacy because of your skin tone?
*Stay tuned for our full red carpet rundown + a Claire’s Life post from Essence’s Black Women in Hollywood Luncheon, sponsored by Lincoln Motor Company

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30 Responses to “Lupita Nyong’o Talks Colorism, Beauty, and Self Acceptance at Essence Magazine’s 7th Annual Black Women in Hollywood Luncheon”

  1. Southern says:

    Overexposure will be her downfall.

  2. . says:

    Well thanks Nostradamus ^^.

    I think things will dial back once award season is over and she will probably take some time for herself. She seems so humble and I am sure that this media storm she’s in has been exhausting. I know I’d be craving just a little bit of normalcy if I were her. But I sure do love seeing her everywhere. So refreshing!

  3. Jessy says:

    Amazing woman, I hope to see more of her (and other like her) in the future!

  4. LadyLea says:

    @ Overexposure!!! i’ve been meaning to saay..
    she’s seriously over exposed, it will automatically lead to us thinking that she’s overrated.
    we love her and we’re all the way here for black women but its getting a little too much now.

  5. The truth says:

    So Kim Kardashian, Rihanna, Beyonce, Nicki Minaj, etc etc are not overexposed? I love everything she stands for and represents and hope she and her message(s) continue to get tons of exposure.

  6. ladyluo says:

    I am all for Lupita’s “overexposure” if only to show many black girls that black is truly beautiful and that they don’t need to change themselves into fake white girls like Beyonce, Nicki and many other black women

  7. this article has really touched me, I did begin to think she was being over-exposed but now I think it’s neccesary. I don’t think there is such a thing as being ‘over-exposed’ in this day and age of social media.

    in response to @ladyluo….I think it’s good to appreciate all shades, nothing wrong with the lighter skinned women you mentioned; Beyonce and Nicki. To each his own.


  8. beautiful says:

    I think light skinned women are hated on so much. They had no say in their skin tone, why hate them?This is why Beyoncé gets so much hate,because she’s light skinned. It’s so not necessary. I think black women are beautiful, no matter their skin tone. I have friends every one dies for cos they’re very dark.i also have very light skinned friends, I’m chocolate. Can’t we all just get along and agree that to every other person we’re all black? Doesn’t matter the shade.

  9. Sasha says:

    Lol the comments on here are ignorant!! Anyway “overexposure” is great because she is teaching girls everywhere that they do not need extra light makeup, contouring of the nose, and blonde wigs to be beautiful. Yay Lupita!!!!!!! For those of you wondering she is everywhere because there are not many people like her in the industry.

  10. Here says:

    She is very pretty I don’t think this should be about light vs. dark. At the end of it all we are BLACK and have bigger challenges to concern ourselves with. I hope she gets future roles and continue to inspire young women to pursue their goals

  11. Anonymous says:

    I love the way her light is shining bright…I’m soaking it up. Let the woman shine in peace. young black girls NEED to see her because many of them are convinced that dark equal ugly. She’s talented and intelligent–she need to be “overexposed”. Some people just don’t realize how important her presence is.. on so many levels.

  12. Really Overexposure!!!! says:

    I don’t think this is overexposure, she is getting attention for all of the right things. Overexposure is Rihanna and Miley Cyrus constantly showing pictures of themselves half naked and smoking weed, that’s the image our children are seeing everyday in social media. The message Lupita Nyong’o is putting out is very positive and it helps that her skin is the samecolor as mines. Let’s not knock an intelligent black women who represents us in a positive light. To call her overexposed is just ridiculous

  13. Anonymous says:

    @Southern You sound like you are part of the tactless masses that keep the likes of uneducated, talentless reality stars who are overly exposed, yet still find someway to be relevant to the likes of you. I hope Lupita continues to grace my television and magazines. Downfall, hopefully no time soon

  14. Cheyenne says:

    ” . . . . . and I wanted to reject it because I had come to enjoy the seduction of inadequacy.”

    That moved me to tears. I am so grateful for her honesty and for what she is doing for this moment in our collective existence and experience. May God continue to bless her.

  15. k says:

    I applaud you Lupita. Keep up the awesome work!!

  16. Really? says:

    Overexposure? This is probably from the same b****** that get SO excited when there’s controversy about blacks being sidelined. PLEASE.
    What, are you embarrassed? Would you feel more comfortable if it was a blonde.

  17. ladyluo says:

    @Rachel-Yvonne, I said “fake white girls” not light skinned because notice I did not mention Rihanna. If you do not know the difference well…

  18. Rosie says:

    Lupita came out of nowhere and took over. She is beautiful and has an amazing stylist. I’m happy for her success.

  19. Dobe says:

    Cheyenne said almost exactly what I was going to post. That line was so deep. I appreciate Lupita for her honesty and I am glad she is having such a huge moment. I wish her continued success!

  20. Mic says:

    Overexposure indicates that one is tired of seeing this young woman. As rare as it is for a woman of her color to get any exposure at all and especially exposure that points to her as being beautiful, and desirable. You people who talk about her overexposure should be ashamed of yourself.

  21. Anonymous says:

    Lupita dear.. You are doing it for me! I love I will never get enough of Lupita..NEVER.

  22. NickieLuv621 says:

    Love ya Lupita!!! @ Anonymous: DITTO!!!

  23. itsjustme says:

    @Cheyenne — i was about to type the same thing. that line brought tears to my eyes. whew.

  24. Lili says:

    OK so my comment was’t published because I am white.


  25. Tar Heel says:

    @Anonymous: you said it all and you said it well!

  26. Lola Reggy says:

    THE OVEREXPOSURE COMMENTERS MAKE ME FURIOUS! She is not overexposed at all. She is gifted and talented! I don’t like to speak in terms of color, but you’ve forced me now, so I will. I remember those days when Jennifer Aniston was overexposed because of Friends and her hair, did not hear anybody then. Now it is the Kardashians, don’t hear anybody about that too. And then a woman of color rises up and knows how to represent without boobies hanging out, sextapes or scandals, and you are complaining….. I am from Europe, I once dated a black guy from Atlanta and he always used to say black rather cut off their own noses then seeing their own people get somewhere, he was talking also about something like crabmentality. I thought the guy was nuts, but now I’m starting to get it. You know what, Lupita I am proud!!! You deserve all the mega overexposure. One thing about black people I’m sure off, they’ve come from looooooooooooooong ways, so when people of color finally have success or reached their goals I am on the sidelines clapping and cheering for you!!!! GO LUPITA GO, LOVE U!

  27. Xi Xi Topp says:

    So, a few things:
    1. Lupita does not look like Alek Wek…I always thought she resembled Ajak Deng & Atong Arjok.

    2. It’s super annoying when Black people espouse the sentiment ‘forget shade, we all Black’…no sh*t Sherlock, but how about let’s stop acting like colorism/light skin privilege is not real??

    3. I LOVE HER (she’s my BFF in my head LoL & seeing her puts me in the same mood as when I hear Pharrell’s “Happy”)

  28. ssmh says:

    Here’s the niche light skin vs. dark all in the realm of European standard. Yes she is black along with the other lights who you say have “privilege”. I would love to hear what you mean by this privilege? Oh the working in the house. c’mon. Wake up blacks!

  29. Michelle says:

    I can actually relate to what Lupita is saying. I grew up in Australia at a time where black beauty is not celebrated or appreciated. It still isn’t in many respects. For a long time I wanted to be lighter, like the black women in American magazines, TV and movies. Back then I didn’t know back then the impact of lighting and photoshop. Just visit any African product store here and you will see the bleaching creams. Notice how all the models on the packets of weaves are super light?

    Anyhow I’m personally grateful because not only is she promoting her beautiful skin tone but also our body type which doesn’t get much exposure in the media.

    Go Lupita!!

    Side note – the over-exposure is only obvious because she doesn’t yet have the portfolio of work to back it up. She could probably put her head down and do more film acting gigs after all this Oscar fuss is over.

  30. Ronke' says:

    I am a Caribbean woman of the African Diaspora. As a child, folk always made fun of my long neck that has rings around it. I inherited that specific kind of beauty through my African ancestry. I used to wear turtle necks to hide it…before I became an exchange undergraduate student in an African nation

    When I was an exchange student in an African nation, I suddenly learned to embrace their traditional view of a long neck as a “royal neck”. I was suddenly thrust into being beautiful because of my neck. When I came back to the States, the model Iman (known for her long neck) was on the scene. I was suddenly being told you have a neck like Iman. I would respond Iman has a neck like me.

    For the benefit of all those who want to discount the emphasis on global color gradation (where lighter skin individuals are more acceptable); it is not something that we can deny. Let us see how long the media is going to continue their fascination with the Nubian beauty Lupita Nyongo who looks like she walked in ancient times on the banks of the Nile River, Tigress and Euphrates…she is absolutely divine. That same media has for centuries discouraged (the dark skin, full lips, curvy body and all the other characteristics) that become targets of media bias, vis-a-vis the beauty attributes of women of the African Ark in the Diaspora.

    Let’s not forget the late supermodel Naomi Sims who pioneered to become a supermodel in an industry with European standards of beauty. All that being said, I wish Lupita and all the other Nubian beauties well, your time has come, enjoy the ride and may the ancestors continue to find you in their favor.

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