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

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


Claire Sulmers is the publisher and founder of Fashion Bomb Daily, the #43 most influential style magazine in the world.

  • Instagram

  • Shares