The Black Panther Star: Lupita Nyong’o
Lupita Amondi Nyong’o was born in Mexico City in 1983, to father Peter Anyang’ Nyong’o, now a prominent Kenyan politician, and mother Dorothy Ogada Buyu Nyong’o. Her father had left Kenya for Mexico City three years prior as a safety measure due to the murder of his brother Charles: both were passionately opposed to the oppressive regime of Daniel Arap Moi (president from 1978 to 2002).
Her mother returned to Kenya with the children when Nyong’o was one year old. “I come from a big family [she is the second of six siblings] and I’m really close to my extended family,” she says. “I remember my childhood as being very vibrant, spending Sundays at one of my cousin’s houses and walking to the pool club – we’d spend all afternoon swimming and eating chips and sausage. Growing up, there was lots of noise, there were lots of people, lots of options.”
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. 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. Both roles – pivotal to megawatt, mega-buck productions – transcend any vague notion of Nyong’o as an ingenue, a rising star. In fact, she will take her place alongside Hollywood’s greats on the Walk of Fame.
Her beauty is luminous – regal – a quality only added to by her notorious intensity. She speaks in hushed tones, calm and considered, forgoing some of the menu’s elaborate offerings in favor of a herbal tea.
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