Lupita Nyong’o: “My One Prayer…Was That I would Wake Up Light Skinned”

Lupita-Nyong-o-EssenceLupita Nyong’o is certainly shining. The Oscar nominated actress and red carpet stunner has grabbed attention far and wide since her breakout role in 12 Years a Slave. But, at Essence’s Black Women in Hollywood luncheon, she admitted that she used to struggle with her physical appearance. So much so, she routinely prayed for her skin to become lighter overnight. This just goes to show that the evil seeds of colorism abound even for young women whom we would all deem extraordinarily gorgeous.

In response to a young girl who considered lightening her skin but changed her mind when she saw Nyong’o in the media, the 31-year-old actress was extremely candid with the audience of black women and guests when she discussed her personal issues with self-worth. She recounted being teased because of her deep brown skin. And, she explained that seeing only “pale faces” on the television reinforced her insecurities about her looks.

She remembered what it was like to find herself “unbeautiful.”

“My one prayer to God – the miracle worker – was that I would wake up light-skinned…Everyday, I experienced the same disappointment at being just as dark as I had been the day before.”

Nyong’o struggled with her issues of “self-hate” until she discovered Alek Wek. In Wek, she saw reflections of herself. When Oprah Winfrey confirmed that Wek was beautiful, Nyong’o knew that “made it a fact.” She admitted that at one point, seeing Alek Wek wasn’t enough as she considered giving in to the “seduction of inadequacy.”

Her mother would pour into her, teaching her that sustaining herself would forever be linked to her compassion not her physical appearance. She taught her young daughter that beauty was about being beautiful on the inside. It was about self-love. So, Nyong’o fought against the “preference for light skin” around her.

Nyong’o ended the speech speaking directly to young women of color.

“What is fundamentally beautiful is compassion for yourself and for those around you…I hope that my presence on your screens and in magazines may lead you, young girl, on a similar journey. That you will feel the validation of you external beauty but also, get to the deeper business of being beautiful inside. There is no shade in that beauty.”

That about sums it up perfectly. Young women of color, especially young black women, often struggle finding positive images of themselves in the media. And, Nyong’o’s story is a testament to the impact these images have for the very girls who might one day have similar aspirations.

In all honesty, as a young child, I said the exact same prayer Nyong’o prayed. I asked God for longer, less kinky hair. I begged for lighter skin and lighter eyes. I would rush off to bed eager to see what image would await me in the morning only to be similarly disappointed when it was just me…again.

Colorism is one of the most disgusting psychological remnants remaining after years and years of people of color being conditioned to believe that they are subordinate, unworthy, and unimportant. It is our generation’s duty and responsibility to fight back against the duplicity of intraracial hatred and it seems folks like Lupita Nyong’o are leading the cause.worthSignature

 

 

See the full speech below: