By Kye Makyeli
Clad in a custom ‘Nairobi Blue” Prada silk georgette gown, Kenyan actress Lupita Nyong’o became the first African woman to win the Academy Award for ‘Best Supporting Actress’ at the Oscars in the movie ‘12 Years A Slave’, which also stars Brad Pitt and British – Nigerian actor, Chiwetel Ejiofor. Five months ago, however, not everyone was thrilled at the building star’s quick rise to fame after she had bagged the ‘New Hollywood Award’ at the 17th Hollywood awards held at the Beverly Hills Hilton. Just shortly after receiving her first internationally recognized accolade, a blog post made its rounds on the World Wide Web.
“Lupita does not have IT. At her age if she had IT she would be a Hollywood star by now. There are not many roles suiting her “here I come straight-out-of-the-jungle” ethnic looks-I guess that’s why she is in a Slavery Movie. I wonder how many slavery movies are created by Hollywood per year. Lupita can continue hanging out with wazungu thinking they love her but the truth is that in big screen, she cannot play any other role but slave related. So I understand that Miss Malaika Lupita thinks she is the best thing on earth but the truth is the opposite. Hollywood is a different beast. She is not even the main character in that movie. Hollywood is the most cutthroat club in the world. It is extremely difficult to cut it in Hollywood if you started your career playing slave roles.
…Unfortunately for Lupita, her looks doesn’t help. Hollywood likes Halle Berry looks. At least for women, being charcoal dark doesn’t help. For men, dark is good. Eddie Murphy opened the doors for the darkest of black men to become super stars. Darkness is sexiness if you are a dude; if you are a lady, Halle Berry is the standard…”
It was posted by one Dr. Fred Shamalla Masinde, a Kenyan residing (sic) in Brooklyn, New York. His rant was received by an uproar from social media platforms in their variety. It wasn’t an attack on just Lupita but on African women everywhere!
I don’t know what was more appalling: the fact that these prejudicial remarks came from such a learned individual or the fact that they were directed to fellow Kenyans, let alone African! As a people, we cannot expect any positive development or forward progression while such a mediocre mentality exists among us.
Will someone please tell Dr. Masinde it’s the 21st century?
Judging one’s talent, beauty or potential on basic demographics like race, gender, sexual orientation is just a form of petty ignorance, and so is implying that darker-skinned women should lower their expectations of venturing beyond the local African market and into Hollywood.
As Africans, we do not have to be constantly reminded of what position our skin tone naturally placed us in. Inferior. Minor. Down pressed. And in a society and era where beauty in defined by skin tone and weave length, we need to look up to strong willed women like Lupita. And she’s not the only one.
Discovered by a model scout in an outdoor market, Sudanese model Alek Wek went to become the first African model to appear on the cover of Elle Magazine in 1997. By doing this she broke barriers in the modeling world and her mainstream success was celebrated by black women all over the world.
In an interview for a magazine, Lupita cited Alek as one of her inspirations when asked about beauty: “When I saw Alek, I inadvertently saw a reflection of myself that I could not deny,” she added. “Now I had a spring in my step because I felt more seen, more appreciated by the far away gate keepers of beauty.”
Even billionaire-philanthropist Oprah Winfrey once said in an interview, “If (Wek) had been on the cover of a magazine when I was growing up, I would have a different concept of who I was.”
We must rise above such stereotypical fallacies and free ourselves from this mental and emotional bondage to prove such archaic and chauvinistic people wrong.
Lupita and Alek did just that.
And for that, we salute these ebony beauties!