A Response to Lupita Nyong’o’s Speech on Black Beauty: Blackness and Empowering Self

Lupita Nyongo: Blackness and Empowering Self


Lupita Nyong’o is the world’s newest ‘it’ girl, now an Oscar winning actress catapulted into fame after her portrayal of Patsey in the film 12 Years A Slave.

Hollywood’s ‘it’ girls often come and go, but Lupita has shown staying power by showing what sets her a part from other actresses (her amazing talent, and ability to pull off anything the fashion gods throw at her). She is not different based solely on the fact that she is a Mexican-born woman of Kenyan descent, but due to her rise to fame and the impact she has on the self-esteem of Black women globally.

During the Essence’s Black Women in Hollywood Luncheon, Lupita gave this powerful speech (shown below):

Prior to this, Lupita interviewed with Vogue Magazine stating:

 “Having come to the United States was the first time that I really had to consider myself as being black and to learn what my race meant. Because race is such an important part of understanding American society.”

Check out that video here (starts at about 1:22):

Recently the idea of what “blackness” is has been a major debate in the media. From cnn.com to the walls of facebook, everyone has an opinion. In this case, I do not believe blackness has anything to do with whether or not you identify as mixed raced, African American or anything else. Blackness is an experience, an involuntary mental response of accepting the fact (that was derived from an outside source – especially in American culture) that you are different or “other” because of your skin color.

I have watched the video several times, trying to understand why I thought her speech was so important. It occurred to me that the true definition of blackness is the acceptance of being “other” and being exalted in it. It is that part of the “Black” experience that creates a community. Lupita needed Alek Wek, and Oprah’s confirmation to accept her beauty growing up, but why is it these ideals are not ingrained within our communities today?

It is 2014 and Black women are still having issues with self-acceptance. So many of us would love to say that we are not impacted by what we see in the media, but clearly that rhetoric is false. I would love to say that Lupita is not necessary for the empowerment of blackness, for women in the 21st century. It would be an amazing to say that people who are in this community of blackness, as a whole, could see the beauty within without the magazine photos and the viral interviews. Lupita is perhaps, the bridge of acceptance by mainstream and in some ways that worries me. Why do we need mainstream acceptance in order to accept who we are?

Lupita is gorgeous, intelligent and an amazing actress. I just wish she was not the necessary breath of fresh air to inspire and uplift the self-esteem of black women.

Empower Self. Empower Us. 

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