She was nominated for best supporting actress for her role in “12 Years a Slave.” Her role as Patsey, the abused house slave with naive hopes of freedom, won most major critics’ awards, and placed her at the top of her game in Hollywood. She became a household name overnight. Here are 10 things you didn’t know about Lupita Nyong’o.

Her multi-cultural heritage

Lupita Nyong’o was born in Mexico to Kenyan parents of the Luo communihty (also President Obama’s people). Her first name is traditionally Mexican, and her surname is very rare in Kenya. Her father, Peter Anyang Nyong’o, a politician — and now a member of the Kenyan parliament — at one time sought refuge in Mexico. When it was safe to return, he took the family back to Kenya. Lupita was raised in Nairobi.

Her ‘Constant Gardener’ resumé

Remember that Oscar-winning 2004 film with Ralph Fiennes and Rachel Weisz? Lupita was visiting family friends outside of Nairobi, and stumbled serendipitously into the film set. Days later, she was hired as Fiennes’ runner. When he inquired about her future prospects and she timidly said she wanted to act, he gave her advice to carry her into her successful future: “Lupita, only act if you can’t breathe without it.”

Kenyan TV

Before her international career launched, Lupita was cast in the Kenyan TV series “Shuga: Love, Sex, Money” in 2008. A popular, and sometimes controversial series commissioned by MTVBase, it chronicled the coming of age of a group of young Kenyans experiencing sexual awakenings. The main objective of the series was to spread HIV/AIDS awareness.

Her life at film school

Lupita enrolled in the film and theater studies program at Hampshire College in Massachusetts. She plowed her way through the four-year program ambitiously; where most students were required to make two films, Lupita made five. Professors lauded her for her passion and hard work. This led to high points in her early film career.

She made a documentary

And this was even before Yale! Thinking she wanted her plan B to be film making, she didn’t hold back. In 2009, Lupita wrote, directed, and produced “In My Genes.” The documentary followed Agnes, a Kenyan who is part of the country’s underserved albino population. Anticipate more filmmaking work from Lupita, it’s in her genes as well.

Yale: she’s no slouch

On her way back to Kenya after graduation, Lupita chanced a stab at a place in the Yale School of Drama’s highly competitive three-year master of fine arts program. Naturally, she slid in like nothing. For the program’s duration, she was cast in many stage productions and roles, including as Katherine in “The Taming of the Shrew,” and Sonya in “Uncle Vanya.”

Her ’12 Years A Slave’ casting

The diploma wasn’t even in her hand yet, when she sent a tape in to the casting director of “12 Years a Slave.” When finally making it out to Los Angeles for a face-to-face with casting director Francine Maisler, Lupita was sideswiped by the intense audition process. The audition required her to enter promptly into the most grueling, violent moments of her character’s scenes. Back in Connecticut, sunbathing, she received a phone call from the director, Steve McQueen. The rest is history!

Her ’12 Years A Slave’ Process

Lupita leaped into the role with a mixture of fervor and understandable trepidation. In Solomon Northrup’s biography upon which the film is based, the author described the stunning impression Patsey made on him: “(She had) an air of loftiness, that neither labor nor lash could rid of her.” It was up to Lupita to find this hard blend, a mixture of childlike hopefulness despite her unspeakable sadness and anguish.

Her ownership of the red carpet

On Jan. 16 2014, Lupita’s name was mentioned with four other talented actresses as a nominee for the Best Supporting Actress of 2013. She is pictured above at the Golden Globes in Ralph Lauren, where her carpet walk caused a sensation; she was included on tons of best-dressed lists including Vanity Fair, Huffington Post, and Today.com. We can’t wait to see her Oscar dress!

Her Bright Future

Already a part of upcoming films, like the Liam Neeson vehicle “Non-Stop,” to be released in February. She is also the new face of Miu Miu, and has graced the covers of “Dazed and Confused” and “W.” While she will certainly not be wearing her new “It” girl status materialistically, we anticipate both important film roles and her smiling, gorgeous presence at awards shows in the near future. The winner is Lupita Nyong’o!



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