I love Lupita Nyong'o. She is incredibly important to me. Not only is she an incredibly gifted actress, but her very presence has been actively re-envisioning notions of Black beauty.
Lupita is very aware of this. She has said, "The thing about having your image projected on many screens all over the world is that your image becomes something bigger than you. it has a life of its own and that life is inspiring young, dark-skinned, or any complexion people to see beauty."
I feel validated when I see her on my television and in pictures online. She is giving visibility to dark-skinned women who often go invisible. At least within the realms of beauty politics.
But she is also doing another very important thing. She is letting women know, especially dark-skinned women, that we can be beautiful in the traditional sense of the word. But that we can also re-conceptualize beauty standards entirely. Lupita is at the forefront of challenging hegemonic notions of beauty.
At the NAACP Image Awards, where Lupita won the award for Best Supporting Actress, she gave a very moving acceptance speech where she theorized the role of beauty in the lives of Black women. She said, "Beauty was not a thing I could acquire or do. It was something I had to be."
Lupita reminds me that while beauty is a performance that dark-skinned Black women can perform, it is moreover an intrinsic quality. We do not need to accommodate Eurocentric beauty standards. We can be powerful, loving, and graceful on our own terms.
We can own our beauty. Lupita reminds me that we do not need permission to do so.