Gloria MangiComment

Lupita Nyongo’s first children’s book will educate on the ideas of black beauty

Gloria MangiComment
Lupita Nyongo’s first children’s book will educate on the ideas of black beauty

by ROBERT DEX

Lupita Nyong’o has said she wants her first book to reach children before they get to an age “where the world is telling them they are not as valuable”.

Sulwe, a picture book due out next year, is about a girl growing up in Africa who wants to lighten her skin. Oscar-winner Nyong’o said she had the idea after a speech she made about notions of black beauty went viral. 

“It was about having dark skin in a world that favours traditional Western standards of beauty — light complexions and silky hair — and my own journey from insecurity to a place of self-acceptance,” she told Porter magazine. 

“I was touched by how it had resonated with so many people of colour, and not just black Africans.

Read the full interview in Porter magazine (Maria Sorrenti courtesy Porter Magazine)

“I started to realise that there was a demographic that really needed to hear this message but wouldn’t hear my speech. I wanted to get to kids before they reach an age where the world is telling them they are not as valuable.”

Nyong’o, 35, was born in Mexico and grew up in Kenya. She became a global star after playing Patsey in 12 Years A Slave — her film debut — which earned her the Academy Award for best supporting actress in 2014. 

Reaching out: The actress wants to educate youngsters (Maria Sorrenti courtesy Porter Magazine)

The success did have downsides, though. She was swamped with offers that would have typecast her. “I got so many offers for slave roles,” she said. “I didn’t want to do any of them. I didn’t want to be pigeon-holed.”

She was also worried about succumbing to the Oscars curse, where acting careers decline after the high of the award.

“I remember sitting in a pitch meeting for a comedy show,” she recalled. “They said, ‘What if we do a skit about what’s going to happen to Lupita?

"And then we have you go down all the wrong roads all other Oscar winners before you have gone down.’ 

“I said, ‘That’s my nightmare. There is nothing funny about that.'"

Nyong’o has since starred in Black Panther, voiced a character in Star Wars and will feature in a TV adaptation of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s bestselling novel Americanah.

Her modelling career continues apace, with beauty campaigns for Lancôme and Calvin Klein.

The Brooklyn-based actress said her mother was her inspiration. She added: “I come from a very patriarchal world, but not within my family. I don’t underestimate how much she influenced who I am.”

Gloria Mangi is an award winning, creative, journalist, activist and founder of the award winning African Queens Project and host of Queen Things Podcast.