The rise and rise of Lupita Nyong’o

The Kenyan-Mexican actress first caught the world's attention in 2014's '12 Years a Slave' and now also counts 'best-selling author' among her many credits

31 December 2021 - 00:00 By STAFF REPORTER
Lupita Nyong'o as Adelaide and her eerie doppelganger in director Jordan Peele's second movie 'Us'.
Lupita Nyong'o as Adelaide and her eerie doppelganger in director Jordan Peele's second movie 'Us'.
Image: Supplied

At just 27, Lupita Nyong’o has already picked up 98 awards and 108 nominations. In 2014, as a little-known actress, she stunned the world in her performance in Steve McQueen’s 12 Years a Slave, winning an Oscar for Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role.

Nyong’o’s portrayal of Patsey, a brutally abused slave on a Louisiana cotton plantation, garnered rave reviews, with Peter Travers of Rolling Stone stating that she "is a spectacular young actress who imbues Patsey with grit and radiant grace".

Her other major roles on the big screen include:

  • F in the short film East River (2008) 
  • Gwen Lloyd in Non-Stop (2014)
  • Maz Kanata in Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015)
  • The voice of Raksha in The Jungle Book (2016)
  • Nakku Harriet in Queen of Katwe (2016) 
  • Maz Kanata in Star Wars: The Last Jedi (2017)
  • Nakia in Black Panther (2018)
  • Miss Audrey in Little Monsters (2019)
  • Adelaide Wilson/Red in Us (2019)
  • Maz Kanata in Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker (2019)

Major TV roles include:

  • Ayira in Shuga: five episodes (2009–2012)
  • The voice of Maz Kanata in Star Wars Forces of Destiny: 32 episodes (2017–2018)
  • Star Wars Rebels Archive recording; Episode: "A World Between Worlds" (2018)
  • Host of documentary Warrior Women with Lupita Nyong’o (2019)
  • Narrator of documentary Serengeti (2019–present)
  • Executive producer and voice in Super Sema: four episodes (2021)
  • Narrator of documentary Who Are You, Charlie Brown? (2021)

In addition to seeing her play Khadijah in The 355 and seeing her produce and star role in the film adaptation of Trevor Noah’s memoir Born a Crime, we can look forward to Nyong’o resuming her role as Nakia in Black Panther: Forever in 2022. She will also team with Natalie Portman to produce and star in a TV adaptation of Laura Lippman's novel Lady in the Lake.

Lupita Nyong'o is flanked by Danai Gurira and Florence Kasumba, who are the Dora Milaje, the king's special forces, in 'Black Panther'.
Lupita Nyong'o is flanked by Danai Gurira and Florence Kasumba, who are the Dora Milaje, the king's special forces, in 'Black Panther'.
Image: Supplied

Nyong’o has also had success as a writer, with her children's book Sulwe (2019), becoming a New York Times best-seller. Based on her own experience, it follows the story of a young girl who wishes that her dark skin was lighter. Nyong’o is planning an animated musical based on the book.

With an Oscar in the bag, and making Forbes's list of Africa's "50 Most Powerful Women", what's next for this powerhouse?

• Credit: Wikipedia and IMBd


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