Lupita Nyong’O is passionate about using her stardom to offer a "new lens" on African identity.
Following her Academy Award-winning turn as Patsey in Steve McQueen’s 12 Years a Slave, actress Lupita, who was born in Mexico, and raised in Kenya appeared in Broadway show Eclipsed, about the chaos of the Second Liberian Civil War.
And in the upcoming Disney biopic Queen of Katwe, in which she plays Nakku Harriet, the mother of a young Ugandan chess prodigy.
She is also working on forthcoming film adaptation of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s critically acclaimed novel Americanah, an epic love story of two Nigerians across three continents.
While the actress claims she didn’t originally set out on a mission to tell the stories of African people, it has happened organically, and she is more than happy to take on the responsibility.
“There are certain cards that have been dealt me that I take on,” Lupita shared with Vogue. “I want to create opportunities for other people of colour because I’m fortunate enough to have a platform to do that.
"That is why Eclipsed and even Queen of Katwe are so important, to change the narrative, offer a new lens on African identity," something Lupita inadvertently does as the cover star of the October edition of American Vogue.
In the accompanying editorial the actress revealed she instantly knows whether or not she should join a project.
With Queen of Katwe, which was adapted from a book by writer Tim Crothers, Lupita received an email from the director Mira Nair with the script and within reading five pages contacted her agent and told them she simply had to be a part of the film.
“To play a mother of four in Uganda, a formidable mother who has so much working against her, was so compelling to me. It wasn’t something I thought I’d be asked to do —at least not by Hollywood,” the 33-year-old smiled. “Oh, my goodness, all my dreams were coming true in that script.”
Lupita is also passionate about promoting social responsibility and is supporting a project for girls begun by Salima Visram, who grew up in Mombasa near an impoverished village with no electricity.
Visram has designed a backpack for children fitted with a solar panel that is connected to a battery pack, which can be used to power an LED lamp.
The actress was so thrilled by the project that she offered to devise a message for a backpack, with the more than 500 bags all emblazoned with her quote: “The power is in your step”.