We can take notes from Lupita Nyong'o 's stunning win at the Academy Awards Sunday night. My breath was taken away when her name was called to accept the Oscar for her Best Supporting Actress role as Patsey in the Academy Award winning movie, “12 Years a Slave”. This is a woman who is living her dream. The final words of her acceptance speech were inspiring, " For every little child, no matter where you're from, your dreams are valid."
All eyes are on her now, and it’s a beautiful thing to see.
Lupita is a living dichotomy; Both childlike and mature, delicate and strong, elegant and down to earth, passionate and composed. She moves like a woman comfortable in her own skin. But that was not always the case.
In a speech given at the Black Women in Hollywood luncheon hosted by Essence magazine, Lupita talked about black beauty, she shared a letter written to her by a black girl struggling with her dark skin tone. The young woman was about to use whitening cream to lighten her skin until she saw Lupita rise to fame. It saved her from herself. This moved Lupita to share her own struggle.
“I remember a time when I too felt unbeautiful. I put on the TV and only saw pale skin, I got teased and taunted about my night-shaded skin. And my one prayer to God, the miracle worker, was that I would wake up lighter skinned.”
Being judged by a European standard sets women up for insecurities and self-loathing. Yes, this is prevalent among women of color, but this lack of self-worth and distorted self image is shared by all women who feel they don’t measure up to conventional standards of beauty.
How many of us have struggled with what we consider our own imperfections? It could be the shade of our skin, texture of hair, our facial features, height, weight, physical disabilities... We grow up believing the lie of our lack of beauty. It becomes the measurement for which we rate others – even our own children. Do we practice self-hate and pass it on? As parents, we often unknowingly inflict our personal pain upon our offspring thus continuing the negative cycle. How do we overcome ourselves?
For Lupita, witnessing Sudan born supermodel Alek Wek's rise to fame was the catalyst for her change. Much to Lupita's astonishment the world embraced Alek’s night shade skin.
“But a flower couldn't help but bloom inside of me, when I saw Alek [Wek], I inadvertently saw a reflection of myself that I could not deny. Now, I had a spring in my step because I felt more seen, more appreciated by the far-away gatekeepers of beauty.”
The wise words of Lupita's mom put things in perspective. "You can't eat beauty, it doesn't feed you." In other words you can’t acquire it or consume it. Beauty you have to let “be".
Lupita began to see herself differently. Her dazzling style, grace and beauty emerged when she began to let it “be”.
"I hope you get into the deeper business of being beautiful inside.There is no shade to that beauty.”
The dreams and aspirations should not be dimmed. Our beauty is there. We just have to let it “be”.
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