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Who is Lupita Nyongó?
By Toni Kan | Tue, 07 Jan 2014


Lupita Nyongó must wake up many nights and wonder what has happened to her because her life right now, is the stuff of fairy tales.

How many Black African actresses… no strike that! How many actresses managed to snag over 30 nominations for their first Hollywood movie?

Lupita Nyongó that’s who and depending on how many she wins and how well the stars align, she could become the next big black actress in Hollywood.

So how did this Kenyan come to dominate the awards season? We put it down to a lot of hard work and okay, some luck.

Born in Mexico, educated in Kenya and the US, Lupita starred in Season 2 of MTV’s Shuga, which airs on DStv channel 322. She subsequently helmed a short film In My Genes, which explored the trauma albinos face in Kenya.


A scene in Shuga

There was a full scholarship to Yale School of Drama - yes that Yale - and then she was cast in Steve McQueen’s critically acclaimed slave era biopic 12 Years a Slave starring Chiwetel Ejiofor, Brad Pitt, John Giammati, Alfre Woodard and Michael Fassbender whose lust for Lupita’s character, Patsey, provides for the movie’s most emotionally wrenching and bloody scenes.

When Patsey is declared the best cotton picker, Master Epps runs his hands over her as he declares her “nigger among niggers.” His lust for her fuels his wife’s rage and leaves him conflicted towards Patsey, who is often caught between his lust and his rage.


12 Years A Slave

Lupita has enough screen time to make the audience empathize and love her.  Very few scenes can match the emotional intensity of the scene where she asks Platt for a terrible favour.

"Never in my wildest dreams did I believe that I'd be involved with a project of this magnitude right after graduating from drama school," Lupita said in a recent interview with Slant magazine but she is also quick to add that she was lucky to audition for a director like McQueen.

"McQueen chooses actors he trusts. He chooses actors because of the work he is confident they can bring, and not because of a name. And because of that, I got this role. He gave me a huge break, and I owe him a lot for that."

Though a character condemned to pain and anguish, Patsey can be sassy and saucy when she wants to and it is that mix of vulnerability and defiance that makes her character shine and the reason why we will be hearing about her for a very long time to come.
 

12 Years A Slave is also leading the 2014 Golden Globes nominations so tune into the Golden Globes on Monday, 13 January, on M-Net at 20:30. 

Catch Shuga on Sundays on MTV Base (DStv Channel 322) at 20:00.
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