“I didn’t need to hear what I meant to her, but I could feel it and it moved me.”
In a recent interview with ET Canada, Mexican-Kenyan actress Lupita Nyong’o recalls the moment she encountered a young girl in January while she was at the Screen Actors Guild Awards. The young girl only wanted to take a picture with Nyong’o, but as soon as they came face to face, the young girl broke down and started crying. After asking her what was wrong, the girl responded to Nyong’o, “It’s just so nice to meet you.” Although those were the only words she said, Nyong’o could feel how much she meant to that young girl and it meant the world to her.
This is why Nyong’o’s role in the new Marvel film, “Black Panther,” is extremely important to her. Nyong’o explains that not only is her role in this film a game changer for herself, but a game changer for women of color.
What Nyong’o especially admires about “Black Panther” is that everything about the fictitious African nation in the film is inspired and informed by the real African continent. Moreover, Nyong’o expresses, “It’s so inspirational to see the depiction of an African nation that is self-determining, that wasn’t interrupted by the assault that is colonialism.” In particular to women of color, Nyong’o highly appreciates that in the film women are equally as powerful as men and the men are not threatened by their power. Every single person, whether male or female, is able to deliver their absolute full potential, and it’s such an honor for Nyong’o play a role in this.
To see Nyong’o on the big screen, stay tuned for the release of “Black Panther,” set to be played in theaters on February 16th .
“Black Panther” and “Us” star Lupita Nyong’o keeps wowing audiences and critics with every performance. She stunned the whole world with her interpretation of Patsey in “Twelve Years a Slave” which earned her an Oscar—making her the first African woman to ever win an Academy Award for acting. Her performance in “Us” made us all shift in our seats watching her amazing portrayal of “Red” the creepy anti-hero of the film.
She speaks four languages, has a graduate degree from Yale, won an Academy Award for her debut performance, has covered fashion magazines and newspapers around the world and has every film critic in her pocket, what else could she possibly do next?
Write a book.
The Kenyan-Mexican actress is debuting her first book this month.
credit Instagram @lupitanyongo
Inspired by the lack of diversity in the books she read growing up, the actress turned author, decided to do her part by creating a children’s book that tackles colorism and representation. “Sulwe” which means “star” in Luo, Lupita’s native language, is a children’s picture book that’s all about a girl whose skin is “the color of midnight”, who is “darker than everyone in her family”, according to its official synopsis by publishing house Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, and is described by the publisher as “a powerful, moving picture book about colorism, self-esteem and learning that true beauty comes from within.”
Nyong’o first announced the news of the book on her Instagram page back in January.
“Sulwe is a dark-skinned girl who goes on a starry-eyed adventure and awakens with a reimagined sense of beauty. She encounters lessons that we learn as children and spend our lives unlearning. This is a story for little ones, but no matter the age I hope it serves as an inspiration for everyone to walk with joy in their own skin.” The Kenyan-Mexican actress told Marie Claire that she hopes Sulwe will offer inspiration to young readers, saying, “In no way do I imagine a child will read this and never have a problem with the world discriminating against their skin or themselves discriminating again their skin. But at least you have a foundation. You have something that reminds you that you are enough.”
The book is illustrated by artist, filmmaker and bestselling author Vashti Harrison, a fervent activist for racial equality herself.
The book is illustrated by Vashti Harrison, the author and illustrator of New York Times bestselling book “Little Leaders: Bold Women in Black History”. Nyong’o said in a statement that she’s loved having Harrison on board, “Sulwe is a character near and dear to my heart, and seeing her brought to life through Vashti’s illustrations is thrilling.” Vashti, an artist, slash filmmaker, slash author, revealed that she wanted the art for “Sulwe” to be eye-catching, magical and whimsical, “The story has an incredibly moving and powerful message, while at the same time shares a fun and whimsical adventure. I wanted to infuse every page with as much elegance and thoughtfulness, as much magic and wonder, so readers would want to come back again and again.”
credit Instagram @lupitanyongo
The 48-page book is aimed at children as young as four, through to the age of eight. Executive Editor at “Sulwe”‘s publishing house Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, said in an interview: “Lupita is outspoken on the issue of colorism, and gave a moving speech about the subject at the Essence Awards in 2014. Colorism is the theme that she’s chosen to expand on for her first picture book. In Sulwe, Lupita Nyong’o shines a light on the prejudices of skin color honestly and unflinchingly but in a way that is also accessible for even the youngest readers. Sulwe introduces an unforgettable character whose journey in the night sky is magical, empowering, and full of whimsy. This story is a beautiful celebration of learning where your strengths lie and discovering the beauty within that kids from all backgrounds can relate to. The story takes place in Kenya, a country not often represented in picture books, and the culture and setting are integral to the story.”
This week, Lupita took to Twitter to share some thoughts on the importance that representation has on young black children like her, when she was growing up.
credit Twitter @lupita_nyongo
On a lengthy post on Twitter, Lupita Nyong’o shared that the book is a love letter to her younger self and to black children around the world. She wrote about how growing up, she never saw girls and women like her represented in the books she read. She went on to say how she was given a glimpse, “a window” into the lives of people who looked nothing like her, and how that made her yearn for a black role model, “I didn’t have any mirrors”, “mirrors help us develop our sense of self”.
“Colourism, society’s preference for lighter skin is alive and well. It is not just a prejudice reserved for places with a largely white population. Throughout the world, even in Kenya, even today, there is a popular sentiment that lighter is brighter.” “Sulwe” is released online and in bookstores everywhere October 15.
“Mi Vida Loca” is a cult classic. Latinos love this movie and it’s a part of our pop culture legacy, but when “Mi Vida Loca” first premiered in 1993 it wasn’t seen in the light that we see it today. A lot of critics panned it. One critic said that while filmmaker Allison Anders mixed “real gang members with up-and-coming Latin American actresses,” the ploy failed “to lend the film authenticity or vitality. The tone seems, to put it kindly, misguidedly romantic.” Another said, “While the characters are colorful and vibrant, the film is strangely flat.” However, this independent film represented much more than it was. For Latinos, it wasn’t just a low budget movie, it was ourselves on the big screen.
It was Latinos representing Latinos. It was our story and no critic could ever take that away.
Director Allison Anders was inspired to create “Mi Vida Loca” after meeting her daughter’s Latina friends.
The basis for Sad Girl and Mousey is based on real people that Anders saw in her neighborhood. Her daughter informed her mom all about the novela that was taking place right outside her door. In a 1994 interview with Bomb magazine, Anders said, “I had seen these two 14-year-old girls with babies on their hips, yelling at each other. So finally I said, ‘Devan [her daughter], what’s up with these girls?’ And Devan, who was nine years old at the time said, ‘Well, Christine and Marty were best friends since elementary school. Then Christine had a baby by Ernesto. But then Marty had a baby by Ernesto. And now they don’t get along.” And that is how the story of how Sad Girl and Mousey was born.
Anders said they filmed in Echo Park, which is where she lived too, right as the gentrification of the area was taking place.
That meant she had to make sure everyone on the set was safe because real gang members lived there as well. Anders said the real gang members she met as inspiration for “Mi Vida Loca” were actually part of a gang that didn’t reside in Echo Park, but a neighborhood nearby. That tension of real actors and real gang members shooting a film in gang territory caused for some interesting days on the set.
“I was very concerned however with keeping the real gang members in the cast and crew safe,” Anders said in an interview with Screen Slate. “So my producers and I involved the Echo Park members every step of the way to know which neighborhoods were safe for us to shoot in. We literally took them in the car location scouting to check out the safety. Sometimes the borders were block to block: “We can shoot down here—but not across the street.”
While some had issues that a white woman was directing a movie about Latina gang members, Anders said she got the dialogue approved by Latinas on the set.
Anders said that real gang members “approved every single draft of the script, and after a while could pitch it and give notes better than anyone I’ve met since, seriously.” She added that each person that was consulted on the film was paid and credited. “We even kept the money in the neighborhood literally – the art department rented set dressing from their homes – which also gave a sense of pride that a movie company was renting some banner they made for their bedroom to put on film. We rented the homes of the parents and grandparents of the Echo Park locas and locos. Make-up purchased the real stuff the actual girls wore from Woolworth’s on Sunset Blvd.”
Here’s one remarkable story about how Anders adopted the child of one of a Latina gang member that died before the release of the film.
Anders said that Nica Rogers, a member of the Echo Park gang, died of an overdose at the age of 19. She was in a few scenes in the movie as well. Rogers had a son named Rueben who was left orphaned after the death of his mother, so Anders adopted him. He is now 28-years-old, married with his family and living in Texas. He is also working in the Hollywood industry. Anders also started a Nica Rogers scholarship that would benefit the youth in Echo Park. It’s so amazing to see this movie live on in not just on the screen but in people’s lives too.