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Friday February 28, 2014 10:35 pm

Lupita Nyong’o Used to Pray for Lighter Skin

Lupita Nyong'oLupita Nyong'o used to pray for lighter skin.

The Kenyan actress received the Best Breakthrough Performance Award for her role in 12 Years A Slave at Essence's magazine's seventh annual Black Women in Hollywood Luncheon yesterday and accepted it with a speech telling how she overcame being "teased and taunted" for her "night-shaded skin."

"My one prayer to God, the miracle worker, was that I would wake up lighter-skinned. The morning would come and I would be so excited about seeing my new skin that I would refuse to look down at myself until I was in front of a mirror because I wanted to see my fair face first. And every day I experienced the same disappointment of being just as dark as I was the day before."

Lupita, 30, said she found strength through supermodel Alek Wek when she was a teenager. "A celebrated model, she was dark as night, she was on all of the runways and in every magazine and everyone was talking about how beautiful she was. Even Oprah [Winfrey] called her beautiful and that made it a fact ... When I saw Alek 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," she explained.

Lupita now finds herself in a similar position to Alex, as a positive role model for young black women, and is honored to be thought of as such. After reading a letter written by a young person, thanking her, she added, "I hope that my presence on your screens and in the magazines may lead you, young girl, on a similar journey. That you will feel the validation of your external beauty but also get to the deeper business of being beautiful inside. There is no shame in black beauty."

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