Lupita inspires children in ‘Sulwe’, opens up on her struggle with skin complexion

Lupita Nyong'o
  • Lupita Nyong’o struggled with her complexion and self-image as a child
  • she remembers becoming more aware of herself in grade school and caring about the opinions of others
  • She changed her mind when she when she saw South Sudanese British model Alek Wek become successful.

Lupita Nyong’o, the Academy Award-winning actress and voice of Maz Kanata in “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” will publish her debut children’s book “Sulwe” with Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers next January.

“Sulwe,” which means “star” in Ms. Nyong’o’s native language, Luo, is the story of a 5-year-old girl growing up in Kenya. In the book, Sulwe has the darkest skin color in her family, a fact that makes her uncomfortable and determined to find a way to lighten her skin.

As the story unfolds Sulwe embarks on a whimsical adventure in the night sky that, coupled with advice from her mother, helps her see beauty different.

Like Sulwe, Ms. Nyong’o struggled with her complexion and self-image as a child. Growing up, she remembers becoming more aware of herself in grade school and caring about the opinions of others. It was around that time that she also noticed the language people outside of her family used to describe her “brown and pretty,” lighter skinned sister.

Lupita Nyong'o

About 2 months ago, Lupita bashed a New York based photographer who airbrushed hair when she graced Grazia magazine. She reacted by saying, “As I have made clear so often in the past with every fiber of my being, I embrace my natural heritage and despite having grown up thinking light skin and straight, silky hair were the standards of beauty, I now know that my dark skin and kinky, coily hair are beautiful too,

In 2014, during annual Black Women in Hollywood Luncheon for her work in critically acclaimed film, 12 Years a Slave, she  narrated how she used to feel ugly because of her dark skin and would always pray to wake up with a lighter skin.

But all that changed when she when she saw South Sudanese British model Alek Wek become successful.

“A celebrated model, she was as dark as night, she was on all of the runways and in every magazine and everyone was talking about how beautiful she was.’’ She said.

‘’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.’’


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