Hollywood’s newest ‘it’ girl makes a bold statement: Black Is the New Beautiful.
On March 2, 2014, Lupita Nyong’o made history by becoming the sixth (!) thespian to win the Oscar for “Best Supporting Actress.” As I jubilantly joined in on the twitter celebration with several “Yaaaaaaaas” tweets, I noticed a relatively small group of people, mostly of color, who were unable to grasp the magnitude of what was taking place.
“If y’all seen Lupita in the street y’all would legit call her ugly but now she got an Oscar she so pretty. Y’all need to stop faking”. -@DanyBonaduce
“Girls a lesson to be learned from Lupita-Even if you are ugly,use that ugliness you may win an
Oscar oneday” -@iGodmanHustler
“Ever since Lupita won an oscar, girls have been all over twitter saying “dark skin is the right skin”. Umm Please stop.” -@Chanelsobubbly
I don’t expect everyone to be #TeamLupita, but this puzzled me because instead of championing black history as it was happening, there was and sadly might always be, that small group of ignorant minded individuals who are unable to see the awe in what Lupita has accomplished this awards season for her riveting performance as Patsey in 12 Years a Slave. Seeing this display of naivety triggered me to question why any person of color would be so blindsided to the fact that Lupita was indeed shattering the glass ceiling.
Photo Credit: Liza Singer
As a community and culture, many of us are not used to seeing a woman of Lupita’s gorgeous midnight hue receive such praise by the white republic. There’s also the ridiculous amount of light skin versus dark skin debates still plaguing our people. For some, seeing this dark skin woman rock the hell out of a short fade haircut and garner so much attention is foreign.
When is the last time you saw someone who looked like Lupita at the forefront? In a world where the praise of black women is often given to the lightest woman with the longest synthetic weave, I understand why Lupita’s raw beauty can be seen as a rarity. However, she isn’t the first dark skin celebrity to make a bold statement. There have been prominent female figures such as supermodel Alek Wek and the legendary Grace Jones who’ve undeniably paved the way for Lupita to take pride in her complexion. But make no mistake–Lupita has ignited a new trail blaze of her own by simply being so confident in her skin and a fearless representation of what it means to be beautiful by your own standards.
On the bright side, there have been important discussions within our community about changing the way we look at skin shades. Still, to the endless amount of women who still receive the backhanded compliment, “You’re pretty for a dark skin girl;” For that girl bleaching her skin to be “pretty” by flawed societal standards– we still have a long way to go. As long as there is someone like Lupita encouraging young girls to embrace their God given hue, Lupita and her dark skin matter. And that’s deeper than skin deep.
Terry Carter, Jr. is a freelance writer living in Brooklyn, NY. You can catch his witty commentary on everything pop culture on twitter @KINGBeysus.