Born: March 1, 1983
Birthplace: Mexico City, Mexico
Zodiac Sign: Pisces
Lupita Amondi Nygnog'o (Kenyan English: [luˈpiːtɑː ˈɲɔːŋɔ] (About this soundlisten); Spanish: [luˈpita ˈɲoŋ(ɡ)o] is a Kenyan-Mexican actress.
Nyong'o began her career in Hollywood as a production assistant. In 2008, she made her acting debut with the short film East River and subsequently returned to Kenya to star in the television series Shuga (2009–2012). Also in 2009, she wrote, produced and directed the documentary In My Genes. She then pursued a master's degree in acting from the Yale School of Drama. Soon after her graduation, she had her first feature film role as Patsey in Steve McQueen's historical drama 12 Years a Slave (2013), for which she received critical acclaim and won several awards, including the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress. She became the first Kenyan and Mexican actress to win an Academy Award.
Nyong'o made her Broadway debut as a teenage orphan in the critically acclaimed play Eclipsed (2015), for which she was nominated for a Tony Award for Best Actress in a Play. Following a motion capture role as Maz Kanata in the Star Wars sequel trilogy and a voice role as Raksha in The Jungle Book (2016), Nyong'o starred as Nakia in the Marvel Cinematic Universe superhero film Black Panther (2018).
Nyong'o identifies as Kenyan-Mexican and has dual Kenyan and Mexican citizenship. She is of Luo descent on both sides of her family, and is the second of six children. It is a tradition of the Luo people to name a child after the events of the day, so her parents gave her a Spanish name, Lupita (a diminutive of Guadalupe). Her father is a former Minister for Medical Services in the Kenyan government. At the time of her birth, he was a visiting lecturer in political science at El Colegio de México in Mexico City. He later became a senior politician in Kenya.
Nyong'o started her career working as part of the production crew for several films, including Fernando Meirelles's The Constant Gardener (2005), Mira Nair's The Namesake (2006), and Salvatore Stabile's Where God Left His Shoes (2007). She cites Ralph Fiennes, the British star of The Constant Gardener, as someone who inspired her to pursue a professional acting career.
In 2008, Nyong'o starred in the short film East River, directed by Marc Grey and shot in Brooklyn. She returned to Kenya that same year and appeared in the Kenyan television series Shuga, an MTV Base Africa/UNICEF drama about HIV/AIDS prevention. In 2009, she wrote, directed, and produced the documentary In My Genes, about the discriminatory treatment of Kenya's albino population. It played at several film festivals and won first prize at the 2008 Five College Film Festival. Nyong'o also directed the music video "The Little Things You Do" by Wahu, featuring Bobi Wine, which was nominated for the Best Video Award at the MTV Africa Music Awards 2009.
Nyong'o enrolled in a master's degree program in acting at the Yale School of Drama. At Yale, she appeared in many stage productions, including Gertrude Stein's Doctor Faustus Lights the Lights, Chekhov's Uncle Vanya, and William Shakespeare's The Taming of the Shrew and The Winter's Tale. While at Yale, she won the Herschel Williams Prize in the 2011–12 academic year for "acting students with outstanding ability" .
Immediately after graduating from Yale, Nyong'o landed her breakthrough role when she was cast for Steve McQueen's historical drama 12 Years a Slave (2013). The film, which met with wide critical acclaim, is based on the life of Solomon Northup (played by Chiwetel Ejiofor), a free-born African-American man of upstate New York who is kidnapped and sold into slavery in Washington, DC, in 1841. Nyong'o played the role of Patsey, a slave who works alongside Northup at a Louisiana cotton plantation; her performance met with rave reviews. Ian Freer of Empire wrote that she "gives one of the most committed big-screen debuts imaginable," and critic Peter Travers added that she "is a spectacular young actress who imbues Patsey with grit and radiant grace".
Nyong'o was nominated for several awards for 12 Years a Slave, including a Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actress, a BAFTA Award for Best Actress in a Supporting Role, and two Screen Actors Guild Awards, including Best Supporting Actress, which she won. She was also awarded the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress, becoming the sixth black actress to win the award. She is the first African actress to win the award, the first Kenyan actress to win an Oscar, and the first Mexican to win the award. She was the 15th actress to win an Oscar for a debut performance in a feature film
Nyong'o is a fluent speaker of Spanish, Luo, English, and Swahili. On February 27, 2014, at the Essence Black Women In Hollywood luncheon in Beverly Hills, she gave a speech on the beauty of black women and talked about the insecurities she had as a teenager. She said her views changed when she saw South Sudanese supermodel Alek Wek become successful.