As part of Lupita Nyong’o being pegged as Most Beautiful person for 2014 by People, the magazine paired Nyong’o up with a person who has greatly influenced the actress and helped her embrace her beauty–model Alek Wek.
If you’ll recall, when accepting the Best Breakthrough Performance for her work in 12 Years a Slave at the Essence Black Women in Hollywood Luncheon, Nyongo’o said in her speech that Alek Wek helped her embrace her own beauty. She had trouble doing this before due to a lack of women who looked like her represented in the media:
“Alek Wek came on the international scene. 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 called her beautiful and that made it a fact [laughs]. I couldn’t believe that people were embracing a woman who looked so much like me as beautiful. My complexion had always been an obstacle to overcome and all of a sudden, Oprah was telling me it wasn’t. It was perplexing and I wanted to reject it because I had begun to enjoy the seduction of inadequacy. But a flower couldn’t help but bloom inside of me. When I saw Alek I inadvertently saw a reflection of myself that I could not deny.”
So when they sat down to talk, Wek thanked Nyong’o for her kind words, and revealed to her that while she was (and still is) celebrated as a model, when she was starting out as a model, her looks ( including her complexion) weren’t getting the best reaction.
“It means a lot. Starting modeling in the ’90s it was quite surreal. They were like, ‘You’re so different! So weird! So bizarre!’ And I’m like, ‘I’m so normal. What are you talking about?’
Nyong’o told the model that seeing her grace the cover of magazines, dark skin and all, made her more proud of herself after years of growing up, wanting to be lighter and look different.
“I just remember seeing you on the cover of a magazine, I don’t even know what magazine it was, but there was no apology in you. You were just who you were. I’d never seen it before, it was just like, ‘How is this working that she’s just who she is? And she’s on the cover of these magazines and I’ve never seen anyone like me on the cover!’”
She would end their conversation thanking Wek for being such an influence on her life:
“This really is a dream come true sitting here with you and talking about beauty and just character. I know you never knew I existed until I came on the scene with this thing, but I think that’s the beautiful thing about being in the public eye, because you can affect and inspire other people without knowing it. Your work is done and you have no idea about it. That’s really powerful. So thank you for being that for me.”
While all of the honors Nyong’o has acquired in the last few months probably mean a great deal to her, meeting a woman who helped her love the beauty that we all can’t get enough of was probably the cherry on top.
Check out their conversation below
Culled from Madame Noire