"She has African features, she's dark-skinned with nappy hair. And - she's beautiful."
It's been a good year for Lupita Nyong'o. Since 2013, the Kenyan actress and film director has won 24 awards including Best Supporting Actress at the Academy Awards for her role in the drama 12 Years a Slave.
Now the 31-year old, who has a contract to be the face of Lamcome Paris cosmetics, is gracing the cover of People Magazine's 50 Most Beautiful People issue.
"Validation by the mainstream media is what makes this big," says Wall Street Journal columnist Teri Agins. "It's the ultimate validation that someone of deep color, with African features, has been declared beautiful."
However, feeling beautiful wasn't always the case for Nyong'o. After recently receiving a letter from a young black girl who told Nyong'o that she was going to buy bleaching cream for her skin until Nyong'o "appeared on the world map and saved [her]," the actress shared a bit about her past with an audience at Essence magazine's "Black Women in Hollywood" luncheon.
"I remember a time when I too felt unbeautiful," Nyongo said. "I put on the TV and only saw pale skin. I got teased and taunted about my night-shaded skin."
Praying each night to wake in the morning with lighter skin, she'd awaken "and every day I experienced the same disappointment of being just as dark as I had been the day before."
But her views about herself began to change when she first saw the success of South Sudanese supermodel Alek Wek who was first discovered at an outdoor market in London in 1995.
Nyong'o is not the first black woman to appear on the cover of People's Most Beautiful issue. Halle Berry was the first in 2003 followed by Beyonce in 2012. But this time is different, says Agins, because Nyong'o is not "racially ambiguous."
As if the People cover wasn't enough, today it was also announced that Nyong'o will be appearing in Jon Favreau's live-action/CG adaptation of The Jungle Book alongside Scarlett Johansson and Idris Elba. The film is set to be released October 9, 2015.
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