Lupita Nyong’o has garnered many accolades for her captivating performance in 12 Years a Slave. For her role as Patsey, a slave who is treated cruelly by her owners, the 30-year-old has already won the SAG and Critics’ Choice Awards. She just took home the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress.
— Lupita Nyong'o (@Lupita_Nyongo) March 3, 2014
1. She Made Her Feature Film Debut in ’12 Years a Slave’
In the film, which is based on the memoir of a free man sold into slavery, Nyong’o plays a slave girl who is lusted after by her white owner, and abused by his wife. The actress had to endure rape and whipping scenes during filming.
She told Interview magazine what it felt like to act out this true story on screen.
It was a joy to go on set every day and tell these real people’s story. Doing this movie, I discovered that joy is not the negation of pain, but rather acknowledging the presence of pain and feeling happiness in spite of it.
The actress also talked to CNN about the powerful film, and how she didn’t know how audiences would receive the subject matter.
I didn’t know how, and we all didn’t know how the world would take this film. It’s not easy subject matter. It’s heavy but it’s beautiful and you hope that people would at least open their eyes to see it — and then they did.
2. She Graduated Yale School of Drama in 2012
Three weeks before she completed her masters at Yale, she was chosen by director Steve McQueen to act in 12 Years a Slave. He told Piers Morgan about being mesmerized by her audition tape.
I first saw Lupita on tape, and at first I thought it was a mirage, in a way. I was rubbing my eyes as I was seeing what I was seeing. I brought my daughter in, I brought my wife in and they confirmed to me that I was looking at a great actress.
However, she admitted to Interview magazine that her path to becoming an actress was not an easy one.
When I was younger, I was almost too afraid to admit that I wanted to be an actor. I didn’t know any successful actors in Kenya, so I felt like I could get away with going to college to study film more easily than I could with saying, ‘I want to be an actor.’ That’s what I did.
3. There’s a Rumor She’s Dating Jared Leto
There’s talk that she is dating 40-year-old and fellow Oscar nominee Jared Leto.
According to the Huffington Post, the pair were together at the SAG after-party. They were also spotted with each other at the Critics’ Choice Movie Awards and posed together at the Gotham Independent Film Awards in December.
She did tell NY Magazine that she met most of her professional idols since making it big, and included Leto in that list.
4. Her Brother Made a Celebratory Video For Her Oscar Nod
I LOVE LOVE LOVE MY SISTER! #HAPPY CLAP ALONG IF YOU FEEL LIKE HAPINESS IS THE TRUTH!! @lupitanyongo GOING TO THE OSCARS #notimeforclothes
5. Her First Name is Mexican and Her Last Name is Kenyan
In the clip above, Nyong’o visited Jimmy Fallon, and clapped when the host pronounced her last name correctly.
Her parents are Kenyan, hence her last name, but Nyong’o was born in Mexico City, inspiring her first name. At the time of her birth, her father was fighting for democracy against Kenya’s autocratic regime and teaching at a Mexican college. When Nyong’o was less than a year old, her family moved her back to Kenya, where she grew up. Her father has since become a senator in Kenya.