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When we look back at the 2014 awards season many years from now, Lupita Nyong’o’s name is sure to show up as one of the biggest breakout stars of the day. And we can see why. She’s Hollywood’s current it-girl on the screen (Angela Bassett described her performance in Steve McQueen’s 12 Years A Slave as transcendent, enthralling and honest) and of screen (Vogue named her one of the Top Ten Rising Style Stars of 2014).

But is her huge popularity enough to take home the Academy Award for Best Actress in a Supporting Role tonight? Although she may be a front-runner for the prize, fellow nominee Jennifer Lawrence of American Hustle is stiff competition.

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Judging from previous awards, it looks like J. Law may have it in the bag. At just 23 years of age, this year’s Golden Globe and BAFTA winner may give Lupita a run for her money. She’s already been nominated for an Oscar three times and won once. Plus, her quiet, non-campaigning approach this Oscar season is, in some critic’s eyes, admirable.

“Lawrence’s willingness to take a back seat during Oscar season has been admirable — she’s bailed on the events it’s too hard to get to as a result of her extreme career success, courting the possibility it might lead to someone else winning an Oscar,” Salon’s Daniel D’ Addario writes. “If she wins the prize on Sunday, it’ll be in spite of her work to signal that she’s doing fine as is. And in that event, any backlash should be directed at the Oscars, not at her; short of retiring from acting, there’s little more Lawrence could do to avoid acting honors.”

Judging by the performance that sticks with you the most, Lupita is the definite winner. When it comes to her heartbreaking portrayal of young slave Patsey versus Jennifer’s work as suburban housewife Rosalyn Rosenfeld (many critics believe she was way too young for the role), the 31-year-old newcomer is biggest scene-stealer. She proves herself to be well-deserving of this year’s Critics’ Choice and the SAG awards.

But according to Marlow Stern, entertainment editor and writer for The Daily Beast, she may not win the Oscar because the Academy is comprised of old white men who “tend to vote for older men and younger (white) women in the acting categories.”

“It seems like Hollywood has plenty of roles for the Angelina Jolie’s and Tilda Swinton’s of the world, but has trouble placing actresses like Mo’Nique (who won in 2010 for Precious) and Jennifer Hudson (2007 winner for Dreamgirls),” Stern details. “If Jennifer Lawrence wins, which I suspect she will, it will once again be attributed to the allegedly pervy nature of the old, white guy Oscar voters—the ones who have overwhelmingly showered Hollywood’s young, hot, and preferably blonde starlets with Oscar trophies over the past few decades.”

There’s a dearth of roles for black actors—both male and female—in Hollywood, which is, in 2014, unforgivable and needs to be addressed. Now, these past examples shouldn’t hurt Nyong’o’s chances, but they might, and that’s ridiculous. The sad reality is, even though the Academy has a black female president, most of its membership is comprised of old white men, and old white men tend to vote for older men and younger (white) women in the acting categories. I think the Academy will ultimately go with Lawrence because they’re dinosaurs, and because everyone loves Jennifer Lawrence, who can really do no wrong.

MUST READ: Angela Bassett’s Oscar Prediction: Lupita Nyong’o For The Win! [EXCLUSIVE]

This is the tightest race among the acting nominees. Will Lupita’s big screen debut be enough to beat America’s sweetheart? Watch the young talents go head-to-head live on ABC at 7 p.m. EST tonight, and tell us your prediction below.

The Nominees:

Sally Hawkins, Blue Jasmine

Jennifer Lawrence, American Hustle

Lupita Nyong’o, 12 Years a Slave

Julia Roberts, August: Osage County

June Squibb, Nebraska

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For 2024’s iteration of MadameNoire and HelloBeautiful’s annual series Women to Know, we knew we wanted to celebrate the people who help make the joys of film and television possible. To create art is to create magic. This year, we spotlight Hollywood Executive’s changing the face of cinema.