Don’t define Lupita Nyong’o’s career by your standard of success, especially if your idea of success only consists of “big” Hollywood roles.
Lupita Nyong’o chose to star in the Broadway play Eclipse, for which she snagged a Tony Award nomination, because it portrayed a strong African woman, like herself, who faces unimaginable odds during the Liberian Civil War. Yet some see the gig as a step down from her Oscar-winning debut in 12 Years A Slave.
Lupita recently penned a retrospective in Lena Dunham’s Lenny newsletter about an experience with a reporter who questioned her career path. A journalist asked, “Why would such a big star choose to do such a small play?”
If forced Lupita to question the “value system” in our culture.
“I think as women, as women of color, as black women, too often we hear about what we ‘need to do,’” Nyong’o wrote.. “How we need to behave, what we need to wear, what’s deemed as too much or not enough, the cultural politics of what society considers appropriate for us and for our lives.”
“So often women of color are relegated to playing simple tropes: the sidekick, the best friend, the noble savage, or the clown … I love the idea of people of color participating in mythical, magical stories, whether that’s as hero, villain, sage, or sorceress. Or all of the above! I think sometimes a singular catharsis can be found in genre storytelling — as I found when playing a thousand-year-old woman (Maz Kanata in Star Wars: The Force Awakens) and a wolf mother (Raksha in The Jungle Book). I’m able to be more engaged in roles such as those than I would be in playing “the wife” when she is written with no motivation or singularity. Even more important than the genre are the intention of the author, what story is being told, and the power of the emotional journey of the characters. In Eclipsed, Danai has blessed us with five such journeys. None of these women are tropes. They are battling real demons, living with difficult decisions in an all-too-real world stricken with the trauma of war. It’s an incredible gift to play one of them, and it’s liberating to share this view into women’s experiences with a Broadway audience.”
Read the full piece, here.