She’s Hot Enough That She Can Play The Love Interest Of A White Man: Industry Execs On The Future Of Lupita Nyong’o

March 28, 2014  |  

By all accounts Lupita Nyong’o was Hollywood’s “it girl” this award season. Embraced by both the fashion and the film industry with more accolades and magazine covers than one can count, one would naturally assume the Kenyan actress’s career has nowhere to go but up. But as we’ve seen time and time again with Academy Award winners, the 31-year-old’s future could just as easily go down in the blink of an eye.

Although Lupita has broken down barriers as part of Steve McQueen’s “12 Years a Slave” cast, it likely won’t be so easy for other filmmakers and casting directors to see the dark-skinned beauty outside of her role as Patsey, and the comments from industry insiders in the latest issue of The Hollywood Reporter prove as much.

Asking the poignant question, what can Nyong’o really expect from Hollywood?, one studio executive responded, “I don’t think she has an audience — not yet — and there are so few roles for women of color; those roles are just not being written.”

TCA Jed Root talent agent Tracy Christian had a bit more of an optimistic outlook on Lupita’s future, though it’s clear she’s not without obstacles:

“Would Beyonce be who she is if she didn’t look like she does? Being lighter-skinned, more people can look at her image and see themselves in her. In Lupita’s case, I think she has two-and-half, three years. If she can find a franchise — a Star Wars or a Bourne Identity — a big crossover film, or if she’s cast by a significant filmmaker, then she’s golden, she’ll have carved out a unique path for herself.

“For someone who looks like her, with a distinctly black, African face, maybe she’s someone who can change the direction for darker-skin actresses, actresses who are definitely not European-looking, but it may require some forward-looking director to push for her.

“Frankly, she’s hot enough that she can play a love interest to a Caucasian leading man, and it won’t be an issue. Lupita is to film and television what Obama was to politics. She made Hollywood feel good about itself. She was a little bit of ‘we shall overcome’ — charming, young, gorgeous.”

Speaking to the curse of actors winning Academy Awards and never being seen or heard of again in a respectable light, Todd Boyd, who teaches about race and pop culture at USC’s School of Cinematic Arts, said of Lupita’s Oscar win: “If it didn’t benefit Halle Berry, who would seem to have, appearance-wise, the kind of package Hollywood likes, it’s hard to imagine things are going to materialize for Lupita.”

One top talent agent is holding out hope though, providing this practical advice to the Yale graduate:

“Everyone would love to sign her. I’ve hardly been in a meeting with directors where her name hasn’t come up. Right now, she should be having meetings with Spielberg and Scorsese. What she should do is just work with great directors.”

Unfortunately, that may not be as easy as it sounds. What do you think is in store for Lupita?

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