Lupita Nyong’o Says Early On, She Was “Too Afraid” To Admit To Family That She Wanted To Act For A Living

January 29, 2014  |  

As hard as it is to make it in Hollywood, it seems incredibly difficult to be an actor or actress, especially one of color. Roles are often hard to obtain so if you tell people that’s what want to do as a career, you’d be lucky to receive the same type of enthusiasm or support as you would going into a more secure career path. For 12 Years a Slave star Lupita Nyong’o, she says it was these worries, and the lack of successful Kenyan actors and actresses that kept her from wanting to tell her family (including her father, who is a successful politician) and friends that she wanted to take acting seriously. She shared what this was like in an interview with Interview magazine:

“When I was younger, I was almost too afraid to admit that I wanted to be an actor,” recalls Nyong’o. “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.”

Once she obtained her degree in film at Hampshire College in Massachusetts, she decided to stop being scary and go for her dreams.

“I knew that if I didn’t try acting, that would be the one thing I would regret, so I decided to apply to acting schools,” Nyong’o says. “If I got in, I’d take it as a sign that I should pursue acting as a career. If I didn’t get in, I was prepared to figure out some plan B.” She adds: “Luckily, I got in.”

And after graduating from the Yale School of Drama, Nyong’o had her first major acting role on the Kenyan show “Shuga” before she was given the role of a lifetime to play Patsey in 12 Years a Slave. She says that despite the storyline for the film, she found so much joy in getting to tell the story of Patsey.

“There was so much joy in the making of this film, despite the fact that it’s about such a sad, traumatic experience. We all felt like we were part of something so real and so necessary. 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.”

Nyong’o is now the apple of everyone’s eye and a major talent to watch in Hollywood. Did we mention she’s an Academy Award nominee too?

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