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For all the red carpet slaying, best-dressed lists, photo shoots and fabulous high-end designer gowns Lupita Nyong’o is being celebrated for rocking these days, she represents so much more than that.

The beauty we’re lauding is coming from within, just listen to her speak. Every. Single. Time. Lupita speaks with such grace and shares with everyone the hard lessons she’s learned being a dark complexioned black girl in this world. So many women in her position–with the spotlight shining so bright–are content to just smile and wave, but Lupita is so here, so present, and she’s not taking the opportunities she’s being given for granted.

A few days before her historic Oscar win, Lupita accepted an award for Best Breakthrough Performance at the seventh annual Black Women in Hollywood Luncheon hosted by Essence magazine. Lupita read a part of a letter she received from a young girl:

Dear Lupita, I think you’re really lucky to be this black but yet this successful in Hollywood overnight. I was just about to buy [skin bleaching] cream to lighten my skin when you appeared on the world map and saved me.

“My heart bled a little when I read those words,” Lupita shares through sniffles, “I could never have guessed that my first job out of school would be so powerful in and of itself that it would propel me to be such an image of hope in the same way that the women of ‘The Color Purple’ were to me. I remember a time when I too felt unbeautiful. I put on the TV and only saw pale skin. I got teased and taunted about my night-shaded skin.”

Lupita goes on to say that once she heard Oprah Winfrey call similarly-complexioned super model Alek Wek “beautiful,” she started to believe that she too was beautiful and that her skin color was not an obstacle to overcome–yet she still rejected the idea of beauty because she had begun to “enjoy the seduction of inadequacy.”

Thankfully, little Lupita could not deny the reflection of herself that she saw in Alek, and the wise words of her mother, Dorothy. “You can’t rely on how you look to sustain you. What actually sustains us, what is fundamentally beautiful is compassion for yourself and for those around you.”

This is her moment, not only because she’s so awesome to look at, but because she recognizes that the world is hers. “Feel the value of your external beauty,” the Oscar-winner says, “but also get to the deeper business of being beautiful inside.” Amen.

And hopefully we, and all of our beautiful little girls (and boys) will recognize that the world is theirs, too.

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