Yesterday, we reposted a video of Lupita opening the box containing her latest Vogue cover. In doing so, she got very emotional. Lupita has been on dozens of covers, so while I thought the video was sweet, I couldn’t exactly understand why this particular one made her so emotional. My only clue was that in the video you could hear her saying the word “home.”
And that was the key.
In the October issue, Nyong’o took the fashion staple to her family’s village of Luo in Kenya. In addition to introducing the publication to all of her overachieving family members. Her father is a senator. Her mother is the director of the Africa Cancer Foundation, and her paternal grandmother built a home for orphaned school girls. In her village, there is a church named after her grandfather as he ministered to the poor and brought Christianity and education to the villagers.
It was important for Lupita to take Vogue back to her hometown because in everything, even down to the projects she chooses, she wants to give voice to people who have often gone unheard. Mira Nair, who knew Lupita and her family for years before directing her in the new Disney film Queen of Katwe, said, “Here roots are strong, which is why she flies. She knows where she comes from and uses that to see the world. She has seen ups and downs through the family’s journey; that gives her a clear-eyed approach to who she plays and what she stands for.” She continued, “She knows how to use the system and be true to herself.”
In the actual article for the Vogue piece, we watch as Lupita’s mother teaches her to make a traditionally Kenyan dish called ugali. When Lupita admitted that she didn’t know how to make this on Kenyan television, she was shamed.
After her mother teaches her to prepare the dish, she and her parents sit on their porch speaking about the ways the monkeys on her father’s farm have intimidated her in to giving up her mangoes.
Lupita, speaking of her increased visibility and even her contract with Lancome says it’s all done with a purpose in mind. “There is no point in getting your picture taken if it doesn’t move somebody.” Her eyes widen. “Right?”
And people have been moved. On the set of Queen of Katwe, a Ugandan-British woman who worked in production, told Lupita, “I’ve never had so many people call me beautiful until you showed up. I get called to auditions I never would have been called to before. And I know it’s because you exist.”
Lupita is aware of the power of her image and more importantly what it could do to change the global culture.
“There are certain cards that have been dealt me that I take on,” Lupita says. “I want to create opportunities for other people of color because I’m fortunate enough to have a platform to do that. That is why Eclipsed and even Queen of Katwe are so important, to change the narrative, offer a new lens on African identity.”
You can read the full piece and check out all of the stunning images over at Vogue.
Veronica Wells is the culture editor at MadameNoire.com. She is also the author of “Bettah Days.”