You cannot surf the web, read the newspaper or turn on the television set and not see something Lupita Nyong’o related–she is Hollywood’s ‘IT’ girl of the moment. Between unintentionally ‘endorsing’ Clarins HydraQuench Moisture Replenishing lip balm, which has now sold out and stacking up on gold and silver accolades, it is evident that everyone is experiencing Lupita Fever (and with good reason!)
Lupita Nyong’o stunned at last month's Oscars, wearing a powder blue Prada dress, matching shoes and a gold and diamond Fred Leighton headband. The media drew comparisons to Cinderella. Those on social media went as far as to say, she was a “spitting image” of the Disney character. This is laughable. Without stating the obvious (translation: race), Nyong’o isn’t Cinderella. Her path to Hollywood is not Cinderella-esque. Beginning her career in Kenya on the TV show, Shuga, fresh out of Yale School of Drama with a breakthrough role as Patsey in 12 Years a Slave, to now waiting for her Prince Charming in Jared Leto—-J/K, she's allegedly dating Somali-born musician K'Naan—to make her fairytale complete, isn't exactly a Cinderella story. (Sidebar: Did we really believe Lupita is a damsel in distress waiting for her Prince Charming? Give me a break).
Not even the blue gown passes the Disney princess test. On the biggest night of her life, Nyong’o dressed with her hometown on her mind. On the Oscar’s red carpet, when asked about her choice of attire by Ryan Seacrest, she stated, “It's a blue that reminds me of Nairobi, so I wanted to have a little bit of home." At this very moment, Lupita was conveying to little girls [and boys] back in Kenya to dream as far as the sky, similar to the blue she wore. As she said in her acceptance speech, “no matter where you’re from, your dreams are valid.” Her being was and is enough. The thought of a fictional character was the farthest thing from her mind, because there is nothing fictional or flippant about bringing hope and inspiration to people who looks similar to you.
It was Alek Wek for Lupita. During Essence’s annual Women in Hollywood Luncheon, Nyong’o expressed her moments of feeling unbeautiful as an adolescent. It was the encouragement from her mother as well as the sight of Alek Wek walking global runways that brought a sense of security. Wek’s being was enough. In an industry that celebrates the polar opposite of their looks, is the exact reason why we shouldn’t pit Cinderella besides Lupita Nyong’o and ask ‘who wore it better.’ It’s a dangerous and debilitating comparison. Just pull up the Kenneth and Maime Clark doll test.
In just about ever corner of the world, including America, light and/or White is right. Images that are sprawled on billboard advertisements, music videos, magazine shows and television visuals are not Lupita. Rather, the Cinderellas, Snow Whites and Belles and Jennifers (Anniston, Garner, Lawrence, Lopez) are the popular figures. This is why bleaching creams are selling insanely (ask Dencia) and many are putting their health on the line to attain beauty standards that are valued so high. Colorism is not a fantasy. Young girls and women alike find their self-esteem bruised and battered. The feeling of royalty is too unfamiliar for our girls. So when royalty stands before us, sharing is no longer caring. The magic of Lupita cannot truly belong to the mainstream media or audiences. That moment is for the brown girl in Kenya, in Oakland and beyond.
When I was a little girl, the first book I was given and expected to read on a daily basis was a big book of fairytales: Little Red Riding Hood, Cinderella, Snow White and the other usual suspects. While I enjoyed the storylines itself, the relatable factor was missing. Where was the girl that had a similar hair texture to mine and brown skin? She did not exist. So I beg you to allow children to choose their own princesses and not put the title of "Cinderella" on Lupita. There is no need to reinvent the classic tale to fit a woman who is just too great to fit within it's pages. Let a new fairytale—one that does not neglect the hard work that this woman has put in to get to where she is—emerge for our girls.
Queen Lupita has a nice ring to it. Maybe Princess Nyong’o or Goddess Lupie. Or even just LUPITA. But regardless of what we call her, let us hope that little Black girls get to have this story without Hollywood, mainstream or even Black media trying to make her anything that she's not.