Actress Lupita Nyong’o delivered an emotional speech while accepting an award for best breakout performance at Essence magazine's seventh annual Black Women in Hollywood luncheon Thursday.
The “12 Years a Slave” star and Oscar nominee for best supporting actress admitted that, as a young girl, she had always wished that her dark skin would become lighter. "I got teased and taunted about my skin," Nyong'o reportedly said at the Beverly Hills Hotel.
"My one prayer to God was that I would wake up lighter skinned. The morning would come and I would be so excited about seeing my new skin that I would refuse to look down at myself until I was in front of the mirror because I wanted to see my face first. Every day I would feel the disappointment of being just as dark as the day before."
She confessed that each day she tried to bargain with God by vowing to stop eating sugar cubes and never to lose her sweater again, if only she could see her skin tone change. And, it was only when she saw South Sudanese British supermodel Alek Wek that she began believing in her own beauty, Nyong’o reportedly said.
"She was dark as night and was in all the magazines and on runways," Nyong'o said about Wek.
“My complexion had always been an obstacle to overcome. I couldn’t believe that people were embracing a woman who looked so much like me as beautiful. It was perplexing and I wanted to reject it because I had begun to enjoy the seduction of inadequacy. But a flower couldn’t help but bloom inside of me.”
Nyong’o added that she wanted to inspire other young woman so that “you will feel the validation of your external beauty, but also get to the deeper business of being beautiful inside.”
At the event, Essence also paid tribute to Cheryl Boone Isaac, the first black president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, who was presented the award by actor Sidney Poitier and Oprah Winfrey.
The Hollywood visionary award was received by filmmaker Ava DuVernay, the first black woman to win best director at the Sundance Film Festival, in 2012, for “Middle of Nowhere.”
“It’s just beautiful that among the fan fair during Oscar week, we are able to honor each other and our work," actress Angela Bassett reportedly said. "It is undeniable the imprint that we've made."