Who is Lupita Nyong’o? Meet Hollywood's Next Big Star Making Her Debut Opposite Brad Pitt

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Imagine, as an actress, scoring your first big movie role opposite Brad Pitt, who stars in and produces the movie, which was also being directed by Steve McQueen. Well, that’s exactly what happened to newbie Kenyan native, Lupita Nyong’o who is making her debut in the buzzed about film “12 Years A Slave.”

Nyong’o, 30, plays a slave named Patsey in the pre-civil war film based on the true story of Solomon Northrup, a free black man living in New York who was kidnapped and sold into slavery in Louisiana. People recently caught up with Nyong’o during a special screening of the film at the Directors Guild of America in Los Angeles to ask her how she’s dealing with her rising star. Nyong’o says of the experience, “A lot of the time it feels quite magical and I feel it’s like an out-of-body experience.”

People reports Nyong’o is still “trying to get over the fact that my name is being mentioned with people like Brad Pitt.” If the critic’s buzz counts for anything, she may have to get used to hearing her name far more than she is right now. In the film, Nyong’o delivers a stunning performance as Patsey who is another slave on the plantation owned by Edwin Epps. The cast in the film includes Chiwetel Ejoifor as Solomon Northup, Brad Pitt, Paul Giamatti, Sarah Paulson, Paul Dano, among many others.

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However, even among the extensive résumés of her cast mates, Nyong’o holds her own. She landed the role one year out of Yale’s School of Drama and it may end up getting her a ticket to the Academy Awards this coming March. Nyong’o, who has wanted to act since she was a little girl, says “ The first time that it occurred to me that I could maybe make a career out of acting was when I was ‘The Color Purple’. I saw people that looked liked me on camera. I was like ‘Wow! Maybe I can be like that!’”

As reported by Buzzfeed, Nyong’o auditioned for Patsey three times, each time performing two of the character’s most emotionally intense roles in the film. Eventually, she won the role that could possibly make her a household name. Steve McQueen quickly noticed her star power in rehearsal as well; Nyong'o says "And Steve said to me, ‘Thank you for being born.’ Oh, god, I’m even going to cry now.” 

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