Come Oscar season, Lupita Nyong’o will be a household name, but who is the 30-year-old actress New York Magazine‘s predicting will be 2013′s biggest emerging face? The 30-year-old Kenyan is already generating Oscar buzz for her emotional performance in the Steve McQueen directed, “12 Years A Slave” which, it should be noted, is her first-ever American film role.
Nyong’o didn’t believe acting could be a viable career because there wasn’t much of an entertainment industry when she was growing up in Kenya, nor did she see many African women in movies. Her perspective changed after noticing actors who resembled her in “The Color Purple.” Though she acted in plays while attending Hampshire College in the U.S., she was still ambivalent about studying acting until a career crisis made her realize she needed to be a professional actor, and to apply to the best schools, including Yale. The rest, as they say, is history.
In an interview with Vulture, Nyong’o said one of the first things she did was visit the Blacks in Wax Museum in Baltimore, where her friend had told her you could get a three-dimensional experience of slavery. There she saw a bale of 500 pounds of cotton, which is what her character was tasked with picking every day, and she was in shock after seeing it was taller, thicker and wider than her petite frame. Pretty insane, huh?
The 30-year-old will play a flight attendant in February’s “Non-Stop,” the Liam Neeson airline thriller co-starring “Downton Abbey”’s Michelle Dockery.
Nyong’o describes the complexity of her character as something “that really sat with me and resonated because she was this zealous woman, genial, pleasant tempered. But really she wanted her death.”