Lupita Nyong’o is People’s Most Beautiful Woman! Today the Oscar-winning 12 Years a Slave star marks her first appearance on the magazine’s 25th anniversary cover.
Shocked when asked to do the cover, Lupita — born in Mexico and raised in Kenya — says she never dreamed she would be selected or named the publication’s most beautiful actress. “It was exciting and just a major, major compliment,” the 31-year-oldNon-Stop star humbly admits. “And especially, I was happy for all the girls who would see me on it and feel a little more seen.”
Nyong’o first equated beauty with what she saw on TV: “Light skin and long, flowing, straight hair,” she recalls. “Subconsciously you start to appreciate those things more than what you possess.”
Luckily, Nyong’o says her mother, Dorothy, “always said I was beautiful. And I finally believed her at some point.” Now she says the best compliments are “when I have been called beautiful with not one drop of makeup on. And also before I comb my hair or put on a pretty dress.”
When it comes to beauty, Nyong’o says, “Happiness is the most important thing.” She also reiterated that the honor came as a surprise during a pre-taped interview with Savannah Guthrie.
“What an incredible journey to go from that feeling to being on the cover of this magazine. I mean, you could have never told me that that would happen when I was 16 and insecure about my complexion,” the Yale School of Drama graduate said.
“I hope it means something to more than just me, to people like me who feel unbeautiful in whatever skin they’re in.” And while she may look at ease at awards shows these days, that’s not always the case. “The red carpet—I mean, that thing is intense!” Nyong’o admitted. “It’s horrific, it’s frustrating, it’s painful, it’s beautiful, it’s funny, it’s exciting and it’s fun.”
Watch the interview below:
Recently, the actress recalled what’s been the strangest part about becoming famous so quickly: “I was sitting, getting my haircut. Someone passed by and peered in and said, ‘You’re really beautiful,’ and I said, ‘Thank you.’ And he said, ‘You know that girl in 12 Years a Slave? That actress? You look just like her.’ I said, ‘Thank you so much,'” she said. “I was like, ‘That is an interesting scenario.’ But I liked that.”