“I don’t feel a need to be anyone but myself” – Lupita Nyong’o talks fame, black lives matter, being confident & more
Oscar-winning actress Lupita Nyong’o is currently doing the media promotion for her a movie “Queen of Katwe” where she acts the role of Harriet, a widowed mother of five, whose naggy, protective survival instinct has no truck with the do-gooding help – coach Robert Katende (David Oyelowo) – promising to change the lives of Phiona and her family.
In a chat with TheGuardian.com she talks about her journey to being the actress she has become, politics in America, being confident and so much more.
See excerpts below.
On her private vs public personality: I don’t feel a need to be anyone but myself. I codeshift between my mother and father, let alone the industry and my home life. So, yeah, I think we naturally codeshift and that’s something I can’t deny I do, but the version of me. Yes, this is me and No, it’s not a grand act.
On her relationship with “Queen of Katwe” director Mira Nair: Mira Nair and I have known each other for a very long time. I once worked as an intern for her, and our families are friends, but she emailed me to say she had the role written for me and would I please say yes to doing it? Less than 10 pages into reading the script, I sent an email: ‘I must make this film.’
On her career after winning the Oscars: The biggest gift or award the Academy has given me is choice. I am in a position where I don’t have to take on roles out of desperation or to help pay my bills. I can choose the projects I can say something with. It’s not something I take for granted.
On her rise to fame: It was actually quite scary and discombobulating. To have lots of men running towards me with cameras, to look back to see what they were running after, and – it was me? It was very jarring. The one thing that made it all manageable was my intimate relationships because they have been constant. My mother still calls me to ask whether I’ve had my breakfast and that doesn’t change because I won an Oscar.
On keeping up the conversation about certain issues as a black actor: Films inspire people to feel differently. A lot more can be done. We can be more empathetic when we realise how much more alike we are than how different we are. But you see, I don’t like to fight the reality. The reason it is so acute is because of the stage we are at. When we are talking about inclusion in entertainment, it’s because entertainment isn’t inclusive and, until such a time as that becomes the norm, then this work has to be done. I feel an impetus to say something because this is a conversation that very directly affects me, and my career, and my role in the world. But I don’t be labour it.
On politics: I don’t imagine I’m not involved in [Black Lives Matter] – I have a younger brother living in America, too, so obviously I’m affected. Obviously, I take these things personally. And I know what’s coming. Don’t ask me about Trump.
On her confidence: My confidence comes from my upbringing. My parents took time to instil a lot of values – patience, striving for excellence, not to compromise. Playing Harriet definitely taught me to appreciate the role a mother plays – that is a no-joke role. I spent a lot of time apologising to my mother for the unnecessary heartache I put her through. I mean, kids are so entitled. So selfish! When you realise motherhood is a part of yourself running amok in the world, and you cannot help but worry your heart.