In honor of Black History Month, we continue to recognize the economic, cultural, political, and social contributions of influential black immigrants and refugees who’ve helped shape the vibrant tapestry of America. Today we spotlight Award winning actress Lupita Nyong’o.
Lupita Nyong’o was born in Mexico City in 1983 after her parents fled their native Kenya due to political repression and unrest. By the time she was one year old, the family had relocated to Kenya after her father accepted a teaching position at the University of Nairobi. At 14 years old, Nyong’o made her acting debut in a local production of Romeo and Juliet before her parents sent her back to Mexico to study Spanish two years later. Nyong’o eventually earned an international baccalaureate degree, a bachelor’s degree in Film and African Studies from Hampshire College in Massachusetts, and a master’s degree in acting from Yale.
While attending college in Massachusetts, Nyong’o served as a production assistant on several movies. Her senior thesis film, In My Genes, was featured in the 2010 New York African Film Festival.
In 2014 Nyong’o won an Oscar for her portrayal of an enslaved and abused woman in 12 Years a Slave, which also won best picture. She has appeared in major film franchises, including Disney’s Star Wars and Black Panther. In 2016, Nyong’o was nominated for a Tony Award for her Broadway role in Eclipsed, a drama focused on captured women during the Liberian civil war.