Watch Lupita Nyong’o’s First Big Role As Star Of The MTV Drama ‘Shuga’ — VIDEO
At this point, everyone knows that Lupita Nyong'o won an Oscar for her debut film, but this was not her first high profile role. Of course, Nyong'o appeared in plays while at the Yale School of Drama and she played Juliet in a production of Romeo and Juliet when she was 14 in Kenya, but her first high profile role was on a Kenyan television show. Lupita Nyong'o starred in Shuga on MTV Base, an MTV channel available in Africa.
Nyong'o took her role on Shuga in 2008 when she was 25 and before attending Yale. Shuga follows several students living in Nairobi including Nyong'o who plays Ayira, "The Go Getter." Each character is given a description when you meet them, for example, another is Sindi, "The Virgin." Shuga was created as part of MTV's Staying Alive campaign and was meant to raise AIDS awareness. According a CNN article from 2010, "Set and filmed on location in Nairobi, the soap opera came about after UNICEF teamed up with MTV to create a health campaign to impact the lives of youths in Kenya, where an estimated 6.5 percent of its population lives with HIV."
At the time of that article, Nyong'o was enrolled at Yale and spoke to CNN about the importance of Shuga. She said the series shows "how HIV/AIDS is not a death sentence — and that's a really, really important thing. If one catches it early on, you can live a healthy life with HIV." Shuga became very popular, was renewed for more seasons, and went on to air in other African countries.
Clearly, Shuga is much, much different than 12 Years a Slave, the only role in which many Americans have seen Nyong'o, so it provides evidence of Nyong'o's range and helps lessen some of the worry about her next film. Several episodes of Shuga are available for online streaming and you can check out the entire first episode below.