Well, blessed be: Lupita Nyong'o was named Glamour's Woman of the Year for their upcoming December issue, and (it goes without saying) she looks absolutely beautiful on the cover which was released on Monday. The cover story features an interview with the 12 Years A Slave Oscar winner that exemplifies exactly the sense of humble grace about her that has made Nyong'o not only a fashion icon in 2014 but a beacon of hope and a role model for girls and women of color. It's exactly that sense of humility and diligence that makes Nyong'o not just a breakout star but the precise brand of "celebrity" we need right now.
Glamour does well to mention that even though it seems like Nyong'o's star "exploded" in the past year, she is actually deeply studied — Nyong'o is a Yale graduate. As expected, the questions asked of Nyong'o were quite leading; of the variety of "How does it feel to be so successful" and "How does it feel to win an Oscar." The incredible thing about Nyong'o — well, one of many—is her innate poise, strength and humility all coupled with incredible awareness. In response to "How has your life changed?" she replied:
This is actually a conversation I look forward to having in 10 years, when all of this is behind me and I have some real perspective on what happened—because right now I'm still adjusting. I guess I feel catapulted into a different place; I have a little whiplash.... I did have a dream to be an actress, but I didn't think about being famous. And I haven't yet figured out how to be a celebrity; that's something I'm learning, and I wish there were a course on how to handle it. I have to be aware that my kinesphere may be larger than I want it to be.
As the author mentions, Nyong'o has a certain aura around her that makes her seem effervescent and untouchable, which is why I think the interview takes such an awed, reverent tone. Obviously I am also in awe of the 31-year old actress, but my respect for her stems from not only her success but both the big and small ways that she stands tall for women of color. Everything she does is infused with that sense of strength: from adorable guest spots on Sesame Street teaching Elmo to love his skin for what it is or the important projects she chooses like 12 Years a Slave and Americanah, Nyong'o has become a role model even though she says to Glamour that she does not believe herself to be.
One particular statement she made that struck me was on success:
Every time I overcome an obstacle, it feels like success. Sometimes the biggest ones are in our head—the saboteurs that tell us we can't. I've always had that going on: "I can't," and then I do, so the voice says, "Well, that was an exception!" It's a tug-of-war between two voices: the one who knows she can and the one who's scared she can't.
I just recently re-read Roxane Gay's essay "The Price of Black Ambition" in which she beautifully explains the struggle of trying to succeed as a woman of color in an adverse world, and the sense that we must constantly prove ourselves: "I didn’t have to be twice as good, I had to be four times as good, or even more. This is why I am relentless. This is why I am not satisfied and likely never will be." Nyong'o hits home with that same sort of hunger and determination to break paradigms, and I think that humility comes from an awareness that the world around us often makes women of color our own worst critics. She might not be accessible to us the same way that Jennifer Lawrence or Emma Stone are, but Nyong'o's fierce strength and humility make her the Woman of the Year and the woman of years to come.
Images: MTV/Twitter, Getty.