As you may or may not know, Lupita Nyong’o recently won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress for her role as Patsey in ’12 Years a Slave.’ While millions have watched Nyong’o’s acceptance speech at the Oscars, but many will not have seen her speech prior to the Oscars at the Essence Magazine’s Black Women in Hollywood Luncheon. Her words touched me:
“I didn’t really understand them until finally I realized that beauty was not a thing that I could acquire or consume, it was something that I just had to be. And what my mother meant when she said you can’t eat beauty was that you can’t rely on how you look to sustain you. What is fundamentally beautiful is compassion for yourself and for those around you. That kind of beauty enflames the heart and enchants the soul. It is what got Patsey in so much trouble with her master, but it is also what has kept her story alive to this day. We remember the beauty of her spirit even after the beauty of her body has faded away. And so I hope that my presence on your screens and in the magazines may lead you, young girl, on a similar journey. That you will feel the validation of your external beauty but also get to the deeper business of being beautiful inside. There is no shade to that beauty.”
I blog about Nyong’o, not because she is an Asian American–she is not–but because I think her words are very applicable to Asian Americans, especially Asian American women, who may want to have lighter and whiter skin. 8asians.com had an early blog post regarding When White Standards are Still the Measure of Asian Beauty back in 2007, so Nyong’s words are certainly still relevant to every non-white person thinking that to be more white, is to be more beautiful.