Lupita Nyong'o on Star Wars, her Never List and everything in between


Lupita Nyong’o on Star Wars, her Never List and everything in between

In conversation with the face of Lancôme

By ELLE team  December 29th, 2015

We didn't see much of Lupita Nyong’o’s striking face in Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens, where she played the motion-capture character, Maz Kanata. The same holds true of Jon Favreau’s The Jungle Book, out in April 2016, she’s the voice of Mowgli’s wolf-mother Raksha. But through her performance in her Oscar-winning debut 12 Years A Slave, and subsequent red-carpet appearances where she proved she could have fun with fashion without letting it own her, Nyong’o has established a unique identity. The movie star, style icon, Lancôme woman and off-Broadway sensation (for her role in Eclipsed), talks to ELLE about how she stays true — and awesome.

ELLE: It’s been over a year since you joined the Lancôme family. How has the experience been?
Lupita Nyong’o: It’s been wonderful. Lancôme really listens to its spokeswomen and creates campaigns keeping each individual woman in mind. So it’s been nice to know that there is a voice for me and that there is room at Lancôme for that voice.

ELLE: What’s been the most rewarding thing about your role as brand ambassador?
LN: To know that my presence has made people feel more seen. I was in Uganda for a while, and an English-Ugandan girl called me aside and said, “You being who you are has changed my life.” Those were her exact words. She said, “Since you came on the scene I can’t count the number of times that people have told me I am beautiful; that never happened before.”

ELLE: Do you think social media is affecting women's self-image?
LN: Social media can be very empowering because you can put forth your best foot. But at the same time, a lot of people are creating an illusion of what their entire life is. It can be discouraging if you let it consume you.

ELLE: How do you decide what to share on social platforms?
LN: I like to put up things that make me smile, make me laugh, or make me think. There’s enough negativity in the world, and I don’t want to be a part of that. 

ELLE: Tell us about your role in Star Wars
LN: I’m convinced that if I say anything about Star Wars I will be struck by lightning that will knock me out and kill me! All I can say is that the very first time I walked on set, I walked onto another planet.

ELLE: Are there any actresses you look up to?
LN: Penélope Cruz. She works in four different languages and finds honesty in each. She’s open and daring and not afraid to fail. To me, that is a fierce, fierce actress.

ELLE: What keeps you motivated?
LN: I think my motivation changes with time. Right now, it is that I recognise the privilege and position I have. A lot of doors have been opened for me, and I feel very humbled about that. I just want to make good of them.

ELLE: What does success mean to you?
LN: Being able to set intentions, achieve them and enjoy the process.

ELLE: Who has been the biggest influence in your life?
LN: My best friend, Ben. He’s my collaborator, mentor, advisor, gossip partner and astrologer! We’ve been friends for 10 years; I met him in college. He has taught me that it is possible to trust deeply and challenge myself rigorously. I remember when I was told that I was going to do a press tour for 12 Years — he bought me magazines and made me put tabs on looks I liked so I could communicate to my stylist what I was looking to exude. That is something invaluable.

ELLE: What do you value most in your family and friends?
LN: I love that my family and friends keep me grounded. They’re very supportive and happy, and they delight in the glitz and glamour, but they see through it too. They keep me in check. And I love that they bully me! It’s nice to be bullied.

ELLE: What’s your motto for 2016?
LN: Last year was truly an exciting year, but it was exhausting. So this year is about committing and harnessing energy. My word for this year is energy.

LUPITA's BEAUTY FILES:

NEVER LIST: Beige lipstick. People call it “nude,” but it’s not nude on me. It doesn’t complement my complexion at all.

FAVOURITE GLOSS: Juicy Shakers. They come in great colours, they’re not sticky and they don’t run. 

SKIN SAVIOUR: Advanced Génifique is my absolute favourite. It hydrates and revitalises the undertones in my skin.

BEAUTY TREAT: I love a good massage. I think the gift of human touch is irreplaceable.

HAIR DISASTER: When I was 18, I was very self-conscious about my forehead, so I had some synthetic hair fall over it to keep it covered. I’m just glad we didn’t have cameras then.  

Photograph: Alexi Lubomirski for Lancôme; Compiled by Deepa Menon

 

We didn't see much of Lupita Nyong’o’s striking face in Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens, where she played the motion-capture character, Maz Kanata. The same holds true of Jon Favreau’s The Jungle Book, out in April 2016, she’s the voice of Mowgli’s wolf-mother Raksha. But through her performance in her Oscar-winning debut 12 Years A Slave, and subsequent red-carpet appearances where she proved she could have fun with fashion without letting it own her, Nyong’o has established a unique identity. The movie star, style icon, Lancôme woman and off-Broadway sensation (for her role in Eclipsed), talks to ELLE about how she stays true — and awesome.

ELLE: It’s been over a year since you joined the Lancôme family. How has the experience been?
Lupita Nyong’o: It’s been wonderful. Lancôme really listens to its spokeswomen and creates campaigns keeping each individual woman in mind. So it’s been nice to know that there is a voice for me and that there is room at Lancôme for that voice.

ELLE: What’s been the most rewarding thing about your role as brand ambassador?
LN: To know that my presence has made people feel more seen. I was in Uganda for a while, and an English-Ugandan girl called me aside and said, “You being who you are has changed my life.” Those were her exact words. She said, “Since you came on the scene I can’t count the number of times that people have told me I am beautiful; that never happened before.”

ELLE: Do you think social media is affecting women's self-image?
LN: Social media can be very empowering because you can put forth your best foot. But at the same time, a lot of people are creating an illusion of what their entire life is. It can be discouraging if you let it consume you.

ELLE: How do you decide what to share on social platforms?
LN: I like to put up things that make me smile, make me laugh, or make me think. There’s enough negativity in the world, and I don’t want to be a part of that. 

ELLE: Tell us about your role in Star Wars
LN: I’m convinced that if I say anything about Star Wars I will be struck by lightning that will knock me out and kill me! All I can say is that the very first time I walked on set, I walked onto another planet.

ELLE: Are there any actresses you look up to?
LN: Penélope Cruz. She works in four different languages and finds honesty in each. She’s open and daring and not afraid to fail. To me, that is a fierce, fierce actress.

ELLE: What keeps you motivated?
LN: I think my motivation changes with time. Right now, it is that I recognise the privilege and position I have. A lot of doors have been opened for me, and I feel very humbled about that. I just want to make good of them.

ELLE: What does success mean to you?
LN: Being able to set intentions, achieve them and enjoy the process.

ELLE: Who has been the biggest influence in your life?
LN: My best friend, Ben. He’s my collaborator, mentor, advisor, gossip partner and astrologer! We’ve been friends for 10 years; I met him in college. He has taught me that it is possible to trust deeply and challenge myself rigorously. I remember when I was told that I was going to do a press tour for 12 Years — he bought me magazines and made me put tabs on looks I liked so I could communicate to my stylist what I was looking to exude. That is something invaluable.

ELLE: What do you value most in your family and friends?
LN: I love that my family and friends keep me grounded. They’re very supportive and happy, and they delight in the glitz and glamour, but they see through it too. They keep me in check. And I love that they bully me! It’s nice to be bullied.

ELLE: What’s your motto for 2016?
LN: Last year was truly an exciting year, but it was exhausting. So this year is about committing and harnessing energy. My word for this year is energy.

LUPITA's BEAUTY FILES:

NEVER LIST: Beige lipstick. People call it “nude,” but it’s not nude on me. It doesn’t complement my complexion at all.

FAVOURITE GLOSS: Juicy Shakers. They come in great colours, they’re not sticky and they don’t run. 

SKIN SAVIOUR: Advanced Génifique is my absolute favourite. It hydrates and revitalises the undertones in my skin.

BEAUTY TREAT: I love a good massage. I think the gift of human touch is irreplaceable.

HAIR DISASTER: When I was 18, I was very self-conscious about my forehead, so I had some synthetic hair fall over it to keep it covered. I’m just glad we didn’t have cameras then.  

Photograph: Alexi Lubomirski for Lancôme; Compiled by Deepa Menon