Lupita - People's 'Most Beautiful Person': Why this is not just another accolade

Sunday April 27 2014

A woman holds an issue of People Magazine on April 23, 2014 in Los Angeles, California. PHOTO | MICHAEL THURSTON

A woman holds an issue of People Magazine on April 23, 2014 in Los Angeles, California. PHOTO | MICHAEL THURSTON AFP

By BMJ MURIITHI
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In the last year or so, Lupita Nyong’o has surprised many all over the world with her steady rise to stardom. She has been associated with success so much so that some people have even lost count of the feathers in her cap.

And so when the People Magazine announced Thursday that the Kenyan actress is this year’s Most Beautiful Person of the Year, many may have shrugged it off as “just another victory”. Indeed one would have been excused to feel a little jaded of hearing Lupita’s name for the umpteenth time. (READ: Lupita declared world’s most beautiful woman)

But what does it really mean to be named “The Most Beautiful Person for 2014” by People Magazine?

For starters, People Magazine is the most popular periodical in the United States with a readership of over 47 million adults. It has the largest circulation of any American magazine. Last year, it grossed over $1 billion in advertising revenue. With those kind of figures, anyone who is even remotely mentioned by the magazine – let alone appear on its cover – becomes one of the most sought after individual in the world.

Secondly, only the crème de la crème in the entertainment industry have ever made it to the cover, a feat that even the most celebrated Hollywood veterans only but covet.

Before the announcement on Thursday, The "12 Years a Slave" actress was best known winning an Oscar for best supporting actress in February as well as a deal she signed recently with cosmetics giant Lancôme, becoming its first black ambassador. (READ: Lupita becomes the face of Lancôme)

Now the daughter of Kisumu Senator Anyang' Nyong'o joins a cast of Hollywood A-listers including Julia Roberts, Cindy Crawford, Tom Cruise and Beyonce who have graced People Magazine’s cover.

She is the 25th person to ever get on the list which was launched in 1990. This year, Lupita topped celebrated Hollywood big-names including "The Americans" star Keri Russell, singer P!nk and actress Amber Heard.

“She’s the total package of brains, beauty and heart, so it’s little surprise Lupita Nyong’o has been crowned People Magazine’s ‘Most Beautiful,’” said the editorial of Daily News, a top ranked American Newspaper Friday.

RULED THE RED CARPET

Kenyans in the Diaspora have also joined millions of admirers and taken to the social media to compliment their ‘homegirl’. “Of course she’s beautiful, but Hollywood has lots of beautiful faces. The way Lupita went from an unknown to an icon in such a short period proved to us she was worthy. She’s a testament to true beauty, inside and out,” said Jason Kinyanjui in a Facebook posting.

Prior to the latest triumph, Nyong’o also ruled red carpets from coast to coast with her impeccable style, racking up a million followers on Instagram.

She has called her People cover a ‘major, major compliment.’ "I was happy for all the girls who would see my image on the cover and feel a little more seen,” she told People, recalling how she used to equate beauty with the “light skin and long, flowing, straight hair” she saw on TV.

She recently confessed to struggling with her self image as a child. “I got teased and taunted about my night-shaded skin. And my one prayer to God, the miracle worker, was that I would wake up lighter-skinned,” she said in a moving speech at Essence magazine’s Black Women in Hollywood luncheon last February.

She said her thinking changed when South Sudanese fashion model Alek Wek gained mainstream success without conforming to a Caucasian aesthetic.

“When I saw Alek, I inadvertently saw a reflection of myself that I could not deny,” Nyong’o said. “I had a spring in my step because I felt more seen, more appreciated by the faraway gatekeepers of beauty.”

People is perhaps best known for its yearly special issues naming "World's Most Beautiful People", "Best & Worst Dressed", and "Sexiest Man Alive". The magazine's headquarters are in New York, and it maintains editorial bureaus in Los Angeles and in London.