Lupita Nyong’o has been a very busy celebrity lately. She announced on January 17 via Twitter that she will have a children’s book ready for release in January of 2019.
Awfully early, one might think, to start hyping a book that’s set to come out a year later. But not for Lupita. With the release of the highly anticipated Marvel movie Black Panther set for release on February 16, Lupita seems to want to ride on the hype generated by it to get the news out on a book that will be on a topic that’s dear to her heart: dark skin is beautiful.
Lupita’s tweet contained a link to a New York Times piece by Lovia Gyarkye on January 17. Lovia wrote: “Lupita will write her debut children’s book Sulwe for Simon & Schuster Books for young readers next January. The picture book is aimed at readers between the ages of five and seven. An illustrator has not yet been announced.
“Sulwe which means ‘star’ in Ms Nyong’o’s native language, Luo, is the story of a five-year-old girl growing up in Kenya. Sulwe has the darkest skin colour in her family, a fact that makes her uncomfortable and determined to find a way to lighten her skin.
“As the story unfolds Sulwe embarks on a whimsical adventure in the night sky that, coupled with advice from her mother, helps her see beauty differently.”
Of course Lupita has gone through her own share of facing discrimination due to racism and colourism because of the shade of her skin and, lately, the texture of her hair.
Gilbert Arenas infamously called her “no different than an ugly girl with a fat behind” when she shared pictures of her on vacation at the beach last year, after having earlier insinuated no man wants a woman that dark.
In a Hollywood Reporter interview in March 2014, she talked about how Tracy Christian was pointing to her that she would have better chances at excelling in her career if she looked as light as Beyoncé, meaning she had very limited chances of succeeding in Hollywood in her natural complexion. This was after she had earlier said in an interview with The Times that advertisements for skin lighteners made her question her worth as a teenager.
It is no secret that people of colour face a lot of discrimination, but more so those with a darker complexion. Both men and women are perceived to be very aggressive and do not count as being beautiful or even reasonable. Even Michelle Obama has had to face these types of comments because of her skin tone and physique, being called a monkey and a man.
Back here, Miss World Africa Magline Jeruto is proof of how much people associate a lighter skin tone to attractiveness.
The lighter the skin tone of a person, the more beautiful they are perceived to be has been a narrative that is perhaps too slowly being broken down now. However, there seems to be a much more embracing of people for their character than the colour of their skin nowadays in relation to before. This is a culture that needs to be cultivated as early as possible in all people.
The New York Times piece summed: “With ‘Sulwe’ Ms. Nyong’o hopes to target children in these precarious years, that time between 5 and 7 years old when “you learn all the things that you spend the rest of your life trying to unlearn.” And while she recognizes the book’s attachment to her high profile name, she wants it to, ultimately, live beyond that fact and to help all children reimagine what it means to be beautiful.”