Lupita Nyong’o covers the latest issue of PorterEdit, net-a-porter’s in-house online magazine. Lupita is promoting Jordan Peele’s Us, and you can tell she’s really excited about this one. But, I don’t think she can really talk about the plot of Us, which is why she spends so much time in this interview talking about the support she got in Hollywood right from the beginning, and other stuff. She even name-checks Jared Leto – Jared and Lupita have been friends for years, despite the rumors about him being a total sleaze. She doesn’t sound ride-or-die for him, but she does make it sound like she still considers him a good friend. Some highlights:
She was welcomed into Hollywood: “Starting with 12 Years a Slave, I was welcomed [in Hollywood] with such warmth. My castmates surrounded me. I don’t know if they are aware of this, but I felt so protected. Sarah Paulson: my God, that girl, she was like everything to me. And Alfre Woodard, she was invaluable. I would ask questions about my finances, where I should live, all sorts of things. [Woodard] had this dinner that she throws during Oscars season for all the black women in Hollywood… I didn’t feel alone within the black community, I didn’t feel alone within the Hollywood community…”
The men who looked out for her: “[Director] Steve McQueen really did look out for me big time. Brad Pitt, same thing. And Jared Leto, he’s still on speed dial, because we were on that [Oscar campaign] journey together and he’s so embracing of me. There was an intimacy that grew from that, that goes beyond the dating rumors, beyond all that.”
Whether ‘Us’ has racial commentary: “The racial commentary is that you have such a family in this genre, where we haven’t seen very many black families. But within the story itself, [race] is not what’s important. It lends itself to this idea that not everything is about race… There are other monsters in this world. Though the racial one is a big one, it’s not the only one.”
She developed a new fear working on ‘Us’: “I developed new fears [after working on Us]. I am terrified of my own reflection, which was really tough because I was staying in a house that had mirrors everywhere. My days were so long that when I’d get home from filming and it was time for me to shower, I was half asleep, and because it wasn’t my home, I would come upon my reflection and scream at the top of my lungs.”
Embracing her natural hair: “There’s been a whole revolution, led by African America for sure, where we are embracing our natural hair texture and returning to a past glory. You look at beautiful traditional hairdos from pre-colonial and colonial times and they have been erased from so much of our contemporary expression. I remember one of the first times I really saw African hairstyles preserved and celebrated as art was through the photographic lens of Leni Riefenstahl. I was 10 years old and had not truly seen images of natural pre-colonial hairstyles beyond our Kenyan borders. At the time, I wasn’t familiar with Riefenstahl’s work as a Nazi propagandist and that, in and of itself, is highly problematic, because this deeply colonialist, white supremacist gaze was introducing me to the people and hairstyles of the Nuba, Dinka and Shilluk of Sudan. Essentially, even when we as a colonized or oppressed people are engaging with images or notions of our ancestry, it is so often within a Eurocentric gaze. That idea has stayed with me.”
Don’t send her texts with lots of emojis: “I’m a stickler for grammar and I can’t stand spelling mistakes in text – and now it happens more and more. I’m that person: I’ll type a text message real quick and send it and then I’ll proofread it as I send it. I’m like, ‘Oh my God. There are so many letters I got wrong!’, and I’ll rewrite the text and resend it. I judge people on their emailing skills. I feel disrespected if someone just writes to me in emojis. I’m like, ‘Where are the words? Where is the time for wording?’”
Because I email so much in my professional life, I have to say that I haven’t noticed a slipping of writing skills. I make mistakes, other people make mistakes, but I’m never like “the email written word will never be salvaged!” Then again, I don’t email or text with the youths. I’m sure the youths are ruining WORDS. I don’t trust anyone who just texts endless streams of emojis. JUST USE YOUR WORDS. As for what she says about being embraced by Hollywood straight away… it’s nice. The Jared Leto thing is icky, but I also trust that she keeps him at arm’s length, and that their relationship is based on that shared experience of going through successful Oscar campaigns during the same year.