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Lupita Nyong’o: Skin Game

Hollywood by Choice

Gail Choice | 4/10/2014, midnight
The buzz is somewhat tapering off regarding the success of the Oscar winning Best Picture 12 Years a Slave, but ...

The buzz is somewhat tapering off regarding the success of the Oscar winning Best Picture 12 Years a Slave, but the impact of the movie and what it implies still has Hollywood movers and shakers buzzing. The two lead characters, Chiwetel Ejiofor (Solomon Northup) and Oscar winner for Best Supporting Actress, Lupita Nyong’o, are cashing in on their good fortune.

According to Variety, Best Actor nominee, Chiwetel Ejiofor is MGM and Sony’s top choice to play the villain in the next installment of the James Bond franchise.

Although no agreements have been signed yet, sources say that he is definitely the front-runner for the job; although neither MGM nor Sony are talking.

Nyong’o made such a splash on the red carpet that all the world seemed to take notice. Flawlessly dressed, humble, beautiful, and a class act, she became the “It” girl of the award season. It comes as no surprise that Nyong’o would receive a beauty contract, Lancome wasted no time in signing her.

Xavier Vey, president of Lancome USA, says the star represents today’s modern woman. “Having Lupita as a Lancome ambassador will help support our mission in the U.S. market, which is to speak to all women.” In a statement released by the L’Oreal-owned subsidiary, Nyong’o said she is honored to join Lancome, a brand “I have always loved.”

According to The Hollywood Reporter, beauty bloggers had been tweeting, and writing about the inevitability after the Yale Drama School graduate hit the 2014 award show circuit looking “drop-dead” gorgeous everywhere she went.

The Mexican-born Kenyan beauty joins the current roster of Lancome faces: Julia Roberts, Kate Winslet and Penelope Cruz (all three of whom are also Oscar winners).

For Nyong’o, the deep, rich color of her skin raises the question, will she continue to find work in Hollywood films?

Simply put, Hollywood is trying to figure out what to do with her. The Hollywood Reporter writes that an agent commented “even after winning the Academy Award, Nyong’o faces a challenging lack of roles for darker-skinned actresses; and he concluded with, “If she can find a franchise, a big crossover film, or if she’s cast by a significant filmmaker, then she’s golden.”

“I don’t think she has an audience—not yet,” says one studio executive. “And there are so few roles for women of color; those roles are just not being written.”

Hollywood Reporter writer, Gregg Kilday writes, further complicating Nyong’o’s prospects is the fact that her dark skin challenges an industry prejudice that traditionally has favored black actresses and performers with lighter complexions.

“Would Beyonce be who she is if she didn’t look like she does?” asks TCA Jed Root talent agent Tracy Christian. “Being lighter skinned, more people can look at her image and see themselves in her.”

Yes, she faces obstacles, agrees a prominent casting agent, but they are not insurmountable. “For someone who looks like her, with a distinctly black, African face, maybe she’s someone who can change the direction for darker-skinned actresses—actresses who are definitely not European looking, but it may require some forward-looking director to push for her.”

Indeed, Hollywood is talking, and perhaps a long standing tradition is finally being questioned and challenged. In 1929 King Vidor’s Hallelujah premiered and set the Black standard of beauty and desirability by casting the fair skinned Nina Mae McKinney as Chick, and the darker-skinned Victoria Spivey as Missy Rose.

Hallelujah tells the story of a sharecropper named Zeke who falls for a beautiful dancer, Chick, (McKinney), but she’s only setting him up for a rigged craps game. He loses his money and his mind by falling deeply in love with this wayward woman, forgetting about his future wife and fellow sharecropper Missy Rose (Spivey). Hallelujah tells the story of love, crime and lust. But more importantly it set the standard of ‘Black beauty’ in Hollywood films to this day.