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From Hollywood to Berlin

She is the Jury President at the 74th Berlinale: Lupita Nyong’o. In addition to pursuing a career in film, Nyong’o campaigns against discrimination and racism. 

Kim BergKim Berg , 23.01.2024
Lupita Nyong’o, Oscar winner and children's book author.
Lupita Nyong’o, Oscar winner and children's book author. © picture alliance / AA

She discovered her love of acting as a teenager and won her first Oscar for her first major film role: since her appearance in “12 Years a Slave”, Lupita Nyong’o has been one of Hollywood’s best-known stars. In 2024, the actress and filmmaker will be president of the international jury at the 74th Berlinale. “Lupita Nyong’o embodies what we like in cinema: versatility in embracing different projects, addressing different audiences, and consistency to one idea that is quite recognisable in her characters, as diverse as they may look,” say Mariette Rissenbeek and Carlo Chatrian, co-directors of the Berlinale. “I look forward to celebrating and honouring the outstanding work of filmmakers from around the world,” says Nyong’o of her latest role as a key member of the Berlinale team. 

Oscar for Best Supporting Actress 

Lupita Nyong’o was born in Mexico City in 1983, but she grew up in Kenya. She did a degree in film and theatre studies at Hampshire College and Yale School of Drama in the USA. Her international breakthrough came in 2013 with her role as Patsey in “12 Years a Slave”, for which she won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress in 2014. In the same year, “People” magazine named her the world’s most beautiful woman.  

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Her first successful film appearances were followed by roles in science fiction classics such as “Star Wars”, comic film adaptations such as “Black Panther” and horror films such as “Us” and “Little Monsters”. In 2024 Nyong’o can be seen once again on cinema screens in the post-apocalyptic horror film “A Quiet Place: Day One”.  

Taking a stand against discrimination and racism 

Whoopi Goldberg was the main inspiration for Nyong’o to take up a career in acting. When she watched “The Colour Purple”, it was the first time she had seen someone on screen who looked like her. “Whoopi Goldberg had hair like mine and had the same dark skin as me. So I thought maybe that was something I could do professionally as well,” said Nyong’o in an interview with the UK newspaper “The Daily Telegraph”. 

In addition to her career as an actress, Nyong’o actively campaigns against discrimination and racism. In her children’s book “Sulwe”, which was published in 2020, she shows how every skin tone is beautiful, while also putting forward a child-friendly critique of “colourism” – the promotion of a Western ideal of beauty. The book made it onto the “New York Times” bestseller list. As a UNICEF ambassador, Nyong’o is also committed to supporting children’s education and health in developing countries.