Lupita Nyong’o is a positive role model for all young people and presents a good opportunity for parents to talk to their kids generally about what makes someone beautiful. For starters, Lupita is poised, confident and well-spoken, and her physical appearance and demeanor seem very natural. She wears her hair in a natural, well-groomed style; her make-up is modest and tasteful; and she dresses fashionably without wearing overly revealing clothes. She shows that you don’t have to have a weave or other artificial hair to be stylish or desirable. She stands in stark contrast to the images portrayed in some of today’s reality TV shows highly watched by young people, where many women are portrayed as out-of-control screamers, prone to finger-wagging, scanty outfits, bad attitudes, and physical violence. All parents can appreciate having a young person in the Hollywood spotlight whom their kids can actually look up to.
Some might argue that making People’s list and cover is no big deal given the pressing social justice issues facing the country. There is no question that there are other critical problems that need to be addressed, but it is also true that a positive self-image can provide the foundation for being a well-adjusted, high achieving person. If Lupita Nyong’o cover image helps young Black girls feel good about their physical appearance, it also might inspire our girls to have greater confidence in their own abilities. It is especially moving to hear Lupita talk about how, when she was a teen, she never imagined that she would be considered beautiful, in large part, because of her complexion. Unfortunately, there are still many Black girls and others who feel that way today, so Lupita’s choice as a beauty symbol is important and meaningful.
Admittedly it is a little disheartening that in 2014 we are still paying so much attention to Lupita Nyong’o color. This says that our society still has a long way to go in accepting a more inclusive sense of beauty. But Lupita is another step forward that can inspire our daughters (and sons) to be proud of who they are and how they look, and we should all applaud her achievement.