Lupita Nyong’o’s New Kids' Book Inspires Girls to Love Their Dark Skin

“As a little girl reading, I had all of these windows into the lives of people who looked nothing like me,” she said.
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profile picture of Nehal Aggarwal
October 2, 2019
lupita nyong'o publishes a children's book to help girls of color see their beauty
Image: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
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Lupita Nyong’o is well known for her award-winning role in 12 Years a Slave, as well as her performances in blockbuster films such as Star Wars: The Force Awakens and Black Panther. Now, the Kenyan-Mexican actress is coming out with a children’s book aimed at combating colorism and inspiring young girls of color to embrace their dark skin.

Sulwe, which means star in Nyong’o’s native language of Luo, centers around the story of a 5-year-old girl growing up in Kenya. She has skin “the color of midnight” and is the darkest-skinned of all the members of her family. While in search for a way to lighten the color of her skin, she embarks on a journey into the night sky that helps her see her own unique beauty.

Image: Vashti Harrison

Colorism is a topic close to Nyong’o’s heart. You may remember her speech during Essence magazine’s Black Women in Hollywood luncheon, in which she reads a letter from a fan thanking her for showing her that black is beautiful. She goes on to discuss her own difficulties as a child in dealing with her complexion compared with those around her. “My one prayer to God…was that I would wake up lighter skinned……everyday I experienced the same disappointment of being just as dark as I had been the day before.”

Yesterday, she took to Instagram to post a picture of her 5-year-old self. The caption describes how she always wished she could see a reflection of herself in the books she read growing up, but very rarely did. “As a little girl reading, I had all of these windows into the lives of people who looked nothing like me,” she writes.

With Sulwe, she hopes she can offer dark-skinned children a mirror in which to see themselves. “Throughout the world, even in Kenya, even today, there is a popular sentiment that lighter is brighter. I imagined what it would have been like for this little girl [referring to herself] to turn the pages of her picture books and see more dark skin in a beautiful light,” she continues. “This book is my dream come true for kids like her today.”

Her message is already resonating with parents. “Thank you Lupita for making a book for us and for children like my daughter who never sees anyone like her represented. She can’t read yet but I’ll be getting this for her,” one person commented on the post. Another wrote, “Thank God, finally I see more books that our children can Identify with.”

The book, priced at $16 for the hardcover, comes out on October 15, but is available for pre-order on Amazon.

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