Lupita Nyong’o isn’t just a smart and talented actress; she’s also become a fashion icon. So much so, she’s made Vogue’s cover for the second time. Nyong’o, who makes Brooklyn, N.Y., her home, graces the cover in an amazing dress by Valentino Haute Couture. In the cover story, written by Vogue’s Plum Sykes, Nyong’o shares some interesting takes on race and her education at Hampshire College.
Nyong’o, who was raised in Kenya, came to the U.S. when she was 20 years old, and that’s when she was confronted with the subject of race for the first time.
“As Africans, we don’t grow up with a racial identity. We grow up with cultural and ethnic identity before racial identity. I never used the word ‘black’ as a child. It was never a thing. When was I ever discussing black? Why?” Nyong’o said.
As a 20-year-old at Hampshire College in Massachusetts, Nyong’o also learned how white students and black students were treated differently. Nyong’o was instructed to attend a class at the school’s Writing Center after submitting a paper on independent American film. But once she got to the Writing Center course, the teacher looked over the paper and questioned why was she there.
“‘Why are you here?’ I said, ‘Because my teacher said I should come,’” said Nyong’o. “And she said, ‘I could use this paper to teach the people who come here how to write.’” It was then, Nyong’o said, that she decided to look at two of the white students’ papers and saw that they were full of errors, but those students weren’t required to attend the Writing Center.
“And then I realized that there was maybe one other black person in the class, who had also been sent to the Writing Center,” Nyong’o said.
As Nyong’o embraces her fame and the accolades that she receives in the U.S., she acknowledges that there’s a lot of America in her and a lot of opportunity in the U.S.—but one thing will always remain the same.
“I will always be a child of Kenya,” Nyong’o said.