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Lupita Nyong'o Shared Her Experiences with Colorism on 'BBC Newsnight'

'Colorism is the daughter of racism in a world that rewards lighter skin over darker skin,' the actress said.

In an interview with BBC Newsnight last night ahead of the release of her children's book Sulwe, Oscar-winning actress Lupita Nyong'o shared her experiences with colorism—the prejudice against those with darker skin. Similar to the main character in her book, whose skin is the color of midnight and darker than everyone in her family, Nyong'o speaks candidly about how she grew up being uncomfortable with her dark skin and describes her book as a mirror for other dark-skinned girls.


Colorism is still a contentious issue especially in the Black community. Despite dark-skinned women constantly sharing their lived experiences and the challenges they've encountered compared to their light-skinned counterparts, colorism is a topic that is still shrouded in denialism and limiting archetypes. ABC's popular show Black-ish attempted to address the issue in its "Black Like Us" episode while actress and show-runner Issa Rae has spoken about how she wants to change the way dark-skinned women are portrayed in television and film.

Growing up in Kenya, in a society with predominantly Black people, Nyong'o explains how she felt judged because of her dark skin and the general expectation of having to ascribe to Eurocentric standards of beauty. She said that, "I definitely grew up feeling uncomfortable with my skin color because I felt like the world around me awarded lighter skin". She also went on to add that, "Race is a very social construct, one that I didn't have to ascribe to on a daily basis growing up. As much as I was experiencing colorism in Kenya, I wasn't aware that I belonged to a race called Black because suddenly the term Black was being ascribed to me and it meant certain things that I was not accustomed to."

Recently, Nyong'o appeared on the The Tonight Show, Starring Jimmy Fallon and spoke about her excited reaction to being mentioned in Beyoncé and Wizkid's "Brown Skin Girl", a lyric which has since become an anthem especially among dark-skinned women.

Interview

A Candid Conversation With Olamide & Fireboy DML

We talk to the Nigerian stars about the hardest lessons they've learned, best advice they've ever been given and what Nigeria means to them.

Olamide and Fireboy DML have been working together for three years, but the first time they sit down to do an interview together is hours after they arrive in New York City on a promo tour.

It's Fireboy's first time in the Big Apple — and in the US — and the rain that's pouring outside his hotel doesn't hinder his gratitude. "It's such a relief to be here, it's long overdue," he tells OkayAfrica. "I was supposed to be here last year, but Covid stopped that. This is a time to reflect and refresh. It's a reset button for me."

Olamide looks on, smiling assuredly. Since signing Fireboy to his YBNL Nation label in 2018, he's watched the soulful young singer rise to become one of Nigeria's most talked-about artists — from his breakout single, "Jealous," to his debut album Laughter, Tears & Goosebumps, hit collabs with D.Smoke and Cuppy, and his sophomore release, Apollo, last year.

Even while he shares his own latest record, UY Scuti, with the world, Olamide nurtures Fireboy's career with as much care and attention as he does his own, oscillating between his two roles of artist and label exec seamlessly. His 2020 album Carpe Diem is the most streamed album ever by an African rap artist, according to Audiomack, hitting over 140 million streams. When Olamide signed a joint venture with US-based record label and distribution company, Empire, in February last year he did so through his label, bringing Fireboy and any other artist he decides to sign along for the ride, and establishing one of the most noteworthy deals on the continent.

Below, Olamide & Fireboy DML speak to OkayAfrica about their mutual admiration for each other, what makes them get up in the morning and how they switch off.

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