Kenyan actor in her debut film carries off Academy award for harrowing drama 12 Years a Slave
Lupita Nyong’o has won the best supporting actress Oscar at the 86th Academy Awards for her role in 12 Years a Slave, defeating a field that included Sally Hawkins for Blue Jasmine and American Hustle’s Jennifer Lawrence.
Nyong’o, who was born in Mexico but grew up in Kenya, played Patsey in 12 Years a Slave, her first film acting role; her most memorable scene was one in which she receives a flogging for wanting to wash with soap. The film was directed by Steve McQueen, and based on the real-life memoir of kidnap victim Solomon Northup (played by Chiwetel Ejiofor); it also starred Michael Fassbender and BEnedict CumBErbatch.
In a moving acceptance speech, Nyong’o said: “It doesn’t escape me for one moment that so much joy in my life is due to so much pain in someone else’s” – the slaves whose story was told in Solomon Northup’s memoir on which the film was based.
She thanked her co-stars and her director Steve McQueen, saying: “Thank you for putting me in this position; it has been the joy of my life … I’m certain that the dead are standing around you and saluting you.”
She concluded with a message to children everywhere: “No matter where you’re from, your dreams are valid.”
Nyong’o joins 14 other black actors who have won Oscars. She is the seventh black actress to win, garnering her award 75 years after Hattie MacDonald won the first with the supporting actress trophy for “Gone with the Wind.”