Lupita Nyong’o’s children’s book isn’t just a book for kids. It’s a poignant work of literature that celebrates dark skin and the importance of feeling beautiful in your own skin. We’ve been reveling in the release of Sulwe, out on Oct. 15, since she announced it on Twitter and ahead of its release, the Kenyan-Mexican actress has opened up about her personal experiences with colorism as a child.
During an interview with BBC, Nyong’o said that she, like Sulwe (the character in her book), was made to feel insecure because of her dark skin. She also opens up about the people who praised her younger sister’s beauty because of her lighter skin.
Nyong’o was then asked if colorism is a type of racism, and she said, “colorism is born out of racism,” adding that “colorism is the daughter of racism.” The actress said that she experienced colorism in her native home of Kenya, where black people commended lighter skin.
“We still ascribe to these notions of Eurocentric standards of beauty, that then affect how we see ourselves among ourselves,” she said. “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.”
However, that changed when Nyong’o moved to the United States “because suddenly the term black was being ascribed to me and it meant certain things that I was not accustomed to.”
This is 5-year-old me. I reflected on this little girl's feelings and fantasies when I decided to write my children's book, #Sulwe. With this book, I wanted to hold up a mirror for her. Here's why: pic.twitter.com/KsivFjWl7X
— Lupita Nyong'o (@Lupita_Nyongo) October 1, 2019
Nyong’o also discussed colorism earlier this week on Twitter, writing that, “Colorism, society’s preference for lighter skin, is alive and well. It’s not just a prejudice reserved for places with a largely white population. 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 her to turn the pages of picture books and see more dark skin in a beautiful light. This book is my dream come true for kids like her today.”
She also took to Instagram to share her thoughts on colorism and its damaging effects.
Her new children’s book tells the story of Sulwe, who has “skin the color of midnight.”
Sulwe is darker than anyone in her school and she just “wants to be beautiful and bright, like her mother and sister. Then a magical journey in the night sky opens her eyes and changes everything.”
We’re glad to see the Black Panther actress opening up about her experience and also creating a children’s book that will help young girls see themselves in a different light.
You can watch the full interview below: