An Open Letter To Lupita Nyong’o

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Dear Lupita Nyong’o,

Thank you for showing the world what true talent and beauty looks like. Last night, I watched the 86th Academy Awards in awe of seeing a woman that looked like me and shared my story. When you accepted this coveted honor, tears rolled down my cheeks. I was reminded of what your win symbolizes for little girls fighting to posses self-love in a world that tells them that they are unworthy of it.

As a young girl of African descent, I grew up detesting who I was. My dark skin, foreign facial features, coarse hair and unique name meant that I wasn’t apart of the American tapestry of beauty. I desired to have fairer skin and curly hair like my lighter-skinned counterparts. Nothing about being of African descent illustrated beauty to me, it only read ugly. In my adulthood, I see the same disease of self-hatred growing amongst the younger generation. I walk into local beauty stores and see skin-bleaching creams (chemical substances that many African, African-American and Hispanic women use to lighten their skin). Despite the dangerous medical effects of skin bleaching, many continue to put their lives at risk in order to attain the social privilege that a fairer hue affords them.

Though we are generations removed from slavery, we are still combating the aesthetic ideals that emerged from this time period. The film 12 Years a Slave ironically brought the world a breakout star that reminded us that talent and beauty exists in all shapes and forms. You are a woman who looks like so many young Black and African girls struggling to love ourselves for who they are.

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