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Last night as I watched Lupita Nyong’o approach the red carpet, her mother, father, and brother in tow, I was enchanted into silence. There she stood – skin black like ours, hair tightly coiled like ours, wearing a headband on her flat top in a ‘Nairobi blue’ gown. In that moment I saw a new image of a princess (however problematic that imagery is in and of itself). Later, I watched through tearful eyes, as that princess’ fairytale, and ours, came true. WE won.

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Lupita Nyong’o by Gyimah Gariba

Much conversation today about Lupita’s win, what it means, and what it should mean. Does “Hollywood” finally see us? Will Lupita’s success open the mainstream gates for dark-skinned Black women everywhere? Has the game changed? Interesting and valid questions. My questions, however, continue to be turned inwards, towards the WE who won. Do WE finally see us?

As I wrote when I launched Pretty. Period.

I see Lupita every day. I see her as often on the streets of Philadelphia as I do on the streets of Accra. I see her in my classroom. I see her at the corner store. I see her at the mall. I see her everywhere.

And so do you. Only you don’t know it. If it took the media’s fixation on Lupita’s Otherness to introduce you to the beauty of dark skin, then you don’t know what you’re seeing when you look at dark-skinned women. Or maybe you don’t even see us.

This is a photo of Lupita before she was ours…

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Photo Courtesy of Orijin Culture

Just as stunning then as she is now. If she weren’t the Lupita handed to you by the mainstream, would you still have recognized her for the stunner that she is?

My point is this – we don’t need Hollywood to tell us we’re beautiful. We only need see ourselves differently.

Lupita is beautiful. Lupita BEEN beautiful. And so have we. So, please, next time you see “Lupita,” be sure to remind her that she is pretty. Period.

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  1. Leo #
    March 11, 2014

    If I would have saw her before the ‘mainstream’ introduced us I would have thought she was beautiful, because I see myself as beautiful. It seems that everyone has an issue with the white mainstream media embracing and promoting Lupita, when our own ‘mainstream black media’ only did so after they did.

    Let’s be real, I don’t care what the European thinks, I care what the African thinks: be they African, American, Caribbean, South & Central America and European born. It matters how they see themselves. I have yet to see Lupita grace the cover of any ‘black’ magazines, especially Jet magazine after her win and this is something they normally do since it’s big news.

    The responsibility of promoting our image diversity is the responsibility of the black mainstream media, and they are the main ones who perpetuate this one dimensional idea of what constitutes as the black beauty standard. If we want to see more “Lupita’s of the world grace the global stage, then “WE” have to promote them in much of the same ways we did Lupita. White folks paid attention because it was us who used our blogging platform to propel her to the international stage.

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