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Photo credit: Lupita Nyong’o’s Instagram

Kenyan-Mexican Actress – now author! – Lupita Nyong’o has released a picture book for children. In Sulwe, Lupita Nyong’o addresses something she has long campaigned for, since her stunning win at the Oscars in 2014: the validity of someone’s dreams, irrespective of background – or color.

The book introduces us to Sulwe, a dark-skinned girl whose only wish is to be brighter and more beautiful, until a magical journey one night completely changes her life and her perception of her skin color.

The 2014 People’s Most Beautiful Woman of the Year had been a victim of bullying herself for her dark skin. In second grade, a teacher wanted to know if she would ever find a man with a darker skin to marry her. At Essence‘s Black Women in Hollywood Luncheon in 2014, just a few days before the Oscars, Lupita, in her words,

spoke, for a surreal, nerve-wracking five minutes, to a room full of Black women about my own struggle to find beauty my dark skin, my journey to self-love, and how I hoped my presence on screens and in magazines would be a source of validation for young people growing up with similar struggles. This speech struck a chord with many people and went viral on the internet.

She realised, in the aftermath of this moment, how badly this message needed to be heard by the most vulnerable: children. The idea for Sulwe was born then. The actress grew up watching TV commercials that preached the message “black skin is unacceptable!” The loudness of these commercials, of societal standards of beauty, overwhelmed the opposing voices of her own parents. Lupita was only able to re-assess the her beliefs and have faith in her own career when she saw the movie The Color Purple (1985), a movie starring Whoopi Goldberg and Oprah Winfrey among other black cast members that was based on the 1982 Pulitzer-Prize winning book of the same title by Alice Walker.

Now, she has written a picture book for children of color, an alternative ‘loud commercial’ that tells them that black is just as beautiful and unique.

For National Book Month, the actress shared a charming photograph of her 5-year-old self on instagram, with the most heartwarming, inspirational message ever.

 

View this post on Instagram

 

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: As a little girl reading, I had all of these windows into the lives of people who looked nothing like me, chances to look into their worlds, but I didn’t have any mirrors. While windows help us develop empathy and an understanding of the wider world, mirrors help us develop our sense of self, and our understanding of our own world. They ground us in our body and our experiences. #Sulwe holds up a mirror for dark-skinned children especially, to see themselves reflected immediately, and it is a window for all the others to cherish peering into. 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 this little girl to turn the pages of her picture books and see more dark skin in a beautiful light. This book is my dream come true for kids like her today. #Sulwe arrives October 15. ✨ Link in bio to pre-order. #NationalBookMonth #BrightnessIsJustWhoYouAre

A post shared by Lupita Nyong’o (@lupitanyongo) on

This is Sulwe‘s description from its publishers:

From Academy Award–winning actress Lupita Nyong’o comes a powerful, moving picture book about colorism, self-esteem, and learning that true beauty comes from within.

Sulwe has skin the color of midnight. She is darker than everyone in her family. She is darker than anyone in her school. Sulwe 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.

In this stunning debut picture book, actress Lupita Nyong’o creates a whimsical and heartwarming story to inspire children to see their own unique beauty.

Sulwe was released on 15th October, 2019 by  Simon & Schuster.
Click here to order.

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Chukwuebuka Ibeh is a Staff Writer at Brittle Paper. An alumnus of the Purple Hibiscus Trust Creative Writing Workshop, his work has been published in McSweeneys, Clarion Review, Charles River Journal and elsewhere. He was longlisted for the Awele Creative Trust Award in 2017 and was a finalist for the 2019 Gerald Kraak Award. In 2019, he was named by Electric Literature as 'One of the Most Promising New Voices of Nigerian Fiction' in a feature introduced by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. He is a regular contributor with the New England Review of Books and lives in Port Harcourt, Nigeria.

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