20 March 2014

Lupita is EVERYTHING, But Lupita Can't Be Everything

I am a Lupita Nyong'o fangirl. Ever since awards season began and Lupita Nyong'o began gracing our screens every week, slaying us with amazing outfits, witty repartee with droll red carpet interviewers and sweetly sincere acceptance speeches, I was hooked. That is the power of a well rolled out Oscar campaign and a genuine superstar in the making. My official hashtag became #LupitaisEVERYTHING and each awards show she lived up to and exceeded that moniker, culminating in her Oscar win on March 4th. 
Since then there's been a flurry of articles about her importance to young women of color as a dark-skinned woman, her role in progressing black actresses and what she will do next. The #LupitaforMAC hashtag was trending on Twitter as women of color rallied support around having her as a spokesmodel. Chimanada Ngozi Adiche has hinted that she will be starring in a adaptation of her book Americanah. And there's rumors she will play a role in Star Wars Episode 7 which is in development at Disney. Personally, I prioritize her being in films rather than as campaigns but either way the clamor for Lupita is both awesome and disturbing. 

Although I want Lupita to play everything from a super spy to an alien to the lead girl in a romcom, Hollywood (and our society at large) has a tendency to elevate one person of color and dust off their shoulders and pat themselves on the back for a job well done. For example, during the kerfuffle over the casting of Rooney Mara as Tiger Lily in the upcoming Peter Pan adaptation, the producers shot back at detractors that they had considered Lupita for the role. This statement was supposed to end the argument. We looked at a bunch of white women and Lupita so we engaged in diversity. First off, Lupita is not a Native woman so deigning to consider any woman of color is not an appeasement and secondly, I worry that statements like this will become a trend. Rather than opening doors for Black actresses, Lupita's success could close off avenues because of how Hollywood operates. They've found their Black It Girl and if she's unavailable or "not right" for the role, execs can shrug their shoulders and say "We tried you guys! We talked to Lupita!" So while I'm about that All Lupita Everything life, I urge everyone to remember all the other exemplary Black actresses out there and push their careers forward as well. Go and take a look at pictures and clips from the ESSENCE Black women in entertainment luncheon. Yes Lupita was there (and she spoke wonderfully about skin color and representation) but there was also Danielle Brooks, Samira Wiley and Nicole Beharie. The former two are on Orange is the New Black and the latter is the lead on Sleepy Hollow, all are Juilliard educated. There's also Teyonah Parris and Tessa Thompson who are starring in the Sundance hit Dear White People. Let's stan hard for all these women. Because Lupita can't be everywhere at once. And we have to push Hollywood to understand that one doesn't represent all.