Some film stars appear to us, fully-formed, as though we’ve known them for an age. Lupita Nyong’o is such a star, her enveloping smile matched by a candour that some stars take decades to master. In light of her new film, Queen of Katwe, receiving rave reviews, Mira Mira sat down with Lupita to discuss representation, fame and her recent Vogue cover shoot with Mario.
Your most recent Vogue shoot with Mario Testino took place near your family’s home, in Kenya. Tell us about that experience.
LN: It was incredible to have the opportunity to bring Mario, Tonne and the team to my ancestral home and the surrounding area of Kisumu County, Kenya. We worked with a wonderful and talented Kenyan team to choose the most representative and visually stunning locations to photograph. The ultimate result of seeing my home, and my family, through Mario’s incomparable lens filled me with such joy and pride.
How have your experiences in the world of fashion, working with the likes of Grace Coddington, influenced your opinion of the industry?
LN: Working with iconic editors including Grace Coddington, Tonne Goodman and Phyllis Posnick has given me a deep respect for the role of fashion in breathing life into images. The sense of magic that fashion adds to photographs, events, and daily life is not to be underestimated.
What was it like meeting Harriet Mutesi, whom you depict in Queen of Katwe?
LN: Meeting Harriet was essential to being able to portray her. She reminded me of a baobab tree because she embodies what feels like an unending reservoir of strength. The baobab tree has a thick trunk and grows in semi-arid conditions. They preserve themselves in very extreme climatic conditions, and that is Harriet. There’s something guarded about her, something enigmatic and watchful, and I wanted to honor that in my performance of her.
In the future, how do you hope film and fashion will depict African narratives?
LN: I hope film and fashion will show the people, places, cultures, and beauty of the African continent from the inside out. Shooting Vogue in Morocco and Kenya and Queen of Katwe in Uganda and South Africa has been a phenomenal and illuminating experience. I have witnessed and appreciated both the distinctions and the similarities of the people from country to country. There are endless narratives to share from the many countries of Africa and it is time that they are told from an African point of view.
After an Oscar win, three Vogue covers, and the naming of a day in Harlem after you – what’s next for Lupita?
LN: More imagination and more creation! Continuing to find inspiring stories to share with the world and expanding the diversity of the stories we are telling.
Queen of Katwe is in cinemas now.