Lupita Nyong’o explains how colourism affected her childhood

Lupita Nyong’o. (Photo: Getty Images/Gallo Images)
Lupita Nyong’o. (Photo: Getty Images/Gallo Images)

It features dark-skinned children because she never had that as a child. 

In an interview with the BBC’s Emily Maitlis on Newsnight, the Kenyan actress linked colourism to racism, calling it the “daughter of racism”.

“I definitely grew up feeling uncomfortable with my skin colour because I felt like the world around me awarded lighter skin,” she said.

Now, set on creating a relatable world for people of colour – and more specifically dark-skinned girls – the Oscar-winning actress has penned a 48-page children’s book, Sulwe. The title of the book is in her mother tongue, Luo, and means “star”.

Lupita posted a picture of herself as a child and wrote, “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,” she wrote.

The 12 Years a Slave actress said it’s not true that colourism only affects people living in parts of the world dominated by white people, reports Rolling Out.  Even in Africans countries where dark skin is the norm, Africans still see lighter skin as superior, Lupita said.

“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,” she continued.

Lupita concluded her post by saying, “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.”

The book’s publishers, Simon & Schuster, say Sulwe is a compelling picture book addressing colourism and self-esteem. It will teach young girls that true beauty comes from within, reports BET.

Having gone through immense discrimination herself as a young, dark-skinned girl, Lupita felt compelled to write a book that would not only represent people with dark skin, but also celebrate it. In an interview with Glamour magazine a few years ago, the actress told a painful story of just one of the incidents that happened to her as a child.

“In the second grade, one of my teachers said, ‘Where are you going to find a husband? How are you going to find someone darker than you?’ I was mortified.”

A synopsis for the book reads: “Sulwe has skin the colour 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,” reports Afropunk.

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