The Reid Report   |  March 03, 2014

Lupita Nyong'o: The new role model

Joy Reid weighs in on Lupita Nyong'o’s sudden rise to superstardom, and the impact her beauty, talent and success has on black girls and women across the country.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>> it goes without saying that lupita nyong'o has quickly become an icon. in fashion, where designers are literally clamoring to dress her, and as an actress who from the moment we see her sitting in a field making straw dolls in "12 years a slave," or declaring her humanity by a sliver of soap, took the personal narrative of solomon northrup and made it her film. but this is what lupita told "essen "essence" magazine as she accepted one of many awards at the seventh annual black women of hollywood luncheon just last week. she read from a letter from a young black girl . "dear lupita," it reads, "i think you're really lucky to be this black but yet this successful in hollywood overnight. i was just about to buy cream to lighten my skin when you appeared on the world map and saved me." lupita said she never imagined her first big job out of yale drama school would mean so much to someone, and here's how she continued.

>> i remember a time when i, too, felt unbeautiful. i put on the tv and only saw pale skin. i got teased and taunted about my night-shaded skin. and my one prayer to god, the miracle worker , was that i would wake up lighter skinned. the morning would come and i would be so excited about seeing my new skin that i would refuse to look down at myself until i was in front of a mirror, because i wanted to see my fair face first. and every day i experienced the same disappointment of being just as dark as i had been the day before.

>> it's hard to imagine that gorgeous woman feeling unbeautiful. and it's almost cliche at this point to say that darker women have had an uneven history in hollywood . hattie mcdaniel became the first black woman to win an oscar in 1940 for her portrayal of mamie in "gone with the wind," but it was lena horne and dorothy dandridge who became the black icons of that era. their european beauty standard has been the hollywood standard since then. grace jones , naomi campbell and michelle obama have all been celebrated by the fashion world. and cicely tyson , alfre woodard , viola davis , octavia spencer , whoopi goldberg and kerry washington are all renowned, beautiful woulding actresses. but lupita is unique, because she's all of those things at once, a multiple award-winning actress and a fashion icon and a certified it girl who has captivated mainstream america and instantly redefined the beauty ideal. believe it or not, even in 2014 , that's huge, and it makes her so important to that little girl who wrote that heartbreaking letter to my daughter and to all our daughters. and that wraps things up for "the reid report." i will see you back here tomorrow at 2:00 p.m .