Lupita Nyong’o: ‘I’ve found a way of forgiving myself for not being perfect’

Lupita Nyong’o: ‘I’ve found a way of forgiving myself for not being perfect’

“I hate shopping,” she says as she checks out at the register.

It’s a surprising admission, given her status as a bonafide fashion icon, but Nyong’o clarifies that it’s the act of shopping she doesn’t enjoy. She does, however, have a deep appreciation for fashion and dressing up. “I love red carpets. You get to be Cinderella for a night,” she says. “My life before the launch of my career did not involve a lot of ball gowns. Now I wear so many and I love it.”

There’s a certain gown that cemented Nyong’o as a fashion It girl: the caped red Ralph Lauren dress she wore to the 2014 Golden Globes. It topped every best-dressed list — and launched one of the most talked-about red-carpet runs in history — but Nyong’o says there was some initial skepticism about the look.

Mike Windle

Frederick M. Brown

“Publicists were a little bit nervous about it because it was so bold,” she says. “There’s a cape. I felt like a superhero in it. One of my publicists was so scared of it, and she was like, ‘Maybe it’s too much.’”

It was the first dress Nyong’o and her longtime stylist, Micaela Erlanger, tried on for the event. They explored other options, but the duo “kept dreaming” about the red Ralph Lauren, and Nyong’o followed her gut. “Purely because I liked it — my rule of thumb has always been, I only want to wear things that I like, that feel good to wear,” she says. “And that was one of those moments.”

Off the red carpet, Nyong’o considers herself to be an “efficient dresser.” She likes to procrastinate and is always “dressing up in a panic.” There isn’t anything she won’t wear — though she used to have a whole list. “Micaela somehow has worked in everything on that list so far,” she says. “I said I never wanted to wear bias cuts. I wore a bias cut yesterday.”

Lupita Nyong’o has called a lot of places home. She was born in Mexico, grew up in Kenya, and attended college in Massachusetts. When we hop into the back of her black SUV, we are taking her to her new home here in Los Angeles, where she moved in June of last year. Nyong’o had lived in Brooklyn for years, and I ask what prompted the change. “I wanted to move here for better weather and more space,” she says, like a new Angelino.

She loves her neighbourhood, but she’s not sold on the LA experience just yet. “It’s very hard to find the vibe and the rhythm, the community,” she admits. “I know fewer people here, so it’s a little bit socially awkward.” Now that she’s settled, she hopes to expand her network and make some new friends.

Community is important to Nyong’o, who was “a little eccentric” when she was a teenager. She didn’t conform to how people were supposed to dress and expressed herself by dyeing her hair green and making her own clothing. Her creativity was a deterrent for some of her friends’ parents, who considered Nyong’o to be a “bad influence.”

“I wasn’t some outcast, I had friends,” she says. Her own parents were supportive of her dream to become an actor, though they were “exasperated” by her experimental look, she says. Still, they allowed her to dress as she wanted “as long as my grades were up.”

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