Call this the year of Lupita Nyong'o! People just announced that the stunning Mexican-born Kenyan starlet is the magazine’s Most Beautiful person of 2014. And despite her whirlwind year—she won an Oscar for her breakout role in 12 Years a Slave and just landed a contract as the first black ambassador for Lancôme Paris—Nyong’o says this honor is one she would have “never dreamed” possible.
“I put on the TV and only saw pale skin,” Nyong’o recalled from her childhood at the Black Women in Hollywood luncheon this past February. “I got teased and taunted about my night-shaded skin.”
Echoing sentiments from her mother, Nyong’o explained, “What does sustain us...what is fundamentally beautiful is compassion for yourself and for those around you. That kind of beauty enflames the heart and enchants the soul.”
And as undeniable as it is that Nyong'o is having a moment, the gracious cover star doesn’t take her latest honor lightly.
"I'm flattered with, like, gravitas under it," Nyong’o told Savannah Guthrie on the Today show. "I am particularly proud to represent its unique vision for women and the idea that beauty should not be dictated, but should instead be an expression of a woman's freedom to be herself.”
Today Lupita is anything but the teased little girl of her past. The actress told People that now the greatest complements are "when I have been called beautiful with not one drop of makeup on,” adding, "And also before I comb my hair or put on a pretty dress. Happiness is the most important thing."