Sunday, April 27, 2014

People Magazine’s Most Beautiful Person is exactly who it should be

Photo by Michael Buckner/Getty Images
by Ava Jaulin

People declared Lupita Nyong’o the “Most Beautiful Person of 2014.”

People Magazine’s much awaited issue honors beauty that is “now.” It represents a visual exposé of what, and who, its readership and the media considers beautiful. While the title “Most Beautiful Person” is often met with skepticism (if not outright mockery), it is a noteworthy notch. According to TheRichest.com—pop culture’s financial analyst—the magazine falls at number nine of the top ten best-selling magazines, at 3,563,035 copies per issue.

For some, Nyong’o’s induction into the “Hall of Beauty” makes more of a statement than her Oscar win for Best Supporting Actress. Yes, even though on that day, she joined a short list of only seven black women who have won the Best Actress, or Best Supporting Actress, award. Unfortunately, the average person still doesn't see Oscar-nominated films, like Twelve Years a Slave. And the Oscars are not the must-see affair they once were. Her acceptance speech should be required viewing (YouTube it). The average person reads about the Twelve Years . . . and the Lupitas, in the “Peoples.”

Nyong’o is a fairly new addition to Hollywood’s list of elites. In fact, her breakthrough role was portraying Patsy, from 12 Years.

Her story looks like Cinderella’s might if updated. She was born in Mexico (her birth-name is Guadalupe), to Kenyan parents. She was raised in Kenya. Later, she mastered her craft in the States - at Yale. Now, her life defines role model for all women who feel different.

Her skin is a deep, rich, dark chocolate (or “night shade” as she calls it) - not the common caramel hue.
Young black women, of all hues, see her beauty in their faces. She matters because of her talent. It’s refreshing that we allowed her ascension in spite of her lack of scandal, or nudity.

Social media buzzes nonstop about the cover, and the woman. College students and young professional women buzz loudest. One college senior wrote: “Although we aren't there yet, this is what progression looks like. Representation matters! Extremely happy to see black women depicted as beautiful and influential, while still wearing clothes. #blackexcellence #blackgirlsrock”

The last line could not have been written about fellow Best Supporting Actress Halle Berry. Berry won for portraying a [ . . . ] addicted prostitute. While her performance was harrowing, and deserving of the award, many women resented the stereotype.

Photo by Christopher Polk/Getty Images for DCP
Beyoncé Knowles’s Time Magazine’s Most Influential Person cover also comes to mind. Knowles, an international powerhouse with influence that equals, if not surpasses, that of many powerful world leaders was photographed in a sheer top (or cling wrap), and undergarments. Maybe it was a tailor-seamstress holiday.

Queen Bey could take note of Nyong’o, who has yet to make a fashion mistake. Body types notwithstanding, her team clearly knows what they’re doing.

This flawless track record warrants her coveted beauty contracts with the likes of iconic French makeup, skincare, and fragrance house, Lancôme (ignoring the skin lightening “controversy”). This is where the real money and exposure lies. Vogue.com’s Catherine Piercy wrote that “she has single-handedly breathed new life into red-carpet dressing” and that she “feels like the very definition of modern beauty.”

Her very essence inspires such admiration. Her mannerisms are confident, yet elegant. She’s sweet and child-like, but mature.

Beyond that, her intelligence and comprehension of what she represents makes her so relatable. Upon hearing about her new title she said: "It was exciting and just a major, major compliment. I was happy for all the girls who would see me on [the cover] and feel a little more seen."

Photo by Tim P. Whitby/Getty Images for BFI
She proved her eloquence once again at the Black Women in Hollywood luncheon: “You can't rely on how you look to sustain you. . . . What does sustain us . . . what is fundamentally beautiful is compassion for yourself and for those around you. That kind of beauty inflames the heart and enchants the soul.”

"I hope that my presence on your screens and in the magazines may lead you, young girl, on a similar journey. That you will feel the validation of your external beauty but also get to the deeper business of being beautiful inside. There is no shade in that beauty."

Wise words from a wise woman who deserves a long and fruitful career.

As long as she retains the infectious qualities—happiness, humility, kindness, and graciousness of spirit—her supporters take great pleasure in, she will be just fine.

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