With her Oscar win for her searing portrayal of Patsey in “12 Years a Slave,” Lupita Nyong’o became the 15th actress to win an Oscar in her film debut.
The 30-year-old joins such notables as Barbra Streisand, Julie Andrews, Marlee Matlin, Eva Marie Saint and Jennifer Hudson. She was cast in the role by director Steve McQueen three weeks before graduating from Yale Drama School.
“It does not escape me that so much of the joy in my life comes from the pain of someone else,” said the radiant Kenyan-Mexican actress in her acceptance. “And so I want to salute the spirit of Patsey.”
A day after winning at the Spirit Awards, where she dedicated that trophy to her mother, Nyong’o dedicated her Oscar to children around the world, saying, “No matter where you are from, your dreams are all valid.”
Nyong’o joins 14 other black actors who have won Oscars. She is the seventh black actress to win, garnering her award 75 years after Hattie McDaniel won the first with the supporting actress trophy for “Gone with the Wind.”
Backstage, Nyong’o said, “I’m a little dazed. I can’t believe this is in my hands, I can’t believe this is real life. I’m a little overwhelmed. It’s in my hands but I haven’t got my mind around it yet. You hear people wanting you to win and predicting you’ll win but it’s just not real until you hear Christoph Waltz saying your name. But I’m so happy to be holding this golden man.”
Asked about her journey along the way, she said “What I have learned for myself is I don’t have to be anybody else, that myself is good enough. And when I avail myself of that self I can do extraordinary things. I think that’s the thing. You have to allow for the impossible to be possible.”