Lupita Nyong’o took a stand against her natural hair being digitally altered for the cover of Grazia UK magazine. The Oscar-winning actress refused to allow “unconscious prejudice” and set standards of beauty negate her “beautiful, kinky, coily hair.”
In an Instagram post on Friday, Nyong’o, 34, expressed her disappointment with the magazine and posted a photo of the magazine cover alongside her original hairstyle.
“As I have made clear so often in the past with every fiber of my being, I embrace my natural heritage and despite having grown up thinking light skin and straight, silky hair were the standards of beauty, I now know that my dark skin and kinky, coily hair are beautiful too,” she wrote.
“Being featured on the cover of a magazine fulfills me as it is an opportunity to show other dark, kinky-haired people, and particularly our children, that they are beautiful just the way they are.
“I am disappointed that @graziauk invited me to be on their cover and then edited out and smoothed my hair to fit their notion of what beautiful hair looks like.
“Had I been consulted, I would have explained that I cannot support or condone the omission of what is my native heritage with the intention that they appreciate that there is still a very long way to go to combat the unconscious prejudice against Black women’s complexion, hair style and texture.”
The magazine released a statement Friday on Twitter saying that it did not “make any editorial request to the photographer for Lupita Nyong’o’s hair to be altered” and added “nor did we alter it ourselves.”
But it also apologized for “not ensuring that we were made aware of all alterations that had been made.”
Saigon-born An Le, a photographer based in New York City, airbrushed the photo. Le apologized in a statement on Monday.
“I’ve had some time to reflect on my part in the incident involving Grazia and Ms Nyong’o. I realize now what an incredibly monumental mistake I have made and I would like to take this time to apologize to Ms Nyong’o and everyone else that I did offend,” he said.
Nyong’o, born in Mexico City and raised in Kenya, played Patsey in “12 Years a Slave,” the 2013 film that earned her an Oscar, and has a starring role in the highly anticipated 2018 Marvel Studios’ film, “Black Panther.” Recently, she has also taken a stand against the mistreatment of women in Hollywood. Nyong’o is the only Black actress to publicly come forward and share her experience of sexual harassment by Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein, which she detailed in an Oct. 19 New York Times op-ed.
“Harvey led me into a bedroom — his bedroom — and announced that he wanted to give me a massage,” Nyong’o writes in a New York Times op-ed.
Nyong’o has a history of sharing her past experiences, sometimes painful, to encourage and uplift Black women. In 2014, she won the Essence Magazine Black Women In Hollywood Breakthrough Performance Award. During an iconic speech at the ceremony, she talked about her struggle to embrace her complexion.
“I remember a time when I too felt unbeautiful,” she said. “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 refused to look down at myself until I was in front of a mirror because I wanted to see my fair face first. And everyday, I experienced the same disappointment of being just as dark as I was the day before.”
She said that when she was a teenager, her self-hate grew worse.
“My mother reminded me often that she thought I was beautiful,” she said. “But, of course, she’s supposed to think I’m beautiful.”
Nyong’o said it was seeing model Alek Wek’s international rise that made her reassess her feelings about her complexion.
“Everyone was talking about how beautiful she was,” the actress said. “Even Oprah called her beautiful. And that made it a fact.
“I couldn’t believe people were embracing a woman who looks so much like me as beautiful.”
She added, “A flower couldn’t help but bloom inside of me. When I saw Alek I inadvertently saw a version of myself that I could not deny.”