As Lupita Nyong’o accepted an award from the Harlem School of Arts — and entered the stage to Beyoncé’s anthemic hit “Brown Skin Girl” — the actress mainly had two people to thank for fueling her passion for the arts as a child: her parents.
“I was thinking about (the Harlem School of Arts) and what it does for children and its students (and) I didn’t have an institution where I’m in from in Nairobi, Kenya. And so the only way my interest in the arts thrived was because I had parents who valued those interests,” she said Monday night at the school’s annual Mask Ball in New York City. “And my mother in particular, she really nurtured my artistic spirit.”
So it was only appropriate that the Oscar winner’s mother, Dorothy Nyong’o, also received the Visionary Lineage Award alongside her daughter at The Plaza Hotel.
“I really didn’t do much,” Dorothy Nyong’o said to laughs from the audience, which included staff and students from the Harlem School of Arts, board members, donors and more.
Dorothy Nyong’o said she noticed her daughter’s interest in the arts as a child and so she looked “for opportunities to nurture that.”
“My job was really to facilitate it and I’d like to encourage parents to do it. Sometimes we make the mistake of trying to make our children what we think we want,” she said.
Dorothy Nyong’o won over the audience with more sweet words for her 36-year-old daughter, who has appeared in films such as “Black Panther,” ”Star Wars,” ”Us” and “12 Years a Slave,” for which she won an Academy Award.
“I’m proud of her. She makes me shine.”
Lupita Nyong’o, who earned a Tony nomination for her lead role in Broadway’s “Eclipsed,” thanked her mom for all of her support, explaining that when she was a teenager her mother “drove to rehearsals after a long day at work” and sat “in the car for five or so hours … and she never complained.”
“The Daily Show” host Trevor Noah introduced the Nyong’os to the stage, and they left the stage as “Brown Skin Girl” — a song celebrating dark-skinned women where Beyoncé namedrops Lupita’s name — blasted in the background.
Other honorees at Monday’s benefit — which raised more than $100,000 in text message donations and featured performances from students, alumni and staff — included Essence Communications CEO Michelle Ebanks and JP Morgan Chase executive Racquel Oden.