The winner is…Lupita Nyong’o for Lancôme. Lupita has a new role; she has been cast to play the lead as the new face of the luxury perfume, cosmetics and beauty brand owned by L’Oreal, Lancôme, Paris, and she is worth it. Lupita’s star has been rising since the astounding acclaim she received for her Academy Award in the Hollywood film 12 Years a Slave.
In a statement currently trending on social media, Lupita expressed how honored she is to be a part of the prestigious House of Lancôme, a brand that she has always loved. She detailed how proud she is to represent Lancôme’s vision for women and the idea that beauty should not be dictated, but should be an expression of a woman’s freedom to be herself. Lupita also tweeted, “The secret’s out, and I feel great.”
Lupita Nyong’o is the first African face to endorse Lancôme. The 31-year-old Kenyan born beauty follows in the footsteps of Kate Winslet and Penelope Cruz, who were previous ambassadors for the French luxury brand. Lupita Nyong’o, as the face of Lancôme, is a long-awaited departure from the cosmetic industry’s preference to incessantly tilt the scales of preferred beauty more favorably toward the Eurocentric.
The perpetuated concept that whiter and lighter is more beautiful, has had a negative effect on Lupita during her childhood. At the seventh annual Black Woman in Hollywood luncheon in February, Lupita recalled a time in her life when she thought of herself as unbeautiful, and the images she saw in the media reminded her of it. Lupita spoke of being teased about her dark skin and wishing she would one day wake up to be lighter in complexion. Nyongo’s disapproval of her dark skin continued into her adolescent years, even though her mother constantly reminded her of how beautiful she was.
Sudanese supermodel Alek Wek’s international success inspired Lupita to reflect on the accepted perception of beauty, and began to view her own self as being beautiful. “She was as dark as night, she was on all the runways and in every magazine, and everyone was talking about how beautiful she is,” Lupita explains of Alek. Lupita further states, “When I saw Alek, I inadvertently saw a reflection of myself that I could not deny. I felt more seen, more appreciated by the far away gatekeepers of beauty.”
Lupita’s conviction that “there is no shade in beauty,” is a very hard pill to swallow in many places. Western cosmetic manufactures have an incentive to spend mass amounts on advertising in countries like India to promote their “fairness cream” products to supply the demand for lighter skin tones. It is embedded in the psyche of societies like India, Nigeria, the Dominican Republic, Korea and Jamaica, where both men and women extensively use products to lighten their skin color, believing in the notion that lighter is more appealing. It is a belief that is perpetuated by foreign invasion and subjugation, divisional rule, European colonialism, expressed through cultural thought, and continued by mass media and westernization.
Ironically, through Lancôme, Lupita Nyong’o’s is now an honorary member of the gatekeepers of beauty club. Importantly, it isn’t her beauty alone that made it possible. Lupita Nyong’o is one of the most intelligent, articulate, interesting, self-assured, talented and bright personalities to emerge from Hollywood and onto the world stage. She is a graduate of Yale University, and, in her home country of Kenya, she has helped to provide social change with her pre-Hollywood documentary film In My Genes, which documents the plight of Albinos in Kenya. Lupita Nyong’o is the epitome of the idea that there is no beauty without intellect, no matter how fair or dark you may be.
La Maison Lancôme is part of an up and coming trend, where beauty and cosmetic companies are finally accepting that, in order to maximize profits, they must understand that beauty is as global as commerce. L’Oreal and Este Lauder have recently been using more diverse personalities to appeal to larger segments of the population and consumers in parts of the world where spending power is on the rise.
Hindi Cinema’s megastar, Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, has been the face of L’Oreal for 12 years, and Ethiopian born model Liya Kebede represented Este Lauder in 2003, the first non-white representative of the brand in its 57 year history. Lancôme also signed “black” Dominican model Arlenis Sosa in 2008. The advertising campaign featuring Lupita Nyong’o for Lancôme will begin this summer. Lupita can now be seen in the film Non-Stop opposite Liam Neeson.
By Humphrey Bennett