What You Can Learn From Lupita Nyong’o

Lupita Nyong'o

Lupita Nyong’o at the Academy Awards

I didn’t know who Lupita Nyong’o was two months ago.

She caught my attention at the Golden Globes in early January, and after winning a slew of film awards – including the Best Supporting Actress Oscar – for her role in 12 Years a Slave, she has captured my full attention. You might even say I have a girl crush on her.


Because she encapsulates everything I’ve been teaching for years: good skills, a polished appearance, and nice manners will take you anywhere in the world you want to go. It took Lupita from Kenya to the Hollywood A-List with a single film.

Yes, she has talent.

She started acting in grade school in Nairobi. After graduating from Hampshire College in Massachusetts with a degree in film and theater studies in 2004, she worked on the production crew for a number of films, including The Constant Gardener (2005) with Ralph Fiennes – who inspired her to go to acting school. She received her MFA from Yale Drama School in 2012, where she received the Herschel Williams Award for “outstanding ability.” She started filming 12 Years a Slave a month later.

Yes, she has a polished appearance.

Born in Mexico to Kenyan parents, Lupita’s father is a politician and her mother owns her own communications company. Lupita was raised to dress well in the spotlight. So before she began doing TV interviews for 12 Years a Slave, she did her homework on how to dress. Then, she hired stylist Micaela Erlanger to help. Lupita looked so stunning, Miu Miu hired her for their Spring 2014 campaign.

Lupita for Miu Miu

Lupita for Miu Miu

When the award nominations started piling up, she became an instant sensation on the red carpet. MTV created this meme from Lupita’s many red carpet looks.

The United Colors of Lupita

The United Colors of Lupita

Yes, she has nice manners.

She’s gracious in every interview I’ve seen. She’s humble in every speech she’s given. No rambling, no crazy shout-outs. Just thoroughly prepared and professional.

It makes her very likeable. So likeable, in fact, that she was instantly pulled into a crowd of Hollywood A-listers for that epic, history-making selfie. No one even cares that her little brother, Peter – a college Freshman with as much charm as chutzpah – photo bombed the darn thing. No, she’s just “one of them” now and probably will be for as long as she’s in the movies.

The Oscar Tweet

Ellen’s Oscar Tweet

So what can you learn from her?

1. Polish your skill set
2. Dress well
3. Mind your manners

It will take you far, fast.


Diana Pemberton-SikesDiana Pemberton-Sikes is an image consultant and author of Wardrobe Magic, an ebook that shows women how to dress well whatever their age, shape, size, or budget. Download Wardrobe Magic right here.

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