Alek Wek is Lupita Nyong’o’s Beauty Icon


Lupita Nyong’o has become one of the best dressed stars to rock the red carpet this awards season, but the 12 Years a Slave star wasn’t always so confident in her own skin. Thankfully, she had Alek Wek.

As Nyong’o accepted Essence’s Best Breakthrough Performance Award at the 7th annual Black Women in Hollywood luncheon, she touched on how Wek influenced her own idea of beauty and helped her accept herself as she is. “A celebrated model, she was dark as night, she was on all of the runways and in every magazine and everyone was talking about how beautiful she was,” she explained. “Even Oprah called her beautiful and that made it a fact. [W]hen I saw Alek I inadvertently saw a reflection of myself that I could not deny.”

Wek challenged the beauty conventions when she made her debut in the mid-90s, but broke ground as the first African model to cover Elle in 1997 and served as the face of Clinique. With the model and the media mogul who embraced her to serve as inspiration, Nyong’o espoused the idea that beauty isn’t something to be gained or lost but something unique that already exists within each of us. “What is fundamentally beautiful is compassion for yourself and for those around you,” she said, “That kind of beauty enflames the heart and enchants the soul.”

Wise words for all. Thanks, Lupita!