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Lupita Amondi Nyong’o Is Everything A Final Girl Should Be

Lupita Amondi Nyong’o is an icon. I’m convinced the Kenyan-Mexican actor will eventually join the elite club of EGOT winners, after all, she nabbed herself an Academy Award straight off the bat, has a Tony nomination under her belt and she won a Daytime Emmy in 2021. She’s obviously a talented stage and screen star, but she’s also an activist, a writer, a musician and is constantly making waves in the entertainment industry. 
Nyong’o will next be seen on screen when John Krasinski’s A Quiet Place: Day One hits cinemas on June 27, and I’m so pumped to see her tackle the role of Sam. It’s her third role in the thriller-horror genre, so it's fair to say she’s on her way to becoming a Scream Queen. The movie is a prequel, so we finally get to see what happens when blind aliens with supersonic hearing invade. It’s set in New York City, a stark difference to the previous A Quiet Place small-town environments.
In a recent interview with Glamour, she was asked why she seems to be drawn to thriller roles, and her reason is simple: she finds it fun to scare people. But, she admits, it takes “energy” to play these intense roles, and it can be “physically and mentally exhausting”. 
I’m convinced she’s going to be the Final Girl in A Quiet Place: Day One, as she’s been given solo character posters. Her co-star, Joseph Quinn, who plays Eric, has been on posters with Nyong’o, but not by himself.
The Final Girl trope has changed since it was first introduced in the 1970s, when the sole survivor often triumphed due to their moral superiority. Now, I’d say the Final Girl narrative has flipped the script, and in modern movies, it’s about nuanced female characters reclaiming their power and fighting through traumatic situations. And to be honest, this fits perfectly with her brand. Nyong’o has been vocal about causes she believes in, including rejecting a role in the Weinstein-distributed movie Southpaw after vowing never to work with him after the #MeToo movement. 
Despite working in Hollywood for just over a decade, Nyong’o has achieved an incredible amount in such a short time. From making her debut on Broadway, to starring roles in multiple massive franchises – Star Wars AND the MCU – and working with filmmaking royalty Jordan Peele, she’s doing the damn thing. To celebrate her career, let’s take a look back at some of her biggest moments. 

Lupita Nyong’o wins an Academy Award for breakout role in 12 Years a Slave

After graduating from the Yale School of Drama, Nyong’o was cast in 12 Years a Slave as Patsey. The biographical drama won Best Picture and her critically acclaimed performance saw her take home the Best Supporting Actress gong. She’s part of an elite group of just 15 actors who have won an Oscar with their debut film.

Lupita Nyong’o joins the Star Wars franchise

For her next role, Nyong’o told Buzzfeed she wanted to take on a character that was “completely different” and “a complete departure from 12 Years a Slave”. Her role as Maz Kanata in Star Wars: The Force Awakens was CGI, so it was a different “acting challenge”.
12 Years a Slave was a film that was so much about my body, and Star Wars is not at all. There was a liberation in being able to play in a medium where my body was not the thing in question,” she said at the time. The actor reprised her role in Star Wars: The Last Jedi, Star Wars Forces of Destiny and Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, proving her versatility. 

Lupita Nyong’o makes her Broadway debut in Eclipsed

The actor starred in multiple plays when she studied at Yale, so she has a love for the stage. The play Eclipsed premiered on Broadway in 2016, the first with both an all-female and Black crew and cast. When a journalist asked her why a big star would choose to do a “small play”, Nyong’o was so incensed that she wrote a passionate Lenny Letter to justify her choice. 
“To me it felt like a question about our value system in this culture, the ways we define success for ourselves as well as others,” she wrote. “Perhaps the reporter was placing a larger value on ‘Hollywood’ roles? I turned down a few projects to pursue this one. I knew there was a sense of what was expected of me, but this play felt so important to me that I had to do it, expectations be damned.” 
“As an African woman, I am wary of the trap of telling a single story… the chance to appear in Eclipsed after winning an Oscar was an opportunity to share in the incredible (and too rare) freedom of playing a fully rendered African woman.”
Her choice to take on the role gave Nyong’o her first Tony nomination for Best Actress in a Play, and her performance was widely applauded. 

Lupita Nyong’o cast as Nakia in Marvel’s Black Panther

The star isn’t one to shy away from big roles, joining the MCU as Nakia in the Black Panther films. For the role, Collider reports that she had to train in “judo, ju-jitsu and silat, and Filipino martial arts”, as well as learn the Hausa language. The Black Panther films were a huge commercial and critical success, showing that embracing representation can have massive payoffs. For Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, Nyongo had to undergo underwater training, and took it to another level. 
“She would be down there holding her breath and carrying giant weights through the water,” producer Nate Moore told The Hollywood Reporter. “Nothing we’d asked her to do, by the way… she was so intent on being believably comfortable in the water. She wanted to be as much of an expert as possible. And it shows. She was able to do things other cast members weren’t because she was just so intent on going above and beyond to make sure this character felt real.”
Director Ryan Coogler described the star as having “grit”, saying “what you see is what you get”. “She’s smart, cultured, gifted. She’s very confident, knows who she is. If she ever makes a choice that doesn’t feel true to herself, she’ll stop herself,” he added. 

Lupita Nyong’o dips her toes into the horror genre with Little Monsters and Us

Nyong’o continued to baffle and amaze viewers with her character choices, playing a kindergarten teacher trying to save a class of kids from a zombie apocalypse in the horror-comedy Little Monsters before working with horror master Jordan Peele. For her role as Red in Us, she nabbed an award for Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Leading Role at the Screen Actors Guild Awards.

Lupita Nyong’o publishes her first book Sulwe

Nyong’o wrote a children’s book in 2019 called Sulwe, about a young Kenyan girl with the “skin the colour of midnight” and the darkest complexion out of her family. It’s based on the star’s own experiences growing up, and it hit number one on the New York Times Best-Sellers list. 
She told Entertainment Weekly the response was “overwhelming” to see others talk about how they see themselves in the character Sulwe. “The first time I heard the book read aloud was by Penélope Cruz… as she read it [to her daughter], she got to a point in the book where Night and Day reunite and she broke down and cried,” she recalled. 
“Her daughter was so confused because you’re like, ‘Wait, what’s happening?’ And Penélope had to explain to her that it’s hard to read about a child who was not appreciated for her dark skin. So it was just such a beautiful, pure moment.”

Lupita Nyong’o narrates Serengeti and wins an Emmy Award

There are countless documentaries and docuseries about African wildlife, but few employ African voiceover talent. When EP and directors Simon Fuller and John Downer asked Nyong’o to use her native Kenyan accent for the show, she told Variety she had “a little bit of a panic attack”. 
“It was so nice to have someone embrace that and encourage it, because I never knew that I would start my career and that would be called for. So, it was just really lovely to bring my full self to this without any sort of pretense,” she said. 
The star took home an Emmy Award for Outstanding Narrator, bringing her closer to that coveted EGOT. It’s hard to think of anyone more deserving than Nyong’o, and I for one, will continue to watch her career closely.
You can catch Lupita Nyong’o as Sam in A Quiet Place: Day One exclusively in cinemas from June 27.

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