Enough Granny Compliments—I’m Calling Lupita a Hottie

Sure, she’s been celebrated. But the language with which Lupita Nyong’o’s beauty is often described is a reminder that some of us haven’t strayed far from our hesitation to embrace brown girls.


On one hand, the collective gushing reads like an apology for the way beauty standards have historically subjugated brown-skinned women. And on the other hand, it’s as if people are going all out to boost Lupita’s self-esteem. The praise isn’t simply a spontaneous, organic reaction to this woman’s beauty; it’s a compliment, yes, but one that comes with a lot of baggage.

We’ll know we’ve arrived at a place of skin-tone aesthetic equality when men—and black men in particular—fashion magazines and America in general can admire Lupita’s beauty in the same imaginative, flamboyant—even salacious—way that people have expressed admiration for Beyoncé, Sofia Vergara or Angelina Jolie. There’s unabashed awe for these ladies’ looks, without further qualification. They’re simply referred to as “hot.” Full stop.

Brown-skinned black women want to be wanted in the same manner as caramel-complexioned black women—even if the praise is less polished—because that suggests there’s parity between different hues.

Don’t gaze at us and then put us up on a pedestal, never to be touched or spoken to or courted. We’re tactile beings just like other women, and we want the good—and sometimes the bad—reactions that come along with being sexy, pretty girls. We don’t need to be coddled or reassured.

Our beauty isn’t rare—it’s rather ubiquitous when you just open your eyes and rid yourself of narrow Western standards of beauty. And guess what? You can express your attraction by using the same colorful and colloquial vocabulary used to describe those bad “light-skin” chicks from around your way. 

Sure, Lupita’s gorgeous, even “resplendent.” But you know what else? She’s also fine as hell.

Diana Ozemebhoya Eromosele is a staff writer at The Root and the founder and executive producer of Lectures to Beatsa Web series that features expert advice for TV and film’s most complex characters. Follow Lectures to Beats on Facebook and Twitter.