Lupita Nyong’o and What It Means to Be Black

She Matters: There are those who want to define her strictly by her nationality, as if being “just” black weren’t good enough.

Lupita Nyong’o in the press room during the Academy Awards at Loews Hollywood Hotel in Hollywood, Calif., March 2, 2014 Jason Merritt/Getty Images

With Rihanna, who has scored more Vogue covers than Oprah Winfrey and Michelle Obama, there’s always an emphasis on her being from Barbados. Meanwhile, Beyoncé—a Texas girl who was introduced to fans as “just” black—was suddenly advertised in Revlon ads as French, Native American and creole when she hit beauty-icon status. It’s the pop-culture equivalent of black girls and women who like to say, “I have Indian in my family,” as if the addition, even when true, somehow makes them better than just being black.

I wish we could all accept that “the black,” from wherever it hails in the Diaspora, is worthy of acknowledgment and is enough to be beautiful, accepted and claimed on its own.

Demetria L. Lucas is a contributing editor at The Root, a life coach and the author of A Belle in Brooklyn: The Go-to Girl for Advice on Living Your Best Single Life and the upcoming Don’t Waste Your Pretty: The Go-to Guide for Making Smarter Decisions in Life & Love. Follow her on Twitter.

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