Kenyan actress Lupita Nyong’o has made history by becoming the first woman from her country to win the Oscar for best supporting actress for her performance in the film 12 Years a Slave.
Nyong’o scooped the award at the 86th Academy Awards in Los Angeles on Sunday.
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“Thank you to the academy for this incredible recognition,” an emotional Nyong’o said, earning a thunderous standing ovation from the Hollywood audience.
“It doesn’t escape me for one moment that so much joy in my life is thanks to so much pain and someone else’s. And so I want to salute the spirit of Patsey for her guidance.”
The Yale Drama School graduate plays hardworking slave Patsey in the film.
“When I look down at this golden statue may it remind me, and every little child, that no matter where you are from your dreams are valid,” she said.
Nyong’o, 31, won her first Oscar after earning the same award from her peers at the Screen Actors Guild Awards in January.
She received plaudits from critics for her depiction of suffering as a field-working slave who becomes an object of sexual desire for her master.
The award marks Nyong’o’s coronation into the top echelon of dramatic actresses working in Hollywood. She has also burnished her image as an emblem of high fashion with her style on the red carpet.
12 Years a Slave, directed by Britain’s Steve McQueen, is based on the memoir of Solomon Northup, a 19th century free black man tricked and sold into slavery.
Nyong’o’s Patsey, who is able to pick more pounds (kilos) of cotton per day than the stronger male slaves, embodies resilience in the drama even as the primary recipient of physical and sexual violence.
“There was an underlying stream of grief at all times even in the lighter scenes,” Nyong’o said last year while promoting the film. “There is a deep pain in Patsey throughout and living in that pain was not easy.”
The Kenyan media were agog with Nyong’o’s award on Monday, with leading newspaper the Daily Nation proclaiming: “History as Lupita Nyong’o scoops Best Supporting Actress Oscar.”