10 surprising facts about ’12 Years a Slave’ star Lupita Nyong’o

One of Hollywood’s fastest-rising stars, Lupita Nyong’o is the woman to watch in 2014.

Gorgeous, smart and stylish to boot, the 30-year-old Kenyan beauty has earned an Oscar nod for her riveting performance in 12 Years a Slave.

Following her striking awards show debut at the Golden Globes, where Lupita turned heads in a red Ralph Lauren caped gown, we set out to learn more about the notable newcomer.

Read on for our list of 10 facts you may not have known about Lupita.

1. Born in Mexico in 1983 to a prominent Kenyan family, Lupita is the daughter of renowned Kenyan politician Peter Anyang' Nyong'o. Her cousin is Isis Nyong'o, a media and technology manager who was named one of Africa's 20 most powerful women by Forbes magazine in 2012.

2. She's also a filmmaker. In 2009, she wrote, directed, and produced the documentary In My Genes, a film that explores the treatment of Kenya’s albino population.

3. She’s a Yale Drama Studies graduate. While in school, she appeared in many stage productions including The Taming of the Shrew and The Winter’s Tale.

4. She's multilingual. In addition to her native Luo and English, the actress also speaks Spanish, Swahili and knows basic Italian.

5. She’s a budding style icon: Vogue even named her one of the Top Ten Rising Style Stars of 2014. “Fashion is a newer area for me,” she told Elle UK. “I love clean lines and bold colours, and mixing feminine and masculine silhouettes." Her favourite designers are Antonio Berardi, Erdem, Prada and Miu Miu.

6. She was crowned across the board as one of the best-dressed stars at this year’s Golden Globes, wearing a stunning, $7,000 Ralph Lauren cape dress.

7. Lupita shaved her head at age 19. She recently said, “I got fed up of going to the hair salon. I just wanted less time grooming so that I could get more stuff done.”

8. For her performance as tortured slave Patsey in 12 Years a Slave, Lupita says she drew upon Michael Jackson’s persona for inspiration. “There's something very Michael Jackson-like about Patsey – the childlike quality he always had,” Lupita told Dazed & Confused.

9. Lupita also told Dazed that she first decided to become an actress after watching Whoopi Goldberg's Oscar-nominated performance in the 1986 film The Color Purple. “She had hair like mine, she was dark like me,” says Lupita.

10. She plays a flight attendant named Gwen in the upcoming action film Non-Stop opposite Liam Neeson, Julianne Moore and Michelle Dockery. The film is slated for released on Feb. 28, the Friday before the 2014 Oscars.

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