After class ends, Nyong’o changes into a deep-V-neck floral dress from Reformation, slips on dramatic cat-eye sunglasses, and strides onto the street. She is self-possessed, a woman who walks with her back straight, her shoulders set back, and her gaze fixed directly in front of her. It’s the kind of pride that many African women share: a sense that they own the ground on which they are walking. “She’s very careful as a person, about her words, about how she moves through space,” her friend, screenwriter Ben Kahn, tells me. From the moment Nyong’o entered Hollywood, with her Oscar-winning, star-creating turn in 2013’s 12 Years a Slave, her poise was striking.
Before we even meet, Nyong’o decides to interview me first. Too many journalists end up impersonally grilling her over lunch, she tells me over the phone, and as a result, she wants to know some things about me so that we can have an actual conversation. In our pre-interview, I discover our mutual love of the clothes of Nigerian fashion label Maki Oh, and our shared, slightly unhealthy obsession with Game of Thrones. “I’m not caught up, though, so I can’t talk about it. I’m in the dark and blissfully so,” she says, laughing. “I like to spread it out so that it can live with me for longer.”