How Lupita Nyong’o Transformed Herself Into Hollywood’s Newest Superhero

On a fall afternoon in Manhattan that still feels like the burning days of summer, Lupita Nyong’o and I are in a bare, wood-floored studio called Foxy Fitness, learning how to pole-dance. Dressed in a dusty-pink sports bra and a matching wrap skirt over cream shorts, Nyong’o groans half-jokingly during the strenuous warm-up, then scrutinizes her pole with seriousness. Each time our instructor, competitive champion Ashley Fox, shouts out a new, seemingly impossible move, I wearily wilt against mine, and Nyong’o bursts into laughter. Our lesson was Nyong’o’s idea. I was surprised by the suggestion; exotic dancing with a magazine writer is not something I had imagined would be of interest to someone who maintains her privacy with unerring vigilance. A male friend of hers, Nyong’o explains, once visited her in New York and wanted to go to a strip club. They picked one in midtown (“It was a fancy club,” Nyong’o says), and she was amazed at the acrobatics of the dancers. “It was incredible and sexy, and I thought, I need to learn how to do that.”


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.”

Continue reading the full article: VOGUE

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