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Actress Lupita Nyong'o is winning raves for her role in the buzzy new movie 12 Years a Slave alongside fellow up-and-comer Chiwetel Ejiofor. Before she becomes a huge star, here's everything you need to know about the 29-year-old newcomer.
1. Before she was a star, she assisted stars!
Lupita literally worked her way up in the movie industry. She worked on the set of the movie The Constant Gardener, which was filmed in Nairobi, Kenya. While working as a production assistant on the movie set, Lupita met star Ralph Fiennes.
"Ralph Fiennes was a pivotal influence on me," she told the New York Post. "I was having lunch with Ralph on set, and he asked me, ‘So what is it you want to do?’ I very shyly, timidly admitted that I wanted to be an actor. He sighed, and he said, ‘Lupita, only be an actor if you feel there is nothing else in the world you want to do — only do it if you feel you cannot live without acting.’"
2. She shares an alma mater with Meryl Streep.
Lupita is a graduate of the prestigious Yale School of Drama, whose alums include everyone from multiple Oscar-winner Meryl to Paul Giamatti and Angela Bassett.
3. Her background is international.
Born in Mexico, raised in Kenya, and educated in the United States - Lupita is clearly a global citizen!
4. The Color Purple was her inspiration.
Although Lupita comes from a family full of performes, there was one movie that inspired her to become an actress - The Color Purple. The 1985 Oscar-nominated flick starred Whoopi Goldberg and Oprah and was directed by Steven Spielberg.
"When I saw Whoopi Goldberg and she looked like me, I was like, 'Oh, I can do this!'" Lupita said in an interview with Vogue. "That's when I feel it really became a bug."
5. Next, she'll be playing a less serious character.
Her next role is slightly less dramatic - Lupita will play a flight attendant in the upcoming movie Nonstop. Her costars include Julianne Moore and Liam Neeson.