The Oscars are on Sunday, but the only person anyone is talking about is Lupita Nyong’o — and not only because of her Supporting Actress nomination for “12 Years a Slave.” She’s become a global fashion icon. Here she is at the BAFTA awards in a green Dior gown.
Something unexpected happened to Best Supporting Actress nominee Lupita Nyong’o on the red carpet from obscurity to international renown.
She became a global fashion icon.
“Lupita looks great in clothes,” says Teri Agins, a fashion writer and author of “The End of Fashion: How Marketing Changed the Clothing Business Forever.”
To Agins, the 30-year-old Nyong’o has exactly what stylists crave: model looks, but also a worldly poise.
“This woman has a sense of herself,” Agins adds. “She’s wearing the clothes, the clothes aren’t wearing her. [She’s] a breakthrough. Everything she’s doing is different.”
Though a graduate of the Yale School of Drama, the Mexico-born, Kenya-raised Nyong’o was entirely unknown until landing the role of Patsey in Steve McQueen’s “12 Years a Slave.”
The fashion — and fame — came later.
“It doesn’t hurt to have a model frame when it comes down to enticing or inviting the fashion community to embrace you,” says Lloyd Boston, style commentator and author of “The Style Checklist.”
“Attitude, posture, confidence. She has it naturally,” Boston adds.
Nyong’o wore an array of top designers well when she promoted the movie last fall, but her breakout moment came at the Golden Globes in her red-caped Ralph Lauren gown. The other actresses in their fluffy fishtail dresses might as well have gone home.
“That dress was a game-changer,” says Boston. “I can see it going down in history in terms of red-carpet style.”
Of course, the fashion industry has embraced Nyong’o — she’s the new face of Miu Miu — and her Hollywood career is on the rise. She opens on Friday in “Non-Stop,” Liam Neeson’s airline action picture.
Nyong’o declined to talk about her fashion sense for this story. Her stylist Micaela Erlanger, who also works with Michelle Dockery from “Downton Abbey,” also declined to talk. That gives the fashionistas the last word on Lupitamania.
“Someone like her comes along once in a generation,” says Agins.
Behold, Queen Nyong’o’s greatest hits:
The red cape at the Golden Globes was indeed a game-changer, thanks to the lightly accessorized simplicity of the look:
“True style power is in restraint,” says Boston, “when you let your skin take center stage. She’s the fresh girl.”
Agins says she was at the Ralph Lauren fashion show months before where the caped dress was first shown on the catwalk.
“On the runway, it was not that exciting,” she says. But Nyong’o made it come alive.
She’s not fussy like many control-freak actresses, says Nicole Vecchiarelli, editor-in-chief of the mag, which put Nyong’o on the cover before W, New York and Vanity Fair.
“She was so poised and so beautiful and so articulate and serene,” says Vecchiarelli, who met Nyong’o at the Toronto Film Festival. “The idea of doing a new face really appealed to us — we felt she would have longevity.”
Matt Sayles/Matt Sayles/Invision/AP
At the SAG Awards, Nyong’o wore a gorgeous teal gown with a flowered neckline by Gucci. She repeats silhouettes that flatter her, but teal?
“When’s the last time you saw someone wear turquoise?” says Agins. “She had on turquoise eyeshadow [by makeup artist Nick Barose], and it looked fabulous!”
At the Hollywood Film Awards, Nyong’o shone like new money in a mustard-yellow sheath by J. Mendel.
Agins says the look showed the actress’ typical boldness with hues. “The fashion industry loves that she can wear color,” she says. “If you’re a designer and someone wears a dress of yours in a particular color, people remember it.”
Nyong’o’s dark skin means she can play with color in ways that people with light skin can’t. “Her skin is a perfect canvas; you can put anything against it,” says Agins.
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