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Lupita Nyong'o Stuns on First Vogue Cover: See the Photos (and Find Out What She Wore to Prom!)

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It was only a matter of time before the World’s Most Beautiful Woman nabbed her first Vogue cover. Lupita Nyong’o looks flawless (naturally) on the July issue of the magazine, posing in a purple printed cutout Prada dress with a huge smile across her face. And in addition to expertly modeling a number of gorgeous designer looks in the new spread (including Rodarte, Proenza Schouler, Givenchy and J. Crew), the Oscar winner gives a very candid interview about her “breakout year.”

Lupita Nyong'o Vogue Cover
VOGUE/Mikael Jansson

“It just feels like the entertainment industry exploded into my life,” she tells Vogue. “People who seemed so distant all of a sudden were right in front of me and recognizing me — before I recognized them!”

This year marked Nyong’o’s first award season, and even though she managed to rule the red carpet almost instantaneously — and seemed to never break a sweat — she says that, at times, she found her plunge into superstardom overwhelming.

“Everyone said, ‘Brace yourself, Lupita! Keep a granola bar in that clutch of yours!'” she says. “I didn’t really understand what they meant, and it was only once it was past that I realized that my body had been holding on by a thread to get through this very intense experience. Nothing can prepare you for awards season. The red carpet feels like a war zone, except you cannot fly or fight; you just have to stand there and take it.”

Lupita Nyong'o Vogue Cover
VOGUE/Mikael Jansson

Thanks to all those red carpet appearances (and her stylist Micaela Erlanger) the actress found herself on top of a number of best-dressed lists, captivating the fashion world and fans in memorable looks like the bright-red Ralph Lauren Collection gown at the Golden Globes and her custom “Nairobi blue” Prada confection at the Oscars.

“We got goose bumps,” Erlanger recalls about the fitting of the caped Ralph Lauren dress. “I told her, ‘This is going to be a game-changer.’ And it was.” The stylist also tells Vogue that the first time she met Nyong’o, the actress had a Pinterest board of looks she loved. “Bold color, interesting print, interesting silhouette — simple but architectural and feminine,” she shares. “Elegance, but with a sense of humor.”

“We’d just try, try, try, try, try, try, try,” Nyong’o adds. “At first it was very daunting, but I ended up really having fun with it. It’s quite scary when you fall in love with a dress, because it’s nothing to do with your brain. It’s like a gut reaction.”

Lupita Nyong'o Vogue Cover
VOGUE/Mikael Jansson

The 31-year-old star grew up in Kenya, and says she always had a penchant for fashion. She designed her own clothes, including her prom dress. “It was a velvet miniskirt with a matching little top and an iridescent silver translucent fabric that flowed to the ground,” she shares. “It was kind of ridiculous, but it was fabulous at the time.”

In addition to her stronghold on the fashion world (including a Miu Miu ad campaign), Nyong’o also landed her first major beauty campaign this year with Lancôme. “It’s not about conforming to an already established idea of what is beautiful, and I like that,” she says of admiring the brand and its other celebrity ambassadors.

What’s next? The star already has a huge film project lined up (
Star Wars
!), so there will be plenty of red carpets in her future. But we’re not sure how she can top this year. What do you think of Nyong’o’s debut Vogue cover? Is it the first of many?

–Brittany Talarico