Lupita Nyong'o Gets Emotional About Her Path to Success

"What I wanted more than anything was to make believe for a living," Nyong'o said

Photo: David M. Benett/Getty

Lupita Nyong’o may have an Oscar, but the actress, known for her breakout role in 12 Years a Slave, still likes to take a piece of home with her wherever she goes.

“My mommy is here. My number one cheerleader,” Nyong’o told the crowd at the Massachusetts Conference for Women in Boston on Thursday, where she gave one of the keynote speeches.

The Kenyan-American actress got emotional during her speech and started to cry while discussing her childhood dreams of becoming an actress – though she lived in an African country that only had one TV channel.

“What I wanted more than anything was to make believe for a living,” said an emotional Nyong’o, who wore a sleek, white suit. “When I watched The Color Purple and watched Oprah and Whoopi Goldberg, a seed was planted in my heart to becoming an actor, but I dared not water it in public.”

Despite her desire to take the stage, acting wasn’t a “viable career path” for a young women growing up in Nairobi, Kenya, in the ’80s.

“Nobody I knew around me was acting for a living. In school, it wasn’t one of the professions you learned about,” said Nyong’o. “It didn t help that we only had one TV station and it aired very boring programming as a child.”

It was upon her arrival to the Yale School of Drama that Nyong’o embraced her dreams, and shortly before graduation, she was offered the role of Patsy in 12 Years a Slave. But now that she’s found acclaim for her acting chops, Nyong’o wants to help other women follow their dreams.

“We continue to fight for equality, for justice, for freedom, for compassion and we achieve the most when we are awakened and responsive to the desires of our individual hearts,” said Nyong’o, who can next be seen in Star Wars: The Force Awakens. “It is then we can be part of a whole and share our tools to fulfill the bigger picture of a better tomorrow.”

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