Yesterday, we received a comment from one of our astute readers about Lupita Nyong’o and her acceptance in the mainstream media.

Ask_Me wrote:


A few weeks ago there was some controversy after Dr. Marc Lamont Hill referred to Lupita as a fetish. Well, after that he got dragged by black women.

This was a very educational moment because the video of the “dragging” gave me plenty of food for thought…

The video made me think about things I’ve never thought about in terms of Lupita and what she means for the black community, black women, whites and beauty standards. This idea of her being a fetish, which truthfully I’ve only head from black men, has come up again with People Magazine naming her most beautiful person.

I wanted to know if you will write an article about black women and this idea of black women being fetishized when one/some of us become “accepted” (I’m not sure if that is the right word) by whites or mainstream America. Can you also address what the woman professor said about gender? I’m interested in knowing why the word “fetish” is even used at all. Why does it scare some people that Lupita is getting some shine?

While I watched Dr. Marc Lamont Hill’s public schooling in real time—let’s just say sistas weren’t too keen on him insinuating Nyong’o was becoming a “fetish”—I decided not to write about it because, honestly, I was think-pieced out (especially since I’ve written my fair share).

Instead of continually analyzing what Lupita’s presence meant to Black women and girls, or Hollywood, or the world at large, I just wanted to just bask in the beauty of her #BlackGirlMagic and enjoy the moment.

But when it was announced that the Kenyan actress was tapped by People Magazine as the most beautiful woman in the world, I noticed a disturbing uptick in people (sadly, many Black men I knew) wondering why she was being hailed as the most beautiful when “she looks mad average.”

I’ve tried to ignore the Ashy Larrys, as @ThePBG has so aptly called them, but the more I scroll past their jabs at Nyong’o being “beautiful because white people now find her beautiful” (this is the argument), the more I wonder why people can’t just say she’s a stunning women without all the qualifying and asterisks.

I wondered if some Black men also get all up in their feelings about the mainstream (read: White) media finding women like Paula Patton, Beyoncé, Halle Berry, Ciara, Rihanna, or Jhené Aiko beautiful, or are some of them incapable of acknowledging Lupita’s beauty because she does not fit into anyone’s—Black folks or White folks—ideals of what we’ve been taught is beautiful (i.e. White/light skin).

I also wondered, as Dr. Yaba Blay pointed out in the HuffPost Live roundtable, if some Black folks were jumping on the Lupita Is GAWJUS! bandwagon because it was now acceptable to see her as worthy because she’d garnered mainstream approval.

Just when brothers across the web were about to take an L, Damon Young penned a surprisingly honest essay for Ebony arguing “Why Black boys need Lupita Nyong’o.”

Young writes:

The inevitable backlash from certain Black people incredulous that someone had the audacity to consider Lupita beautiful. I think some of these people just keep “Lupita is ugly” in draft format on their iPhones and Twitter accounts, waiting for an opportunity–any opportunity–to hit send.

I spent much of yesterday morning reading some of these replies while shaking my head at their obliviousness to their ignorance. I even poked some fun at them yesterday afternoon, crafting a quiz titled: “Exactly How Threatened Are You By Lupita Nyong’o’s Beauty?” And I felt no shame in doing any of this because, well, I’ve earned it. In three months, I’m marrying a brownskinned woman with dreadlocks who carries Vaseline and owns a “Black Girls Run” t-shirt. My last serious girlfriend before her? Same complexion as I am. Even my “it’s complicated” relationship from college was with someone darker than I am.

Basically, I can scoff at the colorstruckedness of the Lupita hate brigade because that’s obviously not me. And it’s never been me.

And…well, that’s a lie.

Young goes on to write that for the better part of his formative years, the vast majority of his celebrity crushes were all light-skinned women with “traditionally beautiful” features like Aaliyah, Mya, Karyn Parsons, and Tisha Campbell because that’s what he saw in the media.

Which brings us back to Lupita. While so many in our own community are discounting her sudden rise and acceptance as merely a “fetish,” the fact that she’s on the world’s stage—and continues to slaaaay effortlessly—matters.

Because while adults might not “get it” somewhere, a little boy or girl who looks like Lupita thinks she is beautiful, and that’s far more important some random Ashy Larry’s misinformed opinion.

Let’s talk about it folks. What’s your take on Lupita Nyong’o’s popularity? Is it a for real or is it a fetish? And does it even matter? 

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