Sulwe is Lupita’s response to colourism and all the negatives that come with it

Lupita Nyong’o, Academy Award winner, in a recent Instagram post, unveiled the cover of her upcoming children book called Sulwe. Lupita announced her plans to write a book back in January 2018 and this post was just a sneak peek into the ongoing work.

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In her post she writes, “I wrote #Sulwe to encourage children (and everyone really!) to love the skin they are in and see the beauty that radiates from within.” Fans who have been following the story since 2018, will be happy to note that the book, illustrated by the talented Vashti Harrison, is available to pre-order.

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How Sulwe came to be

However, this book is not just about creating a feel-good book for kids. On July 1st 2014, Lupita took to the stage at the ‘Essence Black Women in Hollywood’ event and read a letter she had received from a fan. “Dear Lupita,” she read, “I think you’re really lucky to be this black but yet this successful in Hollywood overnight. I was just about to buy Dencia’s Whitenicious cream to lighten my skin when you appeared on the world map and saved me.”

During her speech that night, Lupita addressed how Western beauty standards negatively impact dark skinned girls like herself. This scourge Lupita is referencing is referred to as colourism. The Oxford dictionary describes colourism as “prejudice or discrimination against individuals with a dark skin tone, typically among people of the same ethnic or racial group.”

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The author Alice Walker is most often credited as the first to use the term in her 1983 book, In Search of our Mother’s Gardens, to describe the preferential treatment of light-skinned people within the black community.  But colourism is not just an American thing; it’s a societal ill present in many societies around the world even here in Kenya.

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Children need to see their own unique beauty

Sulwe is Lupita’s answer to colourism. Through this book, she seeks to inspire and encourage other girls, specifically children, who feel less than beautiful because they don’t resemble the people they watch on TV or see in magazines. In the Amazon description, the book is described as a, “…stunning debut picture book,” with a “whimsical and heartwarming story to inspire children to see their own unique beauty.”

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In an interview with the New York Times, Lupita said that she was happy that her 2014 speech had resonated with so many people but she wanted to speak to the kids who would not have necessarily heard that speech hence the children’s book, Sulwe.

You can pre-order the book now on Amazon.



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