An Oscar Win for Lupita Nyong’o: A Love Letter to the Mainstream Wedding industry

Your Facebook timelines and news feeds are probably filled with the gossip following the 2014 Oscars which took place last night.

The dresses were exquisite –  but it was actress Lupita Nyong’os’ Oscar win for her portrayal of Patsy in 12 Years a Slave, that has left a huge mark on my heart and I’ll get to that in a moment.

I received a flurry of emails from readers last week dejected and frustrated by the UK wedding industry. It was those emails, this image and a video I saw this morning (below) that inspired me to publish this half written blog post, which has been sitting in my drafts for a while.

 

_lupita

Most of you will know my journey to Nu Bride started because I felt surprisingly excluded from the mainstream wedding industry. It reminded me of some of the insecurities and battles with race and identity I encountered as a child and teenager. I felt like I could never be a princess as I could not identify with the images constantly proffered  at me via media.  The old Disney cartoons I adored, but at the time did not represent little black girls with afro hair like mine. As an adult embarking on my wedding planning journey I was astounded to be presented with this familiar feeling reinforced with durable masking tape, when I discovered again, there was little presence or representation of ‘women like me’ in the mainstream in any capacity.

Our visions of beauty and our desire to be ‘seen /  reflected’ start from when we are children. Lupita reconfirms this in her speech at an Essence Magazine event  in the video below.

I’ve said it before, Disney is a powerful influencer.  I see it in my friends children, playing dress up and watching Disney cartoons on repeat. I experienced it. I lived it.  So this collage of Lupita (in an exquisite Prada Nairobi blue dress) next to the ‘common’ ideal of a princess ‘Cinderella’, floating around the internet last night made an impression on my heart. Little girls NEED to see diversity in beauty.

Neither is more beautiful than the other. Neither is more desirable. BUT we all deserve to be princesses, we all deserve to represented don’t we? Even I will admit, up until recently, this image of Cinderella used to be the first I thought of when visualising a princess. I think the wedding industry sees this image too. Beautiful yes, but when will this ideal evolve and reflect the beautiful eclectic society we live in ?

photo 2Lupita Nyong’o elegantly caressing the red carpet at the Oscars 2014 in Prada

 When I first watched 12 Years a Slave, I was actually paralysed for about 30 minutes afterwards. Paralysed because this cruelty actually occurred. People were beaten until the skin actually came off their body, because they were black, seen as a lesser being. Sold, beaten, stolen, raped, refused education etc. It took me ages to process that these events depicted in this movie were true. I took a while to catch my breath. To stop the cathartic sobs. That this happened. We did this to EACH OTHER. Humanity not in its finest hour.

If you haven’t seen 12 Years a Slave, I won’t lie, it is NOT an easy watch. It is raw. But it is so important and I think everyone should watch it, so that we remain compassionate human beings and do not let history repeat itself. (Especially when it is being statistically reported that we (UK), are becoming a nation that is less caring and less tolerant of others).  Through the darkness of 12 Years a Slave, there are also moments of beauty, comfort, compassion and glimpses of human decency which make you smile. The acting, especially by British actor Chiwetel Eijifor is exceptional and you will see why Lupita Nyong’o has just picked up an Oscar for the very first role she landed fresh from drama school and why the film has won ‘best picture’. This is absolutely exceptional given the context and the battle for black actors and directors to make impressions at this level in the acting industry. Standing ovation Steve McQueen.

Some of you may know I started my creative journey as a professional actress and singer,  training for 3 years at a prestigious performing arts institution in London. I remember some of the feedback I used to get from my agent and teachers along the way, ranging from;

‘You didn’t get this role because they are looking for someone with lighter skin’ (Got this A. LOT)

‘You’re too black’.  (In hindsight this wasn’t the most useful form of feedback. What was I supposed to do – bleach my skin to have more acting opportunities?)

‘Nova you’re black darling (oh my gosh! I hadn’t realised), there will only be limited roles you can play’.

I entered the acting industry professionally at the tender age of 21. As a young adolescent, it was very difficult to start to form my own identity and define who I was when everything that defined my foundation and my appearance was translated as a ‘negative’ and often not desirable in the acting industry.

My immediate response was I was the one who was ‘wrong’,  it was my fault. Well, through years of building on my confidence and working on self-esteem I realised, it was never me who needed to change, it was my mindset and it was the industry.

If you watch this clip of Lupita speaking at an Essence Magazine event celebrating black women in Hollywood – you will see she struggled with similar battles to do with race and identity. Again it reminded me of Dark Girls which has left a huge impression on me and some of the points I raise with Annabel over on Love My Dress about the wedding industry and black brides.

I used to be teased as a teenager because my skin was the ‘colour of faeces’ to constantly see racist remarks etched on school desks and toilet walls about me, which I later discovered were written by ‘friends’. I hadn’t done anything wrong other than have black skin. I was ‘different’ to the majority of my peers. This experience wreaked havoc on my self-esteem.

Lupita’s story as a teenager and young woman really resonates with me; she too was teased because of her ‘dark skin’, feeling unbeautiful –  turning on the TV and only seeing people with pale skin.

For Lupita, feeling unbeautiful soon evolved into self hate when she entered her adolescence. Negotiating with God, to make her skin be lighter in the morning, if she stopped doing ‘naughty’ things.

As Lupita says, no amount of hearing the words ‘you’re beautiful’ from parents, siblings, friends, will have an ounce of impact on how you feel about yourself, when your self-worth is obliterated by how you are perceived or treated in society and what is continuously (not) represented in magazines, on TV as beautiful and desirable.

I am a firm believer that confidence and strong self-esteem starts from the inside. It took me many years to get there. But I did. I acknowledge that getting to a place where you are comfortable and confident in who you are is layered among the complexities of self-worth, upbringing, your values and not all placed on media. But media is a POWERFUL contributor to the ideals women hold about themselves and others. If we are not presented with images who represent us in some way in media we are not validated. We do not feel accepted and the vicious cycle will continue.

Lupita raised a point about when she started to be ‘seduced by inadequacy’ that also resonated with me. You almost start to ‘accept’ what is, is. It’s far easier to accept than continue to go against the grain and resist isn’t it?

I received several emails last week from brides-to-be, newly engaged and feeling stressed and dejected about their wedding because they have found no representation for them in wedding magazines, media, at wedding shows. Still in 2014. This makes me sad that this feeling that you are not good enough or not desirable / purely and simply because there is this ‘silence’ when you are not represented visually. This I will not accept and will do all that I can to contribute to a much more inclusive UK wedding industry.

Lupita talks eloquently in her Essence Magazine speech about Validation. How can you be validated if there is no ‘version’ of yourself in media? No models in magazines. No models on the catwalk. How will I get an insight into what a dress might look like on my skin when there are no models used representing my race?

When I first started working in the acting industry, I just started to accept that the only leading role I could play in the West End would be the Lion King. That if I was cast in any plays I would either be cast as the ghetto slang one from Brixton (can you imagine?! LOL!) or a background role as a servant or helper.  But then I got to the point where I didn’t accept that as a suitable response anymore. I feel the same way about the wedding /  fashion industry. A common response floating around both industries, which no doubt you will have heard challenged by the likes of Naomi Campbell, is that ‘black women don’t sell magazines or won’t sell my product’. Why not? Where is the evidence to suggest this? When was the last time this was tried?

Well my darlings, if we belive this response to be true then the onus is entirely on us, the general public. Why don’t we want to see black or other ethnic women on the front of magazines or on  catwalks? Yes….. I beg to differ too and I’ve got a feeling Lupita Nyong’o will be shifting a few magazine sales this week!

There is diversity in beauty. I will keep saying it, because I truly believe it: We are all beautiful, we all matter.

We all deserve to be inspired and represented on our journey to happily ever after. I look forward to the day when we truly embrace this in our wedding and fashion industries, so little girls (and boys) don’t grow up to only see one ideal of a princess.

To the wedding industry –  what can we start to do to address this? What can we do this year to be even better and more inclusive?

Lupita looks like princess to me. Doesn’t she?

Congratulations Lupita Nyong’o on your Oscar and for finding a way to celebrate and embrace your beauty  as a black woman and to inspiring all those beautiful young girls who feel inferior.

Image sources: Style List and the Daily Mail

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29 Responses to “An Oscar Win for Lupita Nyong’o: A Love Letter to the Mainstream Wedding industry”

  1. Katie Jenner
    March 3, 2014 at 2:09 pm #

    You raise some really great points in this article. I’m white and I get so bored (and appalled) by the general attitude and lack of recognition of anyone who isn’t white. That is so shocking that someone said you were ‘too black’ – WTF?! I love reading your blog, because you have all types of brides represented, and that makes me feel much better about myself. I need to try and do this more with my blog! Bravo Nu Bride! xxx

    • Nu Bride
      March 4, 2014 at 5:36 pm #

      Hi Katie, thanks so much for sharing your comment. The acting industry a lot to do with appearance, so it’s quite common, although a more diplomatic approach to feedback might have been more appreciated of course. 🙂

      I am so glad you enjoy reading Nu Bride and I am glad the piece has inspired you to be more inclusive with your blog too! Thank you Katie. x

  2. Elizabeth's Cake Emporium
    March 3, 2014 at 2:38 pm #

    Beautiful piece Nova!

    • Nu Bride
      March 4, 2014 at 5:37 pm #

      Thanks as ever for your support Elizabeth 🙂 xxx

  3. Ishari De Silva Weddings
    March 3, 2014 at 3:03 pm #

    Great article! x

    • Nu Bride
      March 4, 2014 at 5:38 pm #

      Thanks for reading. 🙂 x

  4. Shelley Richmond
    March 3, 2014 at 4:03 pm #

    Great post Nova, glad you published it. There seems to be a serious lack of representation in the media of ethnic diversity in UK weddings and I just can’t understand why, there is so much beauty in every ethnicity and every culture. I hope that the industry starts to embrace this beauty more wholeheartedly for the sake of generations to come…

    • Nu Bride
      March 4, 2014 at 5:39 pm #

      Hi Shelley,
      Thank you very much for your supportive comment. I hope so too and it’s absolutely the generations to come that I feel passionate about too. xxx
      Nova x

  5. Kim Santiago
    March 3, 2014 at 4:05 pm #

    You are amazing and inspirational!

    • Nu Bride
      March 4, 2014 at 5:40 pm #

      Humbled. Huge thank you Kimmy! xx

  6. Jo Lawrence
    March 3, 2014 at 6:21 pm #

    Nova, you made me cry with this piece so insightful and touching. Please keep doing what you do, you are already making a difference in this world.

    • Nu Bride
      March 4, 2014 at 5:41 pm #

      Hi Jo, WOW. What wonderful kind words that means an awful lot thank you very much for your support and for your kindness. To make even an ounce of a difference means a lot. Nova (Ps. Sorry for the tears!) xx

  7. Seyi Olusanya
    March 4, 2014 at 2:30 pm #

    Beautifully written, Well done Nova. Keep on keeping on

    • Nu Bride
      March 4, 2014 at 5:41 pm #

      Huge virtul hug. Thank you Seyi. xxx

  8. Karen - SmashingTheGlass.com
    March 5, 2014 at 7:29 am #

    Nova, what a piece… it’s Oscar worthy. You are making such powerful waves in the wedding industry and beyond, it’s only a matter of time before you’re accepting awards in a princess Prada dress!

    This piece reminds me of one of my favourite quotes sourced by the late, great and ever-inspiring Steve Jobs.

    “Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently. They’re not fond of rules. And they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them. About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them. Because they change things. They push the human race forward. And while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.”
    ― Apple Inc.

    • Nu Bride
      March 6, 2014 at 3:00 pm #

      Karen, Wow! I love this, abundantly! This quote is hugely inspiring and oh so true. If only people realised it more. Thank you so much for sharing and for your wonderful words (and Steve’s!) x Much love xx

  9. Annabel, Love My Dress
    March 5, 2014 at 9:01 am #

    Such an emotional, touching and thoughtfully written piece Nova, which yet again highlights for me more than ever the work we have to do, the work we are now *responsible* for doing, to assist in changing perspectives. I too was incredibly moved having watched 12 Years A Slave – moved to tears and shock to realise that humans could ever treat humans that way based on the colour of their skin. I love that you are working to increase the issues of diversity in weddings, fashion and the media. We *all* rely on people like you to keep shouting your wonderful, encouraging, positive messages to help the world see things the way they should be seen. It’s been such a pleasure to work with you on this issue too. I’m off to spread news of this post xxxx

    • Nu Bride
      March 6, 2014 at 4:04 pm #

      Annabel, so glad you found the piece moving in some way. You’re right, it’s all about changing perspectives and I will continue to do what I can to raise awareness. Changing the world one step at a time. 🙂 its been wonderful working with you too. Thank you for your support, it means more than you will ever know. Xx

  10. Joyce Connor
    March 5, 2014 at 8:56 pm #

    Brilliant, brilliant piece Nova. brought me to tears and then some. Lupita is a true inspiration and such a wise head on young shoulders. In many ways she reminds me of you and how wonderful and selfless you are. I absolutely love reading your blog. You are a true inspiration Nova and i think you have already left your mark on this industry as Lupita has on the film industry. xxxx

    • Nu Bride
      March 6, 2014 at 5:55 pm #

      Dear Joyce, can I print this off and frame it? 🙂 Wow, being likened to Lupita is a wonderful accolade, thank you so very much. She does indeed see, to have a wonderful spirit and I hope I leave a positive mark in the industry in years to come, even it it tiny. 🙂 I am glad you enjoyed the piece. Thank you for sharing, supporting and following Nu Bride.x

  11. Alison Cameron
    March 6, 2014 at 9:03 am #

    As a dark skinned Black woman, I can totally indentify with this piece and your experiences on so many levels it actually brought me to tears.
    Lupita’s win at the Oscars is revolutionary, if I had seen role models like her whilst growing up it would have changed my perception of beauty and ultimately of myself, definitely. As for the UK mainstream wedding industry? We have a long way to go, but I am proud to be a part of it. Keep up the good work xxx

    • Nu Bride
      March 6, 2014 at 6:00 pm #

      Hi Alison, thank you so much for your comment and for reading the piece. On one hand I am so glad you could Identify with the piece, on the other, it makes me sad that yet another beautiful woman suffered the same racial identity / beauty challenges I did.

      The wedding industry does have some work to do, but i’m hopeful and grateful to be a part of it. Much love xxxx

  12. Julie Skelton
    March 6, 2014 at 11:24 am #

    I’m so glad you hit ‘publish’, and I NEED to see that movie. It still shocks me that we as a human race can be so INhuman and unfeeling towards other beings who are made of the same stuff. Wishing you every success as I’m sure you’ll see your blog go from strength to strength!

    • Nu Bride
      March 6, 2014 at 6:03 pm #

      Bless you, thank you Julie. I’m glad I pressed publish too. Thank you for your huge support. Much love. Xxx Ps. yes go see, but take tissues! 🙂

  13. Charlotte Munro
    March 10, 2014 at 11:12 am #

    A really well written and touching post. I agree 100% and didn’t Lupita look stunning! I now need to go and watch 12 years a slave, I’ve heard so much about it and now you’ve convinced me it’s a must see Xx

    • Nu Bride
      March 10, 2014 at 10:05 pm #

      Thanks so much Charlotte. I am glad I wrote it, I’ve had such encouraging support. She did indeed look stunning. Let me know what you think of 12 years a slave. It’s a tough watch!

  14. Cathy
    March 14, 2014 at 11:01 pm #

    Wonderful article. Lupita’s speech was great and her performance in 12 years a slave was very powerful.

  15. Jackie Nwobu
    March 18, 2014 at 10:45 pm #

    This was beautifully written and definitely on-point. As you know, I feel the same sentiments and look forward to reshaping the industry along with fabulous peers like yourself. Well done!

    • Nu Bride
      March 20, 2014 at 11:06 pm #

      Ah thank you hugely and thanks so much for commenting Jackie. You are an inspiration to so many and I’m also excited to see how the not US and UK wedding industries evolve! 🙂 xx

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