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Get Familiar With Lupita Nyong'o's Work Before Seeing Her In '12 Years A Slave;' Watch 'Shuga'

Photo of Tambay A. Obenson By Tambay A. Obenson | Shadow and Act June 15, 2012 at 10:04AM

The announcement that she'd been cast in quite a meaty role in Steve McQueen's 12 Years A Slave naturally led some to wonder about her past work, given that, as I noted in that post, looking over her IMDB page, the Kenyan actress has primarily crew credits on a few projects, but little in the acting department. Although on her Twitter page, she lists herself as an actor first, a graduate of Yale School of Drama.
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'Shuga' - Kenya
'Shuga' - Kenya

The announcement that she'd been cast in quite a meaty role in Steve McQueen's 12 Years A Slave naturally led some to wonder about her past work, given that, as I noted in that post, looking over her IMDB page, the Kenyan actress has primarily crew credits on a few projects, but little in the acting department. Although on her Twitter page, she lists herself as an actor first, a graduate of Yale School of Drama.

Well, something tells me that Lupita Nyong'o's life is about to change, as more folks become familiar with her name and face.

But let me not get ahead of myself...

What I learned in my digging into her background is that we actually profiled a project she acted in, first in 2010 and then again in early 2011, when it resurfaced. Her name wasn't in any of those posts, but her face most certainly was, which helped shake up my memory, when I Googled her name and saw a poster for the MTV Ignite Staying Alive project titled Shuga (photo above of Lupita with co-stars).

The first Shuga series (comprised of 3 twenty-four minute episodes) was filmed in Kenya in August/September 2009, starring a young cast of upcoming Kenyan actors and actresses, telling bitter-sweet tales of love, loss, sex and relationships, set in the clubs, bars, campuses and other hangouts of contemporary Nairobi - the intent being to give a raw view on the lives of sexually active young Kenyans, and highlight the risks associated with unprotected sex and the careless lifestyles of today's Kenyan youth, told through interconnected storylines.

Comparisons to Stateside MTV series were made, giving it labels like "Real World: Kenya" (it's set in Nairobi, Kenya - locally shot and produced), although it's not a reality TV series. It's all scripted drama, and, as you will see in the episodes below, was very much made for the young MTV crowd (not that that's a bad thing).

Lupita stars, playing Ayira in the first series of Shuga, and she then moved on to co-direct the follow-up, Shuga: Love, Sex, Money.

Watch all 3 episodes below for a glimpse at the abilities of the young lady who'll be gracing our movie theater screens next year, playing Patsey in 12 Years A Slave - a role that I've already said is quite significant, and while all the parts in the film can be described as demanding, I'd say that hers (aside from the star of the film) is probably the most challenging. She has at least 2 weighty scenes in the film, provided the final movie we see stays true to the book, as well as the draft of the script Vanessa wrote about here on S&A.

Watch below.

Episode 1:

Shuga Episode 1 from mtv staying alive on Vimeo.

Episode 2:

Shuga Episode 2 from mtv staying alive on Vimeo.

Episode 3: 

Shuga Episode 3 from mtv staying alive on Vimeo.


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