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What Are Industry Insiders Saying About Lupita Nyongo's Career Prospects?

Photo of Tambay A. Obenson By Tambay A. Obenson | Shadow and Act March 27, 2014 at 2:37PM

What Are Industry Insiders Saying About Lupita Nyongo's Career Prospects?
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Lupita Nyong'o

What will Lupita Nyong'o do next? What are Lupita Nyong'o career prospects as a black actress in Hollywood

The gazillion dollar questions of 2014, as the world anxiously waits to hear or read the first announcement revealing what the starlet's next move will be. I don't think there's ever been this much anxiety and anticipation over a young, up-and-coming black actress in the history of cinema, whose recent success (and all that has come along with) has become something of a battleground for pundits and non-pundits alike, each with arguments supporting whatever specific path Lupita should take from here-on, as well as debates over the significance of the color of her skin for an actress in her position, whether or not she's being fetishized or exotified by the mainstream media covering her, etc, etc, etc...

It's as if she's become a political figure without actually trying to be one.

I can only imagine what the last few months have been like for her, and whether she's aware of just how much conversation she's inspired and continues to inspire, if only seemingly by just being who she is, and also being good at what she does.

Since her Academy Award win a few weeks ago, she's been linked to content creators like writer/producer/showrunner Shonda Rhimes, director J.J. Abrams, and author Chimamanda Ngozie Adichie. Although nothing concrete has emerged from any of those speculations. 

As even we here at S&A have wondered, in various different articles, what the conversation around Lupita Nyong'o will evolve to become, once all the media attention starts to fade. As Raquel Lewis wrote on this blog in a piece published a month ago:

I just simply hope that a year or two from now, we're not writing pieces on this blog, and elsewhere, wondering what happened to Lupita Nyong'o's acting career. It would be an absolute shame if Hollywood, as well as independent producers, don't exploit her talent as an actress. She has the physical presence, and has displayed a vulnerability that would make her perfect for a variety of roles - from an action movie heroine, to the star of a romantic comedy, to the lead in a complex character study, to a historical drama or historical epic. 

I think Raquel voiced the thoughts of many, in that article which you can read in full HERE.


Today, The Hollywood Reporter published an item titled "After Oscar, What Happens to Lupita Nyong'o?" in which the industry magazine talked to a number of industry insiders, asking that very question. I collected some of the replies given in the piece, and embedded below, so you can all read what so-called insiders, those who presumably know much more than the rest of us do, are saying about her.

- "I don't think she has an audience -- not yet... And there are so few roles for women of color; those roles are just not being written," according to one studio executive.

- "Would Beyonce be who she is if she didn't look like she does?... Being lighter-skinned, more people can look at her image and see themselves in her. In Lupita's case, I think she has two-and-half, three years. If she can find a franchise -- a Star Wars or a Bourne Identity -- a big crossover film, or if she's cast by a significant filmmaker, then she's golden, she'll have carved out a unique path for herself... Frankly she's hot enough that she can play a love interest to a Caucasian leading man, and it won't be an issue. Lupita is to film and television what Obama was to politics. She made Hollywood feel good about itself. She was a little bit of 'we shall overcome' -- charming, young, gorgeous," said TCA Jed Root talent agent Tracy Christian.

- "Yes, she faces obstacles, but they are not insurmountable. For someone who looks like her, with a distinctly black, African face, maybe she's someone who can change the direction for darker-skin actresses, actresses who are definitely not European-looking, but it may require some forward-looking director to push for her," said a prominent casting agent.

- "Everyone would love to sign her... I've hardly been in a meeting with directors where her name hasn't come up. Right now, she should be having meetings with Spielberg and Scorsese. What she should do is just work with great directors," said one top agent.

- And finally, Stephanie Allain (who I'm sure we all know), had this to say: "I've met Lupita a few times on the circuit, and what fascinates me about her is her intellect... She could play a neurosurgeon or somebody with Asperger's. I would imagine the opportunities that will present themselves to her will be varied and won't necessarily involve a superhero outfit, though she would also be awesome in that."

- Putting a bit of a damper on things, Todd Boyd, USC's School of Cinematic Arts professor, chimed in with: "If it didn't benefit Halle Berry [speaking of winning an Oscar], who would seem to have, appearance-wise, the kind of package Hollywood likes, it's hard to imagine things are going to materialize for Lupita."

So there you have it. A mixed bag as you'd likely expect, reflecting the macro.

But if I could summarize, I'd say that the general consensus is certainly hopeful, with suggestions that there certainly is interest in her within Hollywood studio executive suites, and it might take a strong director (or directors) with vision, casting her in a project or two (or three; maybe a franchise) to get her over the proverbial hump faced by black actresses who've come before her.

Read the full Hollywood Reporter piece HERE.

This article is related to: Lupita Nyong'o


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