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

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

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.

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Tonton Michel

"Frankly she's hot enough that she can play a love interest to a Caucasian leading man, and it won't be an issue."

And that boys and girls is all we really want in the end. Damn the Oscar, the real win is in they arms of a white person. Validation is everything…….

Brown Bomber

You know what! People, when an actress "Black, African American, Person of Colour" what ever we want to call it. It, being US! Wins a major award this is what we are SUPPOSED to do! It called CELEBRATING achievements and acknowledging someone's work. Don't act be grudgingly because it goes on pass a month or so! Academy Awards, were March 3rd! It's still March! So let's just chill and go with the acknowledgement of Lupita! :-)

This is exactly why we hear the older people say "we can't get nowhere" cause the moment we elevate one person. It's as though we have elevated one above another.


"Frankly she's hot enough that she can play a love interest to a Caucasian leading man, and it won't be an issue."

Yippie, you here that Black Women. Because of Lupita, we're getting White Men's approval. I can hardly contain my damn self. SMGDH!!!

Random Commentary

Is this website Lupita's PR firm? There seems to be a concerted effort to keep her name out there. If she had a multitude of films lined up I could understand the constant coverage. There are a multitude of dark skinned African American, Caribbean, Canadian, South American, European, and even African actresses (with an extensive filmography) that don't get the constant coverage she gets on this website.


Hopefully, she will be able to do Hollywood and also use her fame and talent(s) to do significant films in Africa and the Spanish speaking world.
And speaking of that… She should also work with Pedro Almodóvar as soon as possible.

dan the man

I understand that everyone wants Lupita to succeed in this industry, but why are we measuring success based solely on blockbuster films and A-list directors? If she wants to make independent films or do theater all her life then that is fine with me. Has anyone even asked Lupita what direction she wants to take her career? She probably has no interest becoming an A-list star. I think she should model her career after Cate Blanchett, and actress who has a strong appreciation for the art of film making and not necessarily its bottom line.


Without seriously gifted black writers and directors finding a way to put themselves in position to get their films made, there will be limited opportunities for black actors and actresses to play the kind of roles which define careers. Very limited.


Hey, with no oscar what will happen to Emayatzy Corinealdi? It's not just about Lupita for christ sake!

Dankwa Brooks

As DJ said "Very little — if anything at all — separates Lupita from someone like Danai Gurira. Lupita just happened to get the big break with 12 Years. Gurira is equally talented, intelligent, and a highly regarded writer (playwright) in her own right. She's found a steady gig on Walking Dead, and indie films, et al."

Danai is doing swell. She has great exposure!

"For ad-supported cable, 'The Walking Dead' is the high-water mark. The top-rated show on TV among the advertiser-coveted 18-to-49 demographic for the past two seasons, 'Dead' now commands among the highest CPM rates on TV, at close to $350,000 for a 30-second spot during the upfront selling season, according to 'Adweek'. By comparison, buyers ponied up an average of $326,000 for a 30-second spot on CBS' 'The Big Bang Theory', the top-rated scripted show on broadcast."


Hollywood does not commission racially neutral scripts for women. The few scripts commissioned for women are specifically written for white actresses. Nyong'o will need the benefit of superstar producers willing to build her cache with modestly budgeted but artistically lucrative projects. Nyong'o should have her team check in on auteur driven Spanish language vehicles since she's fluent. Use every asset available to make her brand internationally bank-able.


She needs a strong and crazy fandom too keep people talking about her and directors, all the movie industry, interested on her. Unfortunately, talent isn't enough. shame


The thing that is missing in this piece is she just doesn't need to do hollywood films, she should do their films but also have a production company and develop projects for herself that are going to show her talent, right now I think she could get an indie project done in the 1 to 5 million dollar range. Just looking at the comments if she is dependent on hollywood to give her opportunities it's going to be a hit and miss situation. It won't because of her talent it will be because of her dark skin color and they don't know what to do with her. Yes it's about race because if it wasn't she would have the same opportunities and box office power as Jennifer Lawerence had after she broke through in the same way with the indie film Winter's Bone. I say take their money and invest in yourself, don't sit around and wait on them to show your talent.


Maybe she wants to take her time and pick the right project. no rush. has anyone thought about that possibility?


I sincerely hope – and believe – she'll fare pretty well … it really comes down to what her next couple projects are. We've essentially only seen one performance from her, so it'll be interesting to see what else she's capable of. It would be incredible if the 'Stars Wars' rumors are true and she's cast. Not only do I think she could be great, but that'd put her front-and-center in one of the biggest franchises of all time and also give her plenty of money if she opts to go the indie route after.

As a side note, reading this made me think of Adepero Oduye, who was truly outstanding in "Pariah" and "12 Years." I think she's just as talented as Lupita, but alas, Lupita had the showier role, the model looks and the "plucked from obscurity" backstory. Kind of interesting how big breaks happen in Hollywood … I hope Adepero will get hers soon.


These comments all assume that she has to be given her opportunities and do not consider what she may be able to create. Let us hope that she is demanding what she wants from herself and those around her. I'm sure that she will continue to surprise and delight us all and that the world will continue to respond to her incredible qualities.


Very little — if anything at all — separates Lupita from someone like Danai Gurira. Lupita just happened to get the big break with 12 Years. Gurira is equally talented, intelligent, and a highly regarded writer (playwright) in her own right. She's found a steady gig on Walking Dead, and indie films, et al. but of course, the same industry questions aren't being posed of her because–? Must be monumentally frustrating…

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