12 Years a Slave‘s Lupita Nyong’o won her first Oscar for her performance in Steve McQueen’s drama about the life of Solomon Northup.
Two-time Academy Award winner Christoph Waltz presented the award to a shocked and emotional Nyong’o.
Dressed in a pleated, sky blue Prada gown, the 31-year-old actress first thanked her character, Patsey, for the powerful role. “It doesn’t escape me for one moment that so much joy in my life is thanks to so much pain in someone else’s,” Nyong’o said through her tears.
The Oscar winner also thanked director Steve McQueen: “You charge everything you fashion with a breath of your own spirit. Thank you for putting me in the position. It has been the joy in my life.” Nyong’o also went on to thank lead actor Chiwetel Ejiofor for telling Northup’s story, Michael Fassbender, editor Joel Walker and the Yale School of Drama. She specially acknowledged her brother, Junior, who was sitting by her side, and thanked her entire family.
At the end of her speech, Nyong’o left the audience with a message: “When I look down at this golden statue, may it remind me and every child, no matter where you’re from, your dreams are valid.”
The best supporting actress winner told THR of her future projects in an interview at the Indie Spirit Awards. Watch the full conversation below.
Nyong’o’s heartfelt portrayal of an abused slave won the actress overwhelming acclaim in this year’s awards season, as well as SAG and Independent Spirit awards. As a fresh face in Hollywood, Nyong’o has received praise for everything from her sophistication to her fashion sense on the red carpet. Born in Mexico and raised in Kenya, she had not appeared in a feature film until McQueen picked her among thousands of actresses for the role in 12 Years.
Nyong’o won the award over fellow nominees Sally Hawkins for Blue Jasmine, Jennifer Lawrence for American Hustle, Julia Roberts for August: Osage County and June Squibb for Nebraska.
12 Years a Slave also took home the best picture Academy Award.
Watch Nyong’o’s acceptance speech below.